Learning a Language

When traveling or moving abroad, one element that can either be exciting or the most intimidating:  learning the language.

Not understanding what is happening around you or your inability to communicate can be very frustrating.  Learning the language can break through the isolation and the attacks that happen inside of you when in the moment of having no idea what someone said to you as they wait for a response.

Hearing how children can learn multiple languages by the age of seven is always fascinating.  They are sponges, and especially when you feel like all hope is gone. But learning a language as an adult doesn’t have to be daunting!

Why Learn the Language?

The Practical Side

You will get more out of your trip when you know how to speak even the language basics.  Besides being a necessity to communicate your needs and wants, it also demonstrates the respect you have for the people where you are traveling.  Being able to greet someone or ask a question can go a long way!

The Cultural Side

A second language can give you more insight into a culture, and you can have a more profound view of people with a deeper understanding of the language. Is it more mathematical?  How is the intonation? Why do they say something in a certain way? What is behind it?

The Personal Growth Side

The most important effect of learning a language is how it can change your world.  Not only can you communicate with others from other countries, but the obstacles you overcome in doing so are invaluable.  Whether being afraid of speaking incorrectly, making embarrassing mistakes, or just hearing your voice attempt a foreign language, you are challenging yourself.  Going beyond these warriors can generate more confidence and resilience.

Another benefit of learning a foreign language is the use of cognitive functions in the brain, such as problem-solving skills and memory, that are necessary.  This can be considered a type of brain exercise that can help prevent dementia.  

Let’s not forget to mention that both personally and professionally, doors can open up when you can speak another language.  You can have relationships, and more profound ones, with people from other cultures.  In your career, you are more marketable as speaking more than one language as it is another skill.  The options are endless!

10 Tips on How to Learn a Language

  • Listen to the language ALL the time!  Even if you don’t understand the language, listening to it can even help your speaking improve.  Whether you like music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, or books, have the language all around you, even if you are not paying attention to it.  
  • Get an app or take an online course to get the basics.  And when you hear to speak, do so!  Getting used to hearing yourself talk about another language takes time.
  • Total immersion.  If you are traveling for a more extended period of time, practice while you study.  Go to the market, call someone on the phone, and order food at a restaurant.  You can increase your ability rapidly if you are practicing in everyday situations.
  • Repetition.  This can be a game-changer.  If you learn a phrase, practice it over and over again.  Using repetition can help with memorization and just getting used to the phrase.  Understand how and when to use it, and do it!
  • Learn with your hobbies and zone in on the vocabulary that goes along with it.  This can keep learning enjoyable.  Do you love to cook?  How about learning to explain a recipe in another language?  Or are you more interested in the benefits of bicycling?  Explain that in the language you are studying.  You will be amazed that learning a language with topics that you find fascinating or have experience in can speed up the learning process.
  • Watching TV shows or movies.  First time watch it with subtitles in your native language.  The second time, watch it with subtitles in the language you are studying.  The third time, do not use any subtitles.  It is incredible what you can pick up by learning in this way!
  • Join language groups or exchange groups and get with others who can help you get talking.  
  • Get a tutor.  Do this when you have some of the basics as there are many resources you can take advantage of before this step.  Then you can fully take advantage of what your tutor is teaching you.
  • Write a lot.  Don’t just type what you learn, write it on paper.  Research has shown that writing in this way can help with memory retention as it engages different parts of the brain than typing.
  •  Try to refresh grammar from your own native language.  Once you understand your spoken language’s grammar well, it could be much easier to understand learning another.

What Kind of Language Learner Are You?

Since you have seen some of the tips above, some may seem easier or more attractive for you to use.  Why?  The reason is that there are different kinds of language learners.  Once you understand your strengths for learning, you can apply the correct method to accelerate the process.  Here are the main two:

Visual Learners

These are people who need to see how a word is written and then, from there, remember it.  If this is you, you will excel through writing and reading.

Auditory Learners

Can you remember a new vocabulary word you heard someone use or an expression even in slang?  Listening and speaking are your strengths, thanks to your ear! 

Don't overthink it!

Learning a language can be challenging and does take time and effort.  The progress comes at surprising times when you understand what someone said or don’t get flustered when the phone rings.  It is something that takes consistency, but the rewards are worth it!

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