Today I’m going to share with you some of my best language learning hacks for staying on track and making a tonne of progress!
Are you interested in learning languages?
Have you just started learning your first foreign language, but feel you don’t have any direction?
I started learning German, my first foreign language in 2019. My progress was slow at the beginning, and I tried pretty much any method to get this new language into my head. Over the last few years I’ve realised there are a number of ways to make learning languages a bit easier.
1. Ask Yourself: What is my Motivation?
First thing’s first. Why do you want to learn a new language? This is really important to establish right at the start.
Maybe you have friends or family living in another country. Would you like to communicate with them in their mother tongue?
Perhaps you want to move to another country for work, and need to learn the language.
Do you travel a lot, and would like to wow the natives with your ability to speak their language?
For me, I travel to Europe a lot, and Germany is my favourite place to be. My German friends speak great English, and I never bothered to learn the language for years. But in 2019 I decided to at least make more of an effort to be a good tourist, and to not rely on my friends to translate for me all the time. Once I started learning, I realised what a gift being able to speak and understand another language is.
Work out why you want to learn another language and it will give you focus. If your motivation begins to wane, remind yourself of your reasons for learning.
2. Get an Accountability Buddy
Don’t try doing this alone. Find yourself an accountability buddy to keep you on track. This could be a friend, family member, or another language learner. Tell someone that you are learning another language, and update them regularly on your progress.
If you are having to report back to another person, they can help with motivation and ensure you don’t drift away from your goal. You will have someone who will provide encouragement, and, if this person is also learning a language, someone to empathise with you when things feel difficult.
In my case, my German friends know that I’m learning German. This is a big motivator for me. I would hate to see them again after a year or so, having made no progress or given up completely. They were so encouraging when, the year before I couldn’t speak any German, I met them again in 2020 and had conversations with them in their native language.
That feeling alone, was reason to keep learning. I feel incredible motivation to make more progress so that next year they’ll be even more amazed.
Find someone who gives you that feeling and use them to keep you on track.
3. Silence Your Inhibitions
Ok let’s face it, learning a language as an adult can be tough. Not because children have some innate ability to absorb languages. Rather they have far fewer inhibitions than adults. As an adult, we worry about what people think of us. We worry about appearing foolish in front of our peers.
As a language learner, we need to train ourselves to shake off these inhibitions and to not care. This is easy enough to say, but it does take practice to embrace it. When you are learning a new language, you will make mistakes. You will say things wrong. That is completely normal and ok. The important thing is to not take it to heart, and to embrace your mistakes.
When I started using the language exchange app, Tandem, I had the same inhibitions. I’d spent a lot of time studying grammar, and was terrified to speak because I was worried about making mistakes. Fortunately I met some wonderful, encouraging and patient language partners there, who gradually got me to speak more. I spoke more and more, making loads of mistakes along the way.
But one day it just clicked that native speakers could understand me regardless of my mistakes. I was never judged or looked down upon. I just felt like they were proud of me for trying.
Native speakers don’t care if you make mistakes. They won’t judge you. Only you are judging yourself.
4. Talk Talk Talk!
Continuing on the previous tip, talk as much as you possibly can. This is one of my favourite language learning hacks. Once you have managed to shake off any worries about speaking to native speakers and making mistakes, you just need to speak as much as possible.
Top tip: Find a few language partners. Talk about your day, hobbies, interests etc. Find a topic you want to talk about. With the first language partner, you will struggle to tell your story. It may be slow, difficult, but you will learn a few things from that conversation. With the next person you can tell the same story. You’ll remember how you explained something to the first person. By the time you get to the third person, telling the same story, you’ll feel almost fluent. This is a fantastic confidence boost.
Tandem works well because you meet so many people. Perhaps you will only speak to a few of them regularly, but you will find you have a lot of introductory conversations in your target language. When you have had so many introductory conversations, you’ll become fluent in talking about yourself, your interests, your job etc. This will free up brain space for talking about different subjects which you are less practiced in. It will also give your brain a break as you recite your memorised stories.
5. Immerse Yourself at Home
Can you really immerse yourself in a language at home? There is a common myth that you need to be in the country that your target language is spoken to be truly immersed in the language. However it’s entirely possible to immerse yourself in your target language at home.
This is one of my favourite language learning hacks, and is great fun! For beginners, how about using post-it notes to label household objects in your target language. Watch a few episodes of Peppa Pig in your target language. A well known children’s cartoon in the UK, it has been translated into around 40 languages, many episodes of which are on YouTube.
For those with a bit more experience in the language, grab yourself some short stories and take some time to read a few chapters. Radio stations in your target language are also useful for immersion. Yes, the news may be a bit too advanced at this stage, but a lot of the chit chat in between songs can be quite basic.
On a similar theme, use YouTube to discover music in your target language. If you find an artiste you really like, repeatedly listening to songs over a longer period can implant words and phrases into your head.
Once you’re around B1 level, you can really enjoy immersing yourself. Whatever you find interesting, try to find it in your target language. Whether it’s the news, dramas, comedies, game shows, crime shows, you’ll be able to find something you enjoy. And when you’re enjoying a show and following the story, you’ll find yourself learning new phrases without even realising it. German learners: Here’s my favourite Mediathek for TV shows in German.
I hope you found my language learning hacks helpful! In case you missed it, I have created an epic post where 24 language experts share their tips for learning a new language.
If you are learning a new language, drop me a comment and tell me what language you’re learning. Did you find my tips useful? Do you have any other tips for learning languages? I would love to hear from you!