7 Tips on How to Study a New Language Effectively

There is no one-size-fits-all process to learning and studying a new language. How effective you are at learning comes down to how well you listen, how much dedication you put forth, and how much exposure you get from a wide variety of sources. To develop your learning skills, you need to take your time and understand the language’s culture and history.

Here are 7 ways you can do this without overloading yourself and becoming discouraged.

1. Study Widely Used Words First & Don’t Overload Yourself

When you first jump into learning a foreign language, it can be stressful and overwhelming due to the sheer number of words available to you. It is important to remember that native speakers don’t use them all, and you won’t need to learn them all in order to have a conversation or even read through modern writing. If you aren’t interested in tackling academic writing or becoming a translator/interpreter, then there’s no need to learn more than a few thousand words.

But, where do you start? With the most widely used words first.

Grab your laptop or smartphone, and search up the most widely/commonly used words in the language you are studying and write them down into a list. In doing this, you will begin to gain exposure in real world context as widely used words will be found in most conversational style media such as videos, movie trailers, news, and general conversation.

Remember to learn these slowly and don’t overload yourself. Practice them one at a time and use aids like quizzes, interactive courses, and videos to help you understand their context and meaning.

2. Take Grammar One Day at a Time

In order to speak and write the language correctly, you will need to take some time to learn grammar. But trying to memorize all the rules at once is going to set you up for an overload of confusion. This will cause stress and may even discourage you from studying altogether.

Start with just the basics and instead of learning the grammar via a formal study or through textbook materials, simply pay attention to it as you learn new words, sentences, and phrases. A basic proficiency in the language you are learning before proceeding with grammar will make the grammar learning portion a lot easier.

3. Develop Your Listening Skills

When learning to speak a new language, it’s easy to focus on the use of vocabulary or grammar, and forget that listening can teach us too. This is why a lot of individuals may learn how to speak the language fluently, but have a hard time understanding the language when it is spoken to them.

Practice listening on a daily basis with movies, television shows, or radio shows that contain subtitles. This will help you understand how your favorite words are being used by native speakers, which may be different from what you learned in your language materials.

4. Jump Into Abridged Versions of Novels or Children’s Novels First

A common exercise is to take a piece of classic literature, read through it, and write down all the unfamiliar words. You then learn these words and discuss how they are used in the novel. Unfortunately, doing it this way will make the reading unpleasurable, hard to understand, and the chosen book may not contain common language syntax that is used today.

Instead of agonizing over classic literature, choose abridged versions of children’s versions of novels that are well-known to you in your native language. This will ensure that you are learning from a piece that is at your reading level without discouraging you from learning words that you don’t understand. Beyond this, if you know the novel well, you will be able to get into the flow of the native text because you won’t need to stop and use a dictionary every 5-words or so.

If you are a beginner in the language you are trying to learn, choose children’s novels. If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, try simplified or abridged versions of classics that you know well. This will allow you to learn new words and grammar rules, without destroying the reading experience.

5. Don’t Rely on Textbooks

While a textbook can give you the building blocks needed to learn and understand a foreign language, it doesn’t take you much further than this. Textbooks will not teach you regional dialects, tell you how to incorporate pop culture references in, or how to weave in slang language, idioms, or jokes.

A textbook is going to give a rigid idea of how the language is read and spoken, but it won’t give you the practice you need for engaging in casual conversation. Don’t rely on textbooks to give you the full picture.

6. Fluency Comes from Passion

Mastering a language to become fluent in it requires dedication, motivation, and a willingness to keep at it when it gets tough to understand. Fluency will come from being passionate about learning the language, so try not to treat it like a task to complete. To truly become fluent you need to:

  • Speak to native speakers for hours on end.
  • Listen to native speakers and follow their advice.
  • Learn the culture behind the language.
  • Understand the rules and exceptions to grammar, sentence structure, & syntax.
  • Watch movies, listen to songs, and interact with local dialects.
  • Study for hours on how to communicate correctly in said language.

All of the above takes motivation and focus, which is hard to have if you are not passionate about the language itself.

7. Use Teachers & Courses to Guide You

It is important to not become reliant on the course material or teacher you’ve hired to provide you with everything you need about a particular language. A course or teacher is a great way to receive guidance, but it doesn’t mean that it is all encompassing. Make sure to reach out to native speakers, seek out media in the language, and diversify your course materials to ensure that you are getting as much exposure as possible.

To succeed at learning a language, it is critical to listen, speak, and learn from a wide variety of materials, sources, and people. But more importantly, you must take your time in learning the basic building blocks of a language and not overload yourself with hundreds of words or rules at first. When studying a new language, remember that patience, time, and practice is the key to fluency.

Do you have what it takes to learn another language? Of course, just look at all those on Glotsalot doing it now. Get started today!