Becoming bilingual isn’t an easy task, but it isn’t impossible, either! If you find yourself struggling, here are some tips that may help:
Find Your Motivation
Everyone has a different reason for learning another language. It doesn’t matter what yours is, if it’s personal, professional, or completely frivolous -as long as you know what drives you, use that to keep pushing to learn more. And don’t forget, too, that motivation can change with time, so don’t be afraid to update your goals as you progress further with you language skills.
Find a language partner that is motivated to learn the same language as you (classmates are a great place to start!). Then use each other to learn more vocabulary, more grammar, and keep you motivated during those plateaus that everyone goes through where it feels like you’re learning nothing at all (even through you actually are -I promise!)
Sing in the Shower
Listen to music in your target language and sing along. Don’t worry if you don’t know the words, are saying them incorrectly, or have no idea what you’re saying at all! Just get your mouth used to forming the shape and sounds of your new language. The meaning will become clearer as you learn more, those difficult-to-pronounce words and phrases will get easier and easier to get out, and you’ll sound like the native speaker you’re aiming to be!
(Bonus Tip: Don’t like singing? Try talking to yourself (or your pet!) instead. While at home cooking, cleaning, lounging around, etc, explain what you’re doing in as much detail as possible. Outloud is best, but even just talking to yourself in your head will give you an added boost to get you thinking in your next language.)
Keep it Relevant to You
Learn the language that you’ll use in your daily life first. Don’t worry about obscure vocabulary, complex grammar rules or discussions about topics you don’t usually have in your day-to-day life just yet. You’re learning a new language in order to use it, so find what you need and start there, be it basic travel phrases for your up-coming holiday, school or work jargon that lets you speak with your colleagues, writing letters to your friends or family overseas, or knowing song lyrics so you can finally go to your favourite karaoke spot with confidence. You’ll find that using a new language is a bit addicting, so soon after you feel confident in using it in one area of your life, you’ll find you’ll want to learn it for another.
It’s a proven fact that everyone learns faster and retains new information longer when you’re having fun. So have fun! Find some creative ways to practice your new language: there’s plenty of solo and group games, activities, and projects that let you learn and practice new language skills without even realising it. Other ways to make it interesting: find a group chat or language exchange group, get yourself a pen-friend, change the language setting on your TV or films (or find a foreign cinema showing!), listen (and sing along) to music in your new language, read and write books, comics, or poetry…the options are endless!
In any language, a lot is expressed not with words but with facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements. Use that to your advantage! Emphasize your point using movement and expressions, over-acting, if need be. Language isn’t just about vocabulary and grammar, it’s about communication. And when it comes to using that vocabulary and grammar, don’t worry about making mistakes. It’s natural and, truth be told, nobody even cares. In fact, you’ll be respected more for making an attempt, even an imperfect one, than if you made no effort at all.
Push the Boundaries
Learning and using a new language is scary and oftentimes embarrassing. But the only way to make your comfort zone bigger is to keep pushing it. You will make mistakes, no one will care, and you’ll learn from them. It’s that easy (I know, that makes it sound easier than it is, but try to think of it that way anyway).
There’s no point in learning a new language through textbooks alone. Think about it: do babies learn their first language through books? No, they learn to listen first: to pick up on the sounds that native speakers use, the rhythm it’s used with, the words, phrases, and expressions that no textbook can offer. Do that. Yes, use your books, too, they offer a different advantage, and a helpful one at that, but don’t neglect sitting back and just listening, too. Find native speakers in-person, on TV, or the radio and absorb as much as you can, even if you don’t understand the words just yet.
While listening to people talk in your next language, watch their lips, mouth, and throat. It will likely move in ways that yours is not quite used to moving. That’s because every language requires different movements, and while you can certainly use a language without perfect pronunciation, native-like status is really what you’re going for, right? So watch carefully and then imitate the movement and sound as closely as you can. It may feel odd or sound funny to you, but that’s just because you aren’t used to hearing those sounds come from your own mouth. Yet.
Get as involved in your new language as much as you possibly can. The best option, of course, is to go live, for as long as possible, in the country where your new language is spoken. Of course, though, if you -like most of us, can’t do that, surround yourself with your new language as much as you possibly can. Find native speakers to spend time with, cultural groups to immerse yourself in, films, books, radio, anything that lets you make your new language as much of your daily life as possible. Bare minimum: make sure you’re using your new language every day. After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Weather you’re learning English, Spanish, French, German, or Russian, The Language House can help you achieve your language-learning goals. We offer small classes and personalised interaction with native speakers, have developed and use a distinct teaching method that gets you engaged and having fun in every class you attend, and are motivated to keep you motivated along your language learning path, no matter what your age, level, or language skill.
Intensive summer classes are being organised now so don’t hesitate to get in touch today!