How to Learn Any Language
Part 1 of 2: Getting Down to the Basics
Learn Any Language Step 01.jpg
1Know your learning style. This is the single most important thing you need to know when starting to learn a language. Everyone learns differently, especially when it comes to languages. You'll need to figure out if you learn best through repetition, through writing down the words, through listening to a native speaker.
Decide if you're a visual, auditive or kinesthetic learner. A trick to figuring out which you are is this: Pick a couple words from your language and read them over a few times. If you can remember them the next day you're probably a visual learner. If not, have someone else read the words to you several times without seeing them yourself. If you can remember them the next day, you're most likely an auditive learner. If this doesn't work, read and write the two words, repeat them out loud, listen to them read by someone else, associate memories and feelings with them. If you can remember them the next day, you're probably a kinesthetic learner.
Learn Any Language Step 01Bullet01.jpg
If you've learned languages in the past, go over what you learned then and try and figure out what worked best for you. What helped you learn? What didn't? When you've sorted this out you'll be ready to start learning the language.
2Learn pronunciation. Even if a language has the same alphabet as yours that does not mean the pronunciation is always the same. (Just ask a Polish person how to pronounce the letters "cz.")
The Foreign Service Institute offers free online language learning materials, which include audio recordings which help with learning pronunciation and the Duolingo website offers useful pronunciation tips (as well as quality, free language learning services).
Learn Any Language Step 03.jpg
3Pay attention to the grammar. This is probably the most important part of the language besides the vocabulary. "Paul want Mary go store" may communicate an idea, but it is not at all correct English. If you do not pay attention to grammar, you can sound equally incomprehensible in another language.
Look at the structure of the language, how the articles work (masculine, feminine, neutral). Getting a handle on the structure of the language will help you understand how it fits together once you start learning different words
Ensure you know how to express questions, affirmative and negative statements in the past, present and future using the 20 most common regular and irregular verbs.
Learn Any Language Step 04.jpg
4Memorize 30 words and phrases each day. Within 90 days this means you will have memorized about 80% of the language. Start with the most common words. Memorization is half the battle and there are many different ways to memorize.
You can practice writing each word a dozen times, which will get you used to using the word itself.
Learn Any Language Step 04Bullet01.jpg
Try using the words in various and different sentences. This will help you practice the words and make it easier to recall the words when you need them.
Don't forget to keep practicing the words once you move on to memorizing other words. If you don't practice them you will forget them.
Learn Any Language Step 05.jpg
5Practice the alphabet. Especially if you're learning a language which operates on a different alphabetical system, you will need to know what the letters look like and how they operate.
Try associating images with each letter and sound, so that your brain will have an easy path to remembering the letter and the sound that accompanies it. For instance: In Thai the letter "า" is pronounced "ah." If you're a guy you can think of this as the path taken by your pee if you're urinating against a tree and the accompanying sigh you make as you relieve yourself. Associations can be as simple, or as silly as you want, as long as they help you remember.
You may also have to accustom yourself to reading from right to left, or from the top of the page to the bottom. Start simple and work up to more difficult things like newspapers and books.
Part 2 of 2: Practicing the Language
Learn Any Language Step 06.jpg
1Listen. Listening to the language, be it through movies or television shows, through audio language courses, or music can help you retain the words you're trying to learn. Just listening won't help, though. You will need to repeat the words and speak them yourself.
The method called "shadowing" is considered by many polyglots (people who know many languages) as a useful technique. Put your headphones in and go outside. While you play the language, walk briskly. As you're walking briskly repeat aloud and clearly what you're hearings. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This will help you connect kinetics (movement) with the language and to retrain your focus so that you aren't obsessing about memorization.
Use audio books or audio language lessons. You can listen to these while you commute to work or while you jog around the park. This will help your listening skills. Repeat listening to short segments of 30 seconds to one minute until you feel you have complete comprehension. Sometimes you may have to listen to the course completely more than twice to fully catch all that it teaches.
Learn Any Language Step 06Bullet02.jpg
Watch television shows and movies without the subtitles. This includes soap operas, news shows, even shows you already know that have been dubbed into the language. It's a fun way to practice and apply your knowledge.
Learn Any Language Step 06Bullet03.jpg
Listen to music in the language you're learning. This is fun and easy and will, hopefully, keep you interested in what you're doing. Just pop on some music while you're doing the dishes or going for a walk and pay attention to the words in the songs.
Learn Any Language Step 06Bullet04.jpg
Learn Any Language Step 07.jpg
2Read in your chosen language. Start off with simpler books and, as you get better, move on to more difficult ones. Challenge yourself to reading without a dictionary and let yourself puzzle the meanings out by yourself.
Children's books are a great place to start, because those books are meant to teach children how to read and understand their language. Since you are just starting out, you will want to start somewhere easy.
Learn Any Language Step 07Bullet01.jpg
Find books that you have enjoyed in your native language and read them in the language you are trying to learn. Your knowledge of the book's contents will help you decipher the words and keep you interested in the reading material.
Try popular magazines or newspapers in the language you wish to learn. Choose a topic that interests you. Magazines are a good way to learn common idioms in context. Magazine and newspaper articles cover a variety of subjects, and they're generally much shorter than reading an entire book.
Learn Any Language Step 07Bullet03.jpg
You can purchase a quality dictionary of the language you wish to learn or you can use a free online language dictionary. When you encounter a new word, highlight it in the dictionary. Then, copy the word, definition, and an example sentence using the word into a notebook. Then, study the notebook. This activity helps you think in the language.
Sometimes a picture dictionary is helpful for learning common nouns for some languages. Use a picture dictionary for Japanese, for example, because many of their words carry a variety of meanings, as in English.
Learn Any Language Step 08.jpg
3Speak with native speakers. If you don't speak the language, you are unlikely to learn it well and keep it in your memory. There are programs that link people learning a language and native speakers via skype. If you can't do that, look around your city or town. Chances are someone will be able to direct you to a person who can help you practice. A language school is a good place to start.
Learn some idioms, proverbs, and expressions. As your level advances, learn about some of the idioms and even slang in the language. Even if you do not use them much, it will help to recognize and understand these elements when you hear or read them.
Don't be embarrassed if you aren't speaking the language properly yet. It takes time to learn.
This step cannot be stressed enough. If you don't practice speaking the language you won't be fluent in it. Talk to native speakers, get a friend to learn the language with you and practice with them, talk back to the t.v.
Learn Any Language Step 09.jpg
4Practice. Do not hesitate to speak the language in public and with native speakers. It will be helpful in improving your mastery. Also, don't be ashamed to allow other people to correct you if you pronounce something wrong. No one knows everything. Welcome some constructive criticism. Test your knowledge at every social occasion you have.
Keep watching movies and and television shows. If you like soccer, for example, watch it in Spanish to keep the language fresh in your memory. Make sure to yell at the t.v. when the game isn't going your way.
Challenge yourself to think in the language you are attempting to learn.