Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult

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.  

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
My Chinese language learning journey helped me build a foundation.

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. 

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
Find a a program and get busy learning!

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.

My friend Lorry has a great starting point for Mexico in her blog No Shoes Just Travel. Her post for useful travel phrases is a must read! Click here to find it!

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.  

Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult
Pin me!

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

10 thoughts on “Tips for Learning a New Language as an Adult

  1. Yalantis says:

    I totally agree with you that only paying you can keep yourself motivated. That is the reason why children are usually not as motivated to study as their parents are.
    Another great hint to learn languages faster is to study what you are really fond of. For example, you are enamoured with flowers and willing to learn French. So let everything you read or watch about flowers be in French! If there is a part of yourself, you will definitely advance in learning.

  2. french online says:

    I had French from fifth grade through 10th and again in college, and still I know very little of it. I still would like to learn it. I was always better at reading it than speaking it or understanding it spoken. When I see a French film I sometimes try to understand what they’re saying without reading the subtitles, but usually I can only catch occasional words here and there.
    Learn French Online

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