We can all benefit from learning a second language and should do so at some point in our lives. It not only challenges our intellects, but it also allows us to understand the diversity of civilizations around the world.
I am really fortunate to live in South Korea, which is one of the world’s most active and exciting cities. The culture here is quite different from the one I grew up with.
While some customs and cultural differences were obvious when I first arrived here—for example, taking your shoes off when entering someone’s home or in some more traditional restaurants—it was only after I started learning the language that I fully appreciated the more subtle and fascinating differences.
Learning a new language is challenging, and for most of us, our experiences have been contaminated by a school system that emphasizes rote learning and memorizing in order to pass an exam and make our school appear good rather than being able to communicate successfully in the language.
However, the method we acquired languages in school does not always have to be the same way we learn a new language now. We don’t need to take an exam to test ourselves; we can do it at any moment by speaking and talking with a native speaker of our chosen language.
There has never been a better or easier moment to learn a new language than now, thanks to the internet’s many fascinating possibilities for language learning.
In this article, I will give you my top tips for getting to grips with a new language as quickly as possible without having to feel the stress you may have felt when you were at school.
1. Have a Purpose for Learning the Language
Time for a confession: I’ve lived in Korea for over 17 years. I promised myself in the first few weeks that I would learn Korean as rapidly as possible.
I didn’t have a specific goal in mind, and because English is widely spoken in Korea, most locations I visited always had an English speaker. Korean was never a necessity for me. So, after 16 years, I had nothing but “survival Korean” to show for it.
I didn’t sit down and get serious about studying until I established a goal to do a TEDx-style talk in Korean in twelve months. After six months, I am on track to deliver my TEDx Talk.
Every time I sit down to study now, I start with a two-minute visualization of myself standing in front of an audience and lecturing in Korean about how to become a better Korean speaker.
It focuses my mind on the goal and it gives me the focus I need to do some quality studying.
2. Learn How to Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” Naturally First
Okay, I realize this may seem self-evident, and I’m sure you already know how to do it. However, when I first started learning Korean, I relied on the language CDs that came with the textbook I purchased.
The speakers on those CDs over-pronounced the words, making me sound like I was learning a foreign language when I duplicated them.
I rapidly learned that Korean people never sound like that, and native speakers omitted a few of the syllables I was adding.
I quickly adjusted my accent after listening to how native Koreans say hello and goodbye, and I began receiving praises for it. Right from the outset, it gave me a huge boost in confidence and enthusiasm.
If you can’t find somebody who speaks your target language fluently in your area, look for videos from dramas or news programs on YouTube. Pay attention to how people speak.
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3. Find the 100 Most Common Words and…
Many people who give guidance on learning a foreign language now say that you should study the top 100 words. And it’s sound counsel. However, this is only half of the story.
Many languages, including English, include a large number of irregular terms. In English, a typical example is “teach,” where the past tense of teaching is “taught,” not “taught.”
The past tense of “run” is “ran,” not “ran.” As a result, simply memorizing the words is insufficient. You must be able to use those words in everyday situations.
The word “go” (ga-da) is a very frequent word in Korean, but to make it useable, I need to change the ending of the word from “da” to “yo,” making it “gay.” In Korean, I now have the equivalent of “go.”
However, I’m not likely to use “go” by itself, therefore I’ll need a complete statement or phrase. That might be translated as “where are you going?” in English. “ODI-ga-yo?” becomes “Modi-ga-yo?” in Korean.
You may have noticed that I merely used the word “Modi,” which simply means “where,” therefore what I’m asking is “where go?” There is no pronoun. Pronouns are rarely used in Korean because it is typically clear who you are speaking to or about.
As a result, constructing useable sentences or phrases from the most common terms in your target language allows you to acquire not only highly common phrases and sentences, but also some of the language’s nuances.
4. Get a Language Buddy
There are no excuses in this case. You may quickly find a language buddy on Facebook or Twitter and then speak with them in your target language using a free messenger service. They will correct you, and you will have the opportunity to correct them.
Even better, if you can schedule a weekly coffee date with your language partner, however, this may not always be practical.
If you can accomplish this, you will have the advantage of being able to listen to a native speaker talk and mimic their pronunciation.
If that isn’t possible, free services like Skype and FaceTime can suffice. Just make sure you schedule aside time with your language partner on a regular basis and stick to it.
5. Schedule Consistent Daily Practice
This was the area where I was having a lot of trouble. After work, I attempted to study in the evenings, but I was frequently fatigued and not in the mood to sit down and study.
When I realized how vital it was to study Korean, I began rising up an hour earlier every weekday morning to practice for 45 minutes.
There are no more excuses. I’d be lazy if I didn’t get up early to study, so that’s what I do now. Every weekday morning, I get up at 5 a.m., make a cup of coffee, and settle down to study.
I always start by introducing myself in Korean for 10 minutes, then I sit down and practice the crucial phrases for the day.
I’ve been studying continuously since switching from evening to morning hours, and I’ve never missed a class.
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6. Be Curious
Find out how to pronounce a phrase or a question in your target language if you commonly use it in your native tongue. It’s often fascinating to watch how something translates into another language. It’s also a good method to meet new people who speak your language.
Post a question on Twitter, such as “how do you say…. in Polish,” and you’ll get some incredible responses. People are kind and generous, and you will receive some fantastic recommendations.
Many helpful people will add to the response, and you will learn much more than the phrase you were looking for. But don’t forget to use your target language as a hashtag.
7. Use YouTube
When it comes to learning Korean, YouTube has become my best buddy. There are a plethora of videos available to help you learn Korean. With a fast search, you can select a channel that you enjoy. I discovered a fantastic channel called “Korean Unnie.”
In the last six months, I’ve learned a lot from Korean Unnie. The majority of her videos are under fifteen minutes long, which is ideal for my learning schedule.
And the beauty of YouTube is that you can always go back and re-watch the video, save the ones you find beneficial in your own personal playlist. It’s ideal for when you’re stuck for something to do.
You may just launch your playlist, start at the beginning, and work your way through your collection to reinforce your learning experience.
8. Use Your Technology
I keep a note on Evernote called “Useful Phrases” that I add to on a daily basis. Of course, living in the nation where your target language is spoken helps, but you may make a note in any notes app.
When you have a phrase in your target language that you want to learn, you can add it there and then explore it when you have time. You can also use this list to ask questions on Twitter.
Make sure you have your notes app with you at all times, on your phone, on your computer, and on any other device you might use. In that manner, adding phrases and terminology to your list will be a breeze at any moment.
The Bottom Line
It used to be difficult to learn a language. You had to track out the necessary textbooks as well as the appropriate CDs or recordings. It might be quite simple nowadays.
If you have access to the Internet, you have access to all of the information you need to quickly become fluent in your target language.
However, you must still follow the P.A.C.T. principles when learning a language (patience, action, consistency, and time). You must be patient and consistent in your actions every day over a period of time.
You will rapidly learn your new language and begin making new friends, discover a new culture, and add a new skill to your repertoire if you give it time and effort. Best of luck!