I have a secret to share with you. It is the Ultimate Language Learning Hack. If you read the next sentence, you’ll know the most precious nugget of information for making learning languages easier. Ready? To ease the process of learning a new language, you must want to learn. Your motivation is the number one way to determine your success. Honest! It’s that simple.
Does this mean that because you want to learn a language you will become an expert? No. However, if you are intrinsically motivated to learn, you will succeed. Remember that success comes in many forms! Success may mean that you tackle a vocabulary list and remember it for the rest of your life. Success may mean that you properly use the subjunctive tense. Success may mean that you feel comfortable having a conversation with strangers, despite making mistakes. The best part about success is that you get to decide what makes you successful.
1. It’s All About the People
Language is ultimately a tool humans use to connect. If you’re learning a language I highly suggest doing so with a friend, lover, or family member. Not only will it be easier to practice, it will be a heck of a lot more enjoyable. Who cheers you on better than the people who care about you? Who better to share some healthy competition with? Who else will be honest with you when your pronunciation stinks but also build you up when you rock the imperative tense? Grab your people and get learning!
(Extra Tip: Single folk, use that dating app to look for a foreign-tongued lover!)
2. Have Fun with It
Another huge factor in determining your success with any new skill is your level of enjoyment. The more you enjoy an activity, the more motivated you will be to persevere and meet future challenges.
How can you have fun learning any new skill? To begin with, don’t take yourself too seriously. Mistakes are integral to the learning process, so anticipate, expect, and aim to make mistakes. The trick here is making new mistakes as you master the old ones. Second, find people who help you get outside your comfort zone. A third way to have fun with your language learning is to set mini goals and reward yourself for them along the way. Better yet, set a larger goal of visiting a place that speaks the language! There are countless ways to have fun with learning a new skill. I’d love to hear some of yours below.
3. Game Time
One of my favourite language learning hacks is using games. They offer a multitude of benefits to the learning process, regardless of subject, and even moreso with language.
The first game I tend to teach my students is “Go Fish”. The rules are usually familiar, and when they’re unknown they’re easy to learn and don’t distract from the language objectives. Secondly, it is possible for new language users to play the game completely in French within a few lessons. More often than not, students don’t believe me when I say we’re going to play a game entirely in French. Ten minutes later when the game is done, their expressions are always a mix of shock and pride. The third reason I incorporate games is because they allow students to simultaneously practice several skills. In the case of Go Fish, students practice vocabulary, pronunciation, speaking, and listening skills. The cherry on top is that they’re building confidence and having fun. Can we say, “win win”?
Lastly, I love games as learning tools because they’re applicable to real life situations outside of the classroom. For homework I sometimes have students teach their family the game. This promotes family time, students sharing their expertise, and a way for parents to see how their child is progressing. With adult students, I’ve had them incorporate nieces and nephews or their friends. You’ve got to admit, playing a game is a lot more fun than writing out verb conjugations over and over and over and over again.
Stay tuned for a list of language learning games!
4. Immerse Yourself
Another fantastic language learning hack is to live in the language 24/7. Canadians between the ages of 18-35 are super fortunate to have access to Working Holiday Visas in 32 countries around the globe. If you’re outside of the required age bracket there are other live abroad options including study programs, work exchanges, and visitor visas that last up to 90 days. My friends over at FlyTrippers have put together a helpful map showing Canadians where they need entry visas.
If moving abroad isn’t a viable option, you still have many ways to immerse yourself in a new language at home. To improve listening and vocabulary, tune in to radio stations (locally or online), YouTube, foreign films, and tv shows. To boost your confidence and ability to interact in daily scenarios, scope out free community groups at your local library. MeetUp.com is an excellent resource for meeting new people wherever you are in the world. Local libraries are gold mines to help practice reading and writing! Start with the children’s section and build your comprehension step by step. You can even branch out and find yourself a pen pal. If you don’t know someone who speaks another language or that lives in another country, there are several websites that can be found with a simple Google search.
Life is busy and sometimes it feels like we don’t have an extra hour or day during the week. If you feel pinched for time, bring the language to you. An excellent way to dabble in another language is by adding Post-it notes throughout your home. Yes, pen and paper are considered technology. Another way is to schedule 15 minutes a day on free apps like Duolingo and Memrise. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of using devices to learn languages, but everyone learns differently.
6. Become a Detective
Yup. Become a detective. What the heck do I mean by that? Well, language is a puzzle. When you understand ways to put the puzzle together or pull it apart, then you understand the big picture. Sounds, letters, words, and chunks of words are all puzzle pieces. If this is confusing, stay tuned for a future post on Word Chunking. In the meantime, grab a puzzle book from your local convenience store or head online to a website like this to improve your sleuthing skills.