You’ve decided to learn a new language but don’t want to lose time with the wrong strategies? We feel you!
So how can you learn new languages fast enough to write and speak in a few months’ time?
Although it sounds challenging, you can easily learn any new language faster by following these 10 simple tips:
- Set your goals
- Plan your time efficiently
- First homework task: become aware of cognates
- Allocate time and study wisely
- Research the local culture
- Look for native speakers to practice with
- Practice every day
- Embrace your learning pace
- Update your goals regularly
- Never give up!
Keep reading to get more tips for mastering that nouvelle langue!
How long does it take to learn a new language?
Research by the US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute has shown that it takes us a certain number of hours to learn a language, depending on the language group.
The institute divides languages into four tiers of difficulty for native English speakers to learn, with Group 1 comprising the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.
- Group 1: French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili
- Group 2: Bulgarian, Burmese, Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu
- Group 3: Amharic, Cambodian, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Lao, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
- Group 4: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic
On average, it takes 480 hours of learning to reach basic fluency in Group 1 languages, while it is 720 hours for languages in Groups 2–4.
Each language takes a different amount of time to learn. How fast you can learn a new language also depends on how often you practice, what kinds of resources you are using, and your learning pace, not to mention your dedication.
Whether you take note of the suggestions below or not can also make a difference! Here are the top 10 tips to help you learn any new language faster.
1. Set your goals
Make sure you know how many hours you will be able to dedicate to practicing every day – yes, you have to work on it every day – and when you want to be able to reach basic fluency in your chosen language.
For example, if you are on the verge of getting a promotion and know deep down that you may need to spend more time than usual at work, chances are that you will not be able to work on language learning for 5 hours a day. Consider your priorities and decide on the time you will allocate to this task.
Once you find the point where your time and goals intersect, your dream of learning a language faster will become a plan, and you will be ready for the next step.
We suggest that you write down your goals clearly, starting from why you want to learn this language to when you are planning to reach a certain level. This way, you will have more motivation during your language learning journey.
2. Plan your time efficiently
Setting goals feels great. They show us the light at the end of the tunnel. But in order to make them actually work, you will need to divide your goals into smaller bits and set tactics for the short term.
First, set tangible, measurable smaller goals as part of your main objective.
Let’s say that you want to learn French within 8 months. What should your monthly goal be?
Is it learning 75 new words every month, memorizing the basic verb conjugations, or something else? Also consider your weekly and daily mini goals. This way, you will be able to move forward with small but strong steps.
Consider challenging yourself to more difficult tasks every month. Just be careful to keep them realistic, as you do not want to become overwhelmed in the middle of your learning journey.
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3. First homework task: become aware of cognates
When beginning to learn a new language, you don’t want to start from the most difficult part. Therefore, cognates are a great soft introduction!
Cognates are words which have the same origin or are related and in some way similar (e.g., English “father,” German “Vater,” Latin “pater”). They are easy to recognize, so they stick in your mind.
As we also discussed in our previous article, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are Romance languages and have lots of words in common with English. For example, words that end with “-tion,” such as tradition and nation, are spelled exactly the same in French.
Even if the language you have chosen to learn is not one of these, you can find a list of cognates for a smooth start to your learning process.
4. Allocate time and study wisely
Great! You have set your goals, thought of short-term plans, and made a list of cognates. Next in line is to come up with a good strategy to study wisely.
To achieve this, you will need to find inspiring and functional tools that will help you learn your chosen language faster.
Let’s start with a “hands-on” suggestion. Are you interested in writing? Enjoy drawing once a while? If yes, you can prepare your own flashcards to transform your practice hours into pure fun. Even writing the words on the cards will help you process the new vocabulary much faster.
Has it ever occurred to you that when we first try to learn a new language, we are just like babies? We are not able to talk properly or write anything at all, and when we try to, we may sound a bit awkward and funny. The good news is that what works for kids can work for adults as well.
Try to visualize and vocalize the new words you are working on.
