I have tried several times to learn a new language since leaving school. With studying history, I thought it was a good idea to learn Latin and only took 2 semesters of Spanish in high school. Anytime I got interested in a new travel destination or culture, I would start a new Duolingo lesson or pin a bunch of info graphs about it on Pinterest. It has only been this past year, that I have made any headway in actually creating a foundation for language learning.
In March, I began learning Mandarin through Verbling. When I went to China in September, I was able to functionally use what I learned to navigate streets and order food.
Why is it so darn difficult!?
For someone with a high reading comprehension level and decent memory, it has perplexed me how I could not retain language. There are many reasons for this. The main thing is that it is proven harder to learn languages as an adult. There are 2 memory systems in our brain and the one used in childhood helps quickly learn language components like grammar rules. That is why my little students with VIPKid pick up English so quickly while also learning other languages as well.
There are also lifestyle problems of trying to study during a busy adult life. I can practice a few key vocabulary words and forget them by the evening time after working both jobs. Here are my tips to combat these challenges and get you on the way to language learning success.
Pay for a Program
Although I promote a No Spend lifestyle, I do recommend finding a reliable program to pay for language learning. There is no need to pay for an expensive program like Rosetta Stone or college classes. But a little investment can be a big motivator in studying and spending time on language learning. I found myself motivated by investing my money in my language learning journey. There are programs cropping up daily. I liked using Verbling where I chose my own teacher for FaceTime classes. The instructors can name their own price and there are numerous languages available.
Watch Foriegn Shows on Streaming Service
This was not an option for me when I first left school and Netflix was still sending DVDs in the mail. (Do they still even do that?) The vast amount of content is incredible for the under 10 dollar price tag we pay a month for streaming services. I have found a fantastic selection of subtitled movies and tv shows to listen to the native language. There is also a great array on Amazon Prime streaming.
Watching media of the language you are learning really helps listening skills and pronunciation development. They are also a great way to get a sneak peek into the culture of the country too.
Listen to Songs
While learning Chinese, I developed a love for listening to the Meteor Garden and Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack on Amazon Music. If you can retrieve a translation, listening to music is a catchy way to practice vocabulary. Tunes a great way to encourage memorization. You do not have to pay for a music streaming service either. Just do a quick YouTube search and you will be in business for all kinds of songs. If you want a variety, Pandora has stations as well focusing on international music.
Use Old School Flashcards
You cannot go wrong with this traditional memorization method. Using them is a great way to take a break from technology and minimize screen fatigue. I do them in categories like verbs, colors, food, and others. It is best to write them in order to reinforce memory.
If you do not have time, phone apps like Memrise have preloaded cards and games already built in.
Traveling is a great do or die way to practice and retain a language. I retained more Spanish two weeks in Spain than I did 2 semesters in high school! Force yourself to try ordering food in the local language or asking for prizes while shopping.
Find Ways to Incorporate the Language Daily
This is the most important of all. Take time to practice the language. Say it to yourself while you drive alone, write phrases, or find a friend to practice. The app Tandem is a great way to find someone else who you can practice with while they can practice English. This can be done in person or on FaceTime. The day after my Verbling classes, I would repeat the sentences and words learned over and over. I would also record myself and listen to my own pronunciation again Google translate.
Without context, the language will be lost.
Do you know another language? How did you learn them?
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase