As the Monterey Institute’s Summer Intensive Language Program prepares to wrap up for the season on August 8, its faculty and staff have gathered a very useful guide to learning a new language. Over the month of July, they shared one tip per day on Facebook – totaling 31 tips that we have now compiled into a list for anyone interested in acquiring a foreign language:
1. Find your style. Take a learning style survey so you can understand how you learn best.
2. Pop music. Find out who the most popular musicians are in your target language and
listen to their music.
3. Find someone to talk to. Find a key pal or conversation partner so you can practice together.
4. Make Siri your partner. Switch Siri’s or other voice’s language on your smartphone so you can practice with a handy partner.
5. Computer games. Give DuoLingo a try: a “gamified” way to learn languages on a computer or mobile device.
6. Language setting. Add the appropriate international keyboard to your smartphone or tablet so you can type in the language.
7. Take notes. Utilize flash cards or keep a small notebook of words and phrases to practice on the go!
8. Listen before speaking. When first learning a language, attempt to listen as much as possible instead of trying to speak it. The first step in learning a language is “acquiring an ear” for it.
9. Company. Two words: group study!!
10. Learn from failure. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
11. Shopping lists. Use every day scenarios to practice thinking in your target language. At the grocery store? Think about your shopping list in your language.
12. Digital flashcards. Use Quizlet or another free digital flash card program to make environmentally friendly (and more reliable!) flashcards for practice.
13. Humor. Read cartoons or comics in your target language.
14. Dictionaries. Use free online dictionaries.
15. Podcasts. Waiting in line? Stuck in traffic? Use this time to listen to a podcast in your target language.
16. Take a break. Don’t forget to take a break to give yourself a chance to fully process all the new vocabulary and grammar!
17. Subtitles. Watch movies and videos with subtitles in your target language.
18. Sing in the shower. Practice pronouncing unique sounds in the target language while in the shower, or just let loose and sing!
19. More than words. Don’t stop at just learning the language. Learn about different aspects of the culture, such as food, dance or even a martial art!
20. Your daily life. Make learning vocabulary a part of your everyday routine. Post note cards around your home with words for bed, sofa, computer, refrigerator, etc. Practice pronouncing these words every day.
21. Know the history. When learning a new writing system, such as Chinese characters, knowing the history behind the characters may help you remember how to write them.
22. Culture in your neighborhood. Look for cultural events or centers in your area where you can engage with native speakers of the language you’re learning and immerse yourself.
23. Invent mnemonics. Invent interesting or funny mnemonics to help you memorize new vocabulary or concepts.
24. Game Night! Play games you’re familiar with in the target language, such as Russian Scrabble. Or learn a new game from the country and some phrases unique to it!
25. Lyrics you already know. There are often foreign versions of popular or classic songs. You already know the music and tune, so it’s just simply practicing with the new vocabulary.
26. Speak up! Whether you are in class, with a partner or studying alone, saying key phrases and new words out loud is more helpful than simply reading them on paper.
27. Don’t get stuck on a word. When reading, don’t get hung up on translating word for word. It’s better to learn the overall meaning of the sentences first.
28. Set goals when watching TV programs or videos. For example, hearing the main points of a news story, such as the time, date, place and names of the people involved.
29. Free Apps! Take advantage of the numerous free apps available related to language learning!
30. Set realistic goals. Becoming a master of a new language doesn’t happen overnight and it can be easy to get discouraged.
31. Get help! Enroll in an intensive or immersive language program to activate your language skills!