How to learn a foreign language efficiently and effectively

By: Vivian Wang

With over 7,000 languages in the world today, there often lies a language barrier between two or more individuals. Google Translate becomes a traveler’s best friend, expressive hand gestures satisfy the basic everyday phrases, and miscommunication leads to potential conflict. For the start of this new year, many individuals have set new year’s resolutions to learn a new foreign language. Fluently speaking, understanding, and writing in another language is not like studying for biology or mathematics — language learning requires strategic learning so that conversations can naturally flow when speaking in another language. Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to learn a foreign language efficiently and effectively.

  1. Tune into podcasts or music artists who sing and speak in the designated foreign language. While completing every house chores such as cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry, enjoy a podcast or some music. The catch: ensure that the podcast or music is in the foreign language. At first, it will be difficult to grasp the language, but over time, the words and sentence structures will become second nature due to repetition. For those interested in learning Spanish, one popular music artist is Alvaro Soler. Individuals interested in learning other languages can search on YouTube, “podcasts for X learners”. Replace the X with the foreign language and there will be several pages of exciting learning opportunities.
  2. Begin with picture books, and then move to chapter books. As embarrassing as it may sound, beginning with picturing books and then transitioning to chapter books will ensure that the language learner does not get discouraged from high-level vocabulary. At the same time, the language learner can associate the vocabulary with the pictures in the book. After reading picture books for a few months, it may be a good idea to transition to chapter books.
  3. Reach out to individuals who speak the foreign language. Having conversations with those who speak the foreign language is extremely beneficial for any language learner. Native speakers — individuals who speak the designated foreign language as their primary language — can also provide feedback on one’s grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure. Most importantly, speaking in the foreign language during informal conversations will help any language learner with their listening skills.
  4. Build bridges between one’s primary language and the targeted foreign language. Many English speakers love to learn Spanish for their similarities. For example, in Spanish, chocolate is still “chocolate”. Animal translates to “animal”. These words that sound the same in two or more languages are most commonly referred to as “cognates”. Establishing connections between multiple languages can help with the learning process. It is also important to note that some words in a different language may not have the same definition. For example, “carpeta” in Spanish may lead a new language learner to believe that it means “carpet”, when in reality it means “folder.”
  5. Allocate time each day to practice the foreign language. Foreign languages require consistent practicing, whether it be through reading, writing, speaking, or listening. Individuals who set aside the foreign language may notice that their background in the language declines over time. Dedicate at least 10 minutes to practice the foreign language. Activities that can help with language learning include utilizing Duolingo, calling a friend who speaks the foreign language, or reading a chapter of a book written in the foreign language. With this low time commitment, the language can stay fresh in the learner’s mind, all while ensuring that the learner continues to enjoy the language in their free time.

With these tips and tricks in mind, any language learner from around the world is ready to tackle the exciting realm of foreign languages.