Every January around 60% of us make a New Year’s resolution but only 8% of us actually achieve our goal, so this year, if you’re considering learning a language as one of your New Year’s resolutions, we’ve put together the following tips to help you stick at it and become bi-lingual.
1. Choose a Relevant Language
There are scientifically proven benefits to being bi-lingual, no matter which languages you choose to study, however, you are more likely to succeed in your goal if the language you choose to learn has a relevance to your life.
For instance, if you have a friend who lives and works in Dubai, consider learning Arabic as it will give you an opportunity to test your skills, you’ll have someone who can check your pronunciation and grammar, and you could even have a holiday there to practise your listening and speaking skills in person.
Once you’ve decided which language you’d like to learn (and understand your reasons for picking it), you can then commit to your learning journey and stay motivated throughout any lulls.
Similarly, make sure that what you are actually learning is relevant to any language skills you’ll need as it is of no use to be able to ask where the swimming pool, if you never plan to go swimming!
2. Find a Learning Friend
Having someone with whom you can share your learning journey is key to success for two main reasons:
• Partnership – having someone to study with can make learning more fun and therefore, more probable. Try meeting at the pub, or a local café, once a week to compare what you’ve learnt and test each other’s knowledge.
• Challenge – a little bit of healthy competition can often be all you need to help keep you focused. If you notice that your skills are falling behind that of your learning partner then it can often spur you into action in a bid to keep up with them.
It also helps to have someone with whom you can converse in your new language, so take it in turns to learn a new phrase then practise it on each other so that you both have an opportunity to listen and speak.
3. Speak the Language
Practise makes perfect, so if you want to gain confidence in your new language then take every opportunity to speak it when the chance arises.
If you don’t know anyone who speaks your chosen language you can also just talk out loud to yourself as this gives you the chance to improve your accent and learn to feel comfortable with hearing yourself speak another language. If this seems a bit strange at first, try doing it while you’re driving or doing simple household chores and you’ll soon get used to doing it.
4. Have Fun
Learning a foreign language shouldn’t be a chore – so if you are finding it tiresome, consider learning it in a new way.
For instance, you can:
• Write out the lyrics of your favourite song in the new language and then try singing it
• Write your shopping lists, daily to-do list, or memos to yourself in the foreign language
• Label objects around your home with their name in the language you’re learning
• Take a holiday (for research purposes) so you can talk and listen to native speakers
5. Listen and Learn
Every language sounds strange until it becomes familiar, so the more you hear the language spoken, and the more closely you listen, the more familiar it will become to you and the faster you’ll pick it up.
If you don’t have many opportunities to listen to someone speaking the language you are learning then try buying audio books, or watch a TV show with subtitles (for example, on Netflix), in that language and you’ll soon learn to master accent and pronunciation.
Watching, as well as listening, to others speak the language will help you to imitate the sounds they make which is especially useful if there are elements of the language which are unfamiliar in your native tongue such as, rolled ‘r’s in Spanish.
Learning a new language can give you the ability to communicate more fully with someone from another part of the world, and also allows you to immerse yourself more fully into the culture when abroad. There are even proven health benefits to learning a new language!
Don’t be too worried or embarrassed about making mistakes when you are first learning a foreign language, as most people are happy that you’ve made an effort to speak to them in their native language and if you can start any interaction with “I’m learning so please be patient…” they are often more than happy to help you.