As a Super Student you probably travel a lot, so mastering a foreign language is always useful, not to say that it adds knowledge, culture and skill points.
Learning is a powerful function that allows us to develop ourselves. Thanks to our brain, we can collect a lot of information and store it for a certain period of time. During childhood the brain is still developing and it is more prone to solidify new information; that’s why a 5-year-old child will learn a new language much more easily than a 50-year-old. With the right study program, however, anyone can learn a language, even if it takes a little longer.
I’m fluent in six languages and I can survive with other four, and here I am going to explain some tips how I did it. I’m not a language student, I learn languages when I’m not studying or working. Learning a language is like a game – with little but continuous effort to achieve this goal, you will be able to open up for a lot of people, travel and speak to locals, take part in any conference or meeting and more.
1. Trust yourself!
Be confident! I’ve heard too many times Oh this is not for me, it’s too difficult! – well, that’s not true! If you believe that you can learn a new language you will do it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes at first, everyone does, even native speakers. Instead, channel your energy towards speaking and writing in the language you are learning, possibly with someone that is able also to correct you.
2. Practice every day
Being consistent in whatever you’re doing is crucial for success – languages are no exception. During the day, we collect a lot of information that is usually deleted during the night, unless they are considered worthy (or important) and then stored in our long term memory. The process of memory consolidation takes place in specific areas of our brain called the Papez circuit, which functions better if the information is repeated day by day – this is the reason why consistency is so important, otherwise the things you learn will be easily forgotten as time progresses. Mnemonics are also a good way to remember newly learned information (see #4).
3. Have a purpose, set a goal
It is also important to know why you are doing this, why you decided to learn this specific foreign language, as this would influence your learning method. You should clearly define your goal from the beginning and then set your daily/weekly challenges that have to be accomplished.
4. Work on associations
It is much easier to remember a word if it is associated with one of the five senses – smell, sight, touch, taste, hearing – this means that you create a mental image for every word learned, instead of memorizing an arbitrary sequence of letters.
If the mental image is associated with emotions the connection is even stronger. Let’s say that you are learning the Italian word pozzanghera (puddle) – it would be easier to store this info if you associate it with a personal experience as a particularly rainy day that made you remember it.
5. Learn it properly
There’s nothing worse than a bad pronunciation! Everyone notices that you are a foreigner, everyone can see where you are coming from as soon as you open your mouth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but speaking a language near native level is a much more desirable outcome.
To prevent this you can simply follow this simple rule: at the very beginning of language learning you should focus exclusively on hearing how new words sound and then pronouncing them, without forgetting the correct spelling.
6. Build your vocabulary
Mastering your mother tongue means you are already prepared to learn others from the same family. For English speakers German is easier than Russian or Italian, while a Spanish person will learn Italian like it’s nothing. This is because there are plenty words in common or at least very similar.
And you don’t need to learn all the words of a language to master it. In English, for instance, 1000 different words make up around 65% of the writing and the same is for any other language.
In any case you should immerse yourself with words of different categories such as food, numbers, cooking, books, means of transportation, school/university, friends, family… everyday life! You can even use sticky notes to recall them always when needed.
Listening to music, news, watching videos (both with audio and subtitles in the language you are learning), setting your computer and smartphone into the language you are learning, reading books (even those for children) and of course speaking practice are essential to immerse yourself actively into the new language.
7. Grammar is the law
In grammar you just have to play with the words you learned – you change the order of words (e.g. in questions), you add new words, you transform them. Grammar is a sort of game, so if you associate the rules with images or practical examples (as usually grammar textbooks do), it’s done.
8. Play with the language
Apart from consuming media in the target language you can enrich your language skills with a lot of free apps that will help you improve day by day. Duolingo is a fabulous example.
Last but not least, you should also visit the country or countries where the language is spoken! If you possess the financial means to do so, it’s well worth the investment.