I never thought I would be fluent in any language other than my own. While my Spanish and Catalan aren’t perfect, I have certainly surpassed novice in both. It was a real struggle at the beginning and it was a long journey before I figured out what really worked for me-what really could work for anyone if they try hard enough. It was already an obstacle when I was in a country where the locals spoke both languages so one sentence could begin in Catalan and the other could end in Spanish. I never knew which one I should start learning first and so I learned both at the same time. To this day, I can fluently go from one to the other without hesitating. Knowing what I know now, I could have done more to immerse myself in one language even if I was living among both.
Below are some real tips on how to learn the language and get started on your dream of being a polygot!
1.You have to want it.
Learning a new language is extremely rewarding but without the desire, it could be like going to the gym. Exciting and full of motivation at the start but then plateauing and eventually your practice will dwindle down to an unused membership. Decide which language is for you and give it a go, it really can be fun!
2. There’s an app for that
Duolingo is a great way to get in daily practice of a new language. I’m using it now for French and it’s great. Although the little reminders from the owl can get annoying, once you realize he’s really just being a good coach, it can inspire you to push through and learn that dog is chien in French. Best part, it’s gratis.
3. Immersion starts at home
If you can’t get to a foreign country anytime soon, use your resources. The world is at our fingertips and while we can’t snap and get a Frenchman at our door (o la la) we can click and get a French film. Check out my past posts on foreign films to get the ball rolling. Training your ear to hear what your language of choice sounds like while having the dialogue in English is a huge tool. Once you get good enough, you can switch the subtitles to the foreign language and really get some good practice in! For true studying, watch cartoons. There are so many foreign cartoons on the Internet. Those are the best to start with as the vocabulary is simple and the sentence structure is easy to understand. You can also get a glimpse into the culture, by seeing what the kids watch you’ll see the values that are important. Same goes for music, Spotify has a great selection of foreign playlists and you can check out my recommendations here. Download the lyrics and began translating them, it’s a fun exercise and you can learn a lot of vocabulary in one go!
4. The Art of the Written Word
Reading in a language can be extremley daunting and even more frustrating. Though, it doesn’t have to be to begin with. Sites like The French Experiment and subsequently The Spanish and Italian Experiment to listen and read along with children’s stories. It’s actually very helpful and kinda fun! If you are looking to practice and stay on top of current events while doing so News in Slow French will have you feeling extra productive. You can even download the content to keep on your phone to practice when you’re on the go! Barnes and Noble and Amazon have great selections for dual language reading which is also extremely helpful for building your vocabulary. Lastly, you could go the old fashioned way and read newspapers online in your language of choice, translating as you go. Try it in Italian , Spanish
5. Language Exchange
Easier said than done but in most cities this can work. I did this in Spain and met a lot of wonderful people, it was so much fun and a great way to learn without pressure. I met my partners for a coffee for an hour twice a week. One day it would all be English and the next, Spanish. We would rotate and a plethora of subjects would come up. It really is a great form of practice!
6. New Hobby New Language
Since I enjoy cooking, when trying to learn a language, I take my hobby into consideration. I already know a little about cooking so that helps when navigating a recipe in French. If something interests you, you are more likley to want to pursue it. Into fashion? Try Vogue Italia. Like photography? Pick up a book on the subject in Swedish. You get the hint, whatever your interests, try it in a new language. Double the learning, double the fun!
As someone who is always trying to improve the languages I know all while learning a fourth, I understand the time and pressures it takes to master it. Reflect and make sure you want to make the time to pursue this. It can be daunting but absolutely worth it.