College,  Weekly Lists

Weekly Lists #48: Top Tricks to Learