Deciding to or even attempting to learn a foreign language is a difficult task. If you know English, what's the point? English has become the language of the world, but you might find joy in other languages. Knowing more than one language makes you that much more employable, and you have the ability to speak with millions of more people! I have been fortunate enough to learn German, Spanish, Italian, and French, and it is a great feeling being able to speak to the majority of Western Europe! It is hard at first, but all you need to succeed is passion.
Do not learn grammar first. This may go against what every teacher has ever told you, but if you are not learning to take exams, then you will learn it as you go. You will be slowed down by grammar if all you think about is the order and not the words themselves. You need to have the building blocks first if you want to put them together.
Find someone who is a native speaker, or private teacher. Speaking to a native speaker allows for great practice and corrections. Interaction also allows us to correlate experiences with words that we learn, making it much easier to remember them. I learned French after school with one other classmate and one teacher. Intimate environments for language learning make it so much easier and personable.
Build the courage to make mistakes. People might tell you they just 'don't care' when they do not participate in a language class, but it is really because they are intimidated. Just like any experience, failure is a strong tool for remembering words you learn and misuse. You need to fail to learn a language, and no one expects you to perfectly use a language that you don't know!
Find language learning software if needed. If you do not have time to drive to a tutor's house, using something like Rosetta Stone might help. I would recommend Babel, LingQ, or Pimsleur, but it really depends on what you want to get out of a language. Rosetta Stone is better for vocabulary in my opinion, but other software programs focus on useful phrases and have a more reasonable price tag.
Podcasts. Although they are quite popular now, I have been using them for some time. Coffee Break Languages is the best Podcast channel I have found so far (I personally used it for German). They teach multiple languages and provide a learning experience that you can utilize at the gym or on your way to work. The lessons also range from beginner to advanced levels! Listening is important for creating your language mindset, and it is the easiest part of learning. One episode a day will allow you to learn a crazy amount!
Chose a culture, not just the language. Deciding which language to learn really has to do with your cultural interest or potential economic benefit. If you love French culture, learn French! If you hope to be in the tech industry, maybe Swedish or Mandarin in case you hope to one day move there! Speaking the language of a vacation destination is also very useful, and the locals will respect you and even help you. Here is a list of languages I would recommend looking into for English speakers:
- German - useful in multiple professional fields and has a rich, literary culture
- Spanish - easy spelling and grammar and is one of the most used languages
- French - accent can be tricky but worth when visiting France
- Russian - challenge in grammar and unique alphabet, but high in demand
- Swedish - difficult accent but easy conjugations and interesting culture
Here is a great TED Talk on learning any foreign language:
At the end of the day, you will become great at language learning if you genuinely care about it. It is not a New Years Resolution, but a skill that you need to build with intention and motivation. Take a few minutes to think about how a foreign language could benefit your life; you will be pleasantly surprised!
P.S. I am contemplating writing some articles in other languages. Comment below and let me know which language you would like to see!