Learning a foreign language is very exciting. It opens a window to a new world that we were not aware of. It is a key to understanding new people and their culture.
There are though a few questions that anybody planning to add a new language to their list of abilities should ask themselves. This is a vital part of the planning process if they want to increase their chance of success.
Planning has its advantages, and the main one is that it will help you choose the right language for you. You will be able to have the right approach to language learning as well as optimising the learning experience.
Ask why you want to learn a language
Is it because you want to use this new language during your travels?Then what are the places you wish to visit in the future? What cultures are you drawn to? When answering these questions, make a list and then prioritise your answers. Then you will have a clear idea of the language you will choose.
If you are contemplating learning to optimise your career development, you’re not wrong. More companies are looking for employees who can speak a second language. You should consider the sector you are or intend to work in, and single out the language or languages most in demand. For example, if your firm deals with businesses in China, it will make sense if you go for Mandarin Chinese. Learning the foreign language that is in demand might even increase your chances to be sent abroad allowing you to have unforgettable adventures that you will always cherish.
If your interest in learning a new language is to improve at school, here you will have no choice but stick with the language education curriculum of your establishment. Regardless, you must find the way to keep motivated. For instance, you might be interested in getting the highest grade possible because it is required for your university entry.
Now, you will have a perfect idea of your intentions; and then comes the next big question.
The time frame
Knowing how long you have at your disposal to reach a certain level is paramount. The way you study will strongly depend on your answer. It is not the same if you’re short of time because the trip you are planning to do is a few weeks away or if you have one year to put the language under your belt. Also, a difficult language like Arabic will require more time than a romance language considered easy for English speakers to learn.
You should also see your daily commitments and find out the time available for language learning. Does this match your intentions? If you are after quick results, having less than 30 minutes of daily language activity won’t cut it.
The best learning methods
You should identify your learning type. Some people are visual, others auditory. Some memorise concepts better when reading and writing them down and others are kinaesthetic learners meaning they learn by doing. Generally, we have a combined learning type although there is one that is predominant.
For the visual students you should maybe go for an online course full of videos. Language podcasts will suit auditory learners, and a traditional language course the reading/writing type. Immersion should be the perfect solution for the kinaesthetic type although it is not always possible.
Set specific and realistic goals
Setting goals and targets will help you to keep on track. Consider the deadlines a few months down the line, keep them as realistic as possible. Break your goals into manageable tasks. Keep a journal. Write down what you want to achieve and by when. Be specific. For example: “I want to be able to watch a film without subtitle by November”.
If you can pay for private lessons, get them. With a tutor you will be able to progress at your own pace and he/she will tackle the specific problem that you will encounter. They will be guiding you all the way, and help you overcome the areas of language learning that you find most difficult. Besides, you will be practising your speaking skills from the get-go.
Age does not matter
The general misconception is that after reaching adulthood, you won’t be able to learn a new language. This is not true. It might be more difficult than when you were a child- true- but motivation will play an important role. There are thousands of people out there who have learned more than one language as adults. If they can you can as well.
Language learning never stops
Don’t think of language learning as a trip where you arrive to destination. Language learning never stops, you keep improving constantly even when you reach fluency. You also carry on growing in the knowledge of the language as well as the culture.
You should bear in mind that persistence is key. There will be good days where you seem to improve lots and bad ones where you seem to have forgotten even the basics. It is important that you carry on despite these setbacks and when this happens have a look at your first lessons and you will realise how far you’ve come. Persistence will always give you the win at the end.