For instance, if you are trying to memorize the word for “coffee pot” in Dutch, simply visualize a coffee pot in your mind and say the Dutch word for it out loud (It’s “koffiepot,” by the way!).
As we live in the digital age, you can cut some corners. To improve your vocabulary in as little as 30 minutes per day, try Lingvist’s vocabulary builder app (You get 7 days of free access!) and enjoy “learning fast-forwarded.”
Lingvist is no ordinary language app – did you know that you can learn the language of your dreams 10x faster than with traditional methods? What separates Lingvist from the other apps is its scientific approach and advanced technology.
5. Research the local culture
Did you know that children learn to read a second language better when they understand the culture and context? The same applies to adults as well.
The more you learn about a country’s culture, traditions, beliefs, and important historical events, the easier it gets to understand its language.
Expose yourself to different books and movies on the foreign culture. As your language skills evolve along the way and you feel more proficient in understanding it, you can even watch or read content in that particular language.
Swap your never-ending Netflix binge-watching with movies in the language you want to learn and dive into the culture (Don’t worry – some of them will be on Netflix!). This way, you will see that there is more to learning a new language than just memorizing new sets of words.
6. Look for native speakers to practice with
No matter which language you have chosen, learning it will always be useful. If you live, work, or study abroad and are surrounded by the language you are trying to learn, things will progress much more smoothly for you.
Push yourself to speak to the locals in their native language, dare to sound funny or make mistakes, and learn something new every day.
If it is not that easy for you to meet native speakers every single day, try to connect with them online.
Make new friends (or go on dates – totally up to you!), so you will not only have the chance to practice regularly but also learn more about their culture.
7. Practice every day
Practice makes it better; practice makes it almost perfect, if not perfect.
We mentioned this before and will keep mentioning it for your own good. Whether the language you are focusing on is a Romance language from Group 1, which is relatively easier to learn, or whether it is Arabic from Group 4, which is much more difficult to grasp, you will still need to practice every day. This should be one of your initial goals when you set out on this new adventure.
There are lots of tools out there to make it easier. For instance, Lingvist helps you focus on vocabulary and grammar for 30 minutes every day. You can set an alarm or a reminder in the app to schedule your practice at a fixed time every day.
8. Embrace your learning pace
Maybe work or personal matters have gotten in the way of learning, or you have had to spend more time with your loved ones, simply because they needed you?
Sometimes it is OK to fall behind schedule and not be able to cross some tasks off your list as quickly as you hoped to.
If you were only able to learn 3 new words this month instead of 30, it should not make you want to give up. Just keep going and revise your goals. We will discuss this in more detail in the next section.
In short, life happens. It’s like working out: there are some days you feel energized and fresh, and some days you are just exhausted. Just as you listen to your body before every workout, it’s the same with your mind.
Just make sure that you are not being lazy for the sake of being lazy!
9. Update your goals regularly
As we mentioned earlier, lots of things can play an important role in your learning process.
You might be a quick learner or you might happen to find it difficult to grasp the nature of the particular language you are currently tackling. Either is fine – it happens.
Regularly, perhaps every week, you can update your goals based on your previous performance.
Making necessary adjustments to your short-term goals enables you to focus on the process more and keep working toward your final goal.
10. Never give up!
Learning a new language may be hard at the beginning. You can get lost in the ocean of new words, a totally different grammar structure, and a whole new world while trying to keep afloat.
No matter how difficult it gets or how much time it takes, do not give up.
It is a process, after all, not a competition where you can fail at the end. Try to apply some of the tips we have shared here, make a plan, and take action now!
Register with Lingvist today to enjoy a free one-week trial. There are various languages to choose from, including French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Portuguese. In doing so, you will also join a community of over 6 million users and 104 nationalities.
- Learn faster than ever before, thanks to Lingvist’s advanced technology and scientific approach.
- Learn the words that you need to learn with as little as 30 minutes every day.
- Level up your language skills in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
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