The 5 steps of learning a language
• Research your language
The first and foremost step is researching the language you are about to learn. But how do you research a language? Begin with the alphabets and their pronunciations. Next, find out what tense of verbs the language uses and analyze it against your native language. How is the placement of subject, verb and object in simple sentences? Does the language follow a grammatical gender or is it neutral or a combination of both? Make a list of all the possible phrases you are likely to use in your day to day life. Based on this information, sketch out a word map to help you cover the list of words that are most important for an effective communication. Any given language is made up of innumerable words and a lot of synonyms. As a beginner, decide upon a minimum core vocabulary words that you will be using commonly and arrange them into categories.
The words that make up the core vocabulary of the language make most frequent occurrences in daily conversations, magazine, newspaper articles etc, and can help you in getting started. The key here is to remember to grasp these words within the context, rather than just memorizing them in order to get an idea of their usage. Next, move on to the synonyms of commonly used words and also look up for the other ways of structuring your simple sentences. Simultaneously, gather a list of everyday phrases and greetings to help you get started with the communication easily. This way, you can grow your vocabulary each day and also apply your basic knowledge of the language to use. Be on the lookout for cognates; they have a tendency to mentally encourage the learning process. Combine your learning process with observation skills to stay excited about the learning process.
• Learn the language everyday
Improve your vocabulary everyday by learning a new word, a verb and its usage, and idioms. You can find multiple language learning books, audio books, pocket dictionaries, picture dictionaries, online tutorials and youtube videos at your disposal. So make full use of them, for a short study every day. Most learning books and tutorials are designed in categories of words, such as list of colours or animals, so choose any category of words and learn them. When it comes to grammar structure, begin by learning the present tense of verbs since its direct and simple. Next, improve your language by picking up the commonly used and every day phrases that you would require for basic communication.
Another form of learning is through observation: watching people around you, and picking up their pronunciation and usage of words and how they fall into a sentence with a proper grammatical structure. Read signboards on the streets and shops, and also the labels on items when you go out for shopping to help you associate words with proper objects. (At home, you can use picture dictionaries to help you with this sort of learning). Carry a pocket dictionary with you so you can instantly look up a word as you see it. Watch the native TV shows and movies, along with subtitles, to help you pick more words. You can even watch movies and shows, which you have already seen and read books, which you have already read, that have been dubbed or translated into that language. Listen to songs in that language and sing along with it. Look up the translations of the songs to find new words and their meanings.
• Acquire the language through communication
You will not properly learn the language until you actually speak it. Practical application of your study is essential. Take it as a challenge and let verbal communication encourage you, to improve your own language. Do not hesitate to speak with the locals and do not worry about your sentence structure or grammatical errors. The point is to convey your words as simply as you can, with whatever vocabulary you have built up so far. Hear them speak, so you can better remember the word with its native pronunciation. Ask others to correct your usage but do not focus on correcting your accent at first; this practice will certainly help you recall the word, through its native sound, should it crop up in another conversation.
Some languages have different pronunciation for letters and only a native can point these out for you. Only through upfront communication will you be able to improve your vocabulary as well as pick up the local lingo and slangs, which are very likely to be missing from the language learning books. With time the style of usage of certain words changes and only speaking with the natives will help you grasp the phrases more effectively. Plus you are very likely to pick up the concept behind the idioms and local lingo and slangs through verbal communication alone, or else you are likely to ponder at the weirdness or absurdity of it when compared to your own native language. Communication can also help you pick patterns in the usage of root words and how it changes with each tense to create regular or irregular verbs. It also aids you in understanding how to express your questions or make statements, either affirmative or negative.
• Set up goals
Set up daily and monthly goals to keep yourself motivated through challenges. The goals need not be brisk; design them in a way that allows you to track your progress with positive outcome so that you don’t end up re-designing your goals to be flexible to your moods. Your goals must be simple yet attainable else you will be very likely to end up being overwhelmed. For example, choose to learn the simple greetings in the week one rather than a verb and all its tenses. Evaluate yourself through communication with others as well as weekly and monthly self revisions to recap all that you have covered. The best way would be to write short essays on random topics in the language you have learned and have them checked for any mistakes by someone proficient. Simultaneously, make notes of what all basics you have effectively learned and what concepts or words you find difficult to learn or grasp. Research and devise strategies to tackle the difficult part of the learning; this can be done by analyzing your own learning style: are you more comfortable with visual techniques, or your approach is auditory, or are you a kinaesthetic learner? You can take aid from someone who is fluent with the language, if the material that is available to you does not cover the difficulties you face. And keep practicing, till you are fluent enough, before moving onto the other concepts and structure of the language you are interested in learning.
• Stay dedicated
Staying dedicated to your language learning process is another key to effectively learning the language. Determine your reason to learn the language and use it to boost yourself. Decide on the level you want to reach, according to your professional requirement. Do not be bogged down by the level of difficulty of the language, its lengthy words or grammatical structure. Use your research to understand what all features you can expect in the language you are about to learn; it may be that the structure of the grammar is entirely different from your native tongue. With practise and determination, you are sure to get it one day. Remember, you don’t need to be ‘smart’ to learn a new language. In fact, learning a new language will make you smart and boost your IQ as well. So don’t demean yourself with thoughts that you need to be intelligent. Learning any language is indeed a lifelong commitment, but it’s the one that you need to enjoy. After all, only a few people are thoroughly perfect with their native tongue. So take your time to study the language but don’t get bored or overwhelmed. You are not expected to master it; you only need it to communicate effectively. Talk with yourself in the language you are learning and train your mind to think in the language too to give yourself that extra bit of confidence for learning the language.
Language has not only served as a medium of communication, but also as the bridge to understand a culture and society. Learning a new language can be both – amazing and overwhelming – depending upon how you handle the process of learning. Most beginners tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to learn and why, rather than actually learning the language. Before you begin with the learning, you need to make up the learner’s mindset. You cannot grasp the A to Z of the language in a day, or even the way to write the alphabets, but you can stay determined and interested throughout the learning process.
The beginner’s key to learning a new language is to:
- Research the language you are about to learn.
- Learn something new, everyday.
- Improve through verbal communication.
- Design your learning goals.
- Stay dedicated to learning the language.
So, go ahead look up the language that interests you and start today.