How to Learn a New Language

Publish Date
Jan 7, 2019
Last Edit
Mar 23, 2022 12:51 AM
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For English Speakers, learning a new language is a great way to push your horizons and make that next vacation even more exciting. But you’ve got to start early! Here’s how.
Exploring any city is better if you have a bit of knowledge of the local language!
Exploring any city is better if you have a bit of knowledge of the local language!
Many people start out the year with a resolution to learn a new language, or pick up where they left off in High School. That’s great, but as with most New Year resolutions, about 80% will have given up by the time February 1st hits the calendar.
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Languages can be especially tough: you may not know where to start or what tools are out there to build your skills. Additionally, it requires you to build on previous days, so any confusion or missed days are quickly compounded. What, then, is a path toward success if you are trying to learn one in 2019?
Here’s a three-step guide to get you started. As with any plan, you should customize it to fit your needs. But hopefully this helps you get off to a better start in 2019!
  • There is no one app to rule them all. Use several. This is a hard place to start, but if you’ve sampled the software techniques out there, you’ll realize they all have their pros and cons. From trying many of these, we recommend two: Duolingo and Memrise. Duolingo is great for learning the grammar of most of its languages. Memrise, on the other hand, is awesome for drilling vocabulary and listening comprehension. You may need another app to serve as a dictionary, and if you are really serious, you should consider hiring an online tutor from a site like Verbling to get practice speaking the language.
  • Set reachable goals. As with any other goal or resolution, setting targets you can reach is really important to motivate you. These should also be quantifiable so that you can hold yourself accountable. Fortunately both Memrise and Duolingo have plenty of metrics you can use: Duolingo’s “Crown Count” or Experience Points and Memrise’s total words learned or points are good places to start. If you are brand new to a language, learning 1000 words and reaching 100 “crowns” are reasonable targets for a year. These can then be broken down into weekly goals: Learn 20 new words and gain 2 new crowns each week.
  • Don’t get discouraged and be persistent. For most, language learning is going to be HARD. Especially if you start falling off track, it will feel like you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned along the way. There’s no magic cure for this but stick with it and try to minimize the days where you don’t do at least some practice. After a month or two, you should start seeing the returns.
  • Check in on your progress at least once a week. Even if you made no progress, record that you made no progress. It may feel tough, but it’ll make it all the more rewarding when you do progress. The point is that you need to know where you are relative to your end goal so that you can celebrate success, or push yourself to do better.
This is far from a complete list, nor is it meant to be. Once you get immersed, it’s obviously helpful to find a community (either in the real world or online) to help push your abilities further. But for anyone learning a language from little-to-no base, starting online is a great way to get yourself at least to a point where you can get around a country that speaks that language.
Do you have any additional advice? Let us know!