7 Tips for Learning New Languages that You Didn’t Learn in High School
By: Gabriel Wyner, author, opera singer, and polyglot, Los Angeles, CA.
Everyone remembers Spanish 101 — the note-passing, the gum-chewing — but how much of the language itself can you actually recall today, all those years later?
These tips, which are decidedly different than the ones traditionally taught in school, can help you pick up vocabulary and syntax faster, and actually remember them for longer.
1. Start with pronunciation:
Instead of struggling through hard-to-remember words and grammar right from the beginning, spend your first couple of weeks focusing on the sounds instead. After two weeks, you’ll find that words and grammar rules suddenly become a lot easier to retain.
2. Use Spaced Repetition Systems to memorize vocabulary and grammar:
Spaced Repetition Systems are computerized flashcard programs that monitor how well you remember each word or grammar rule in your language, and quiz you on them individually at just the right moment to ingrain them in your memory.
3. Use pictures instead of translations:
Pictures are a powerful memorization tool, and they even help you learn how to think in a new language, rather than constantly translating in your head.
4. Don’t learn similar words at the same time:
If you compare learning groups of similar words to randomized word lists, you’ll learn words on random lists 40% faster and retain them for 40% longer.
5. Use Frequency Lists to guide your studies:
In every language, we use certain words more frequently than other words. Use a Frequency List – a list of the most important words in each language – to streamline your studies.
6. Learn grammar in context with pictures:
If you’re trying to learn abstract concepts like verb conjugations or prepositions, study them in the context of illustrated sentences. Rather than learning ‘I am’, learn ‘I __ on a plane (to be)’, with a picture of a plane. This makes grammar much more concrete and applicable to your daily life and, as a result, it makes grammar much more memorable.
7. Practice fluency when you speak:
True fluency isn’t the ability to know every word in a language, it’s the ability to use the words you know to communicate whatever’s on your mind. Every time you choose to speak in your target language even when words fail, you take another step towards fluency.
Want to learn more about how you can become fluent in any — yes, any — language? Click here to learn more about my Creative Live course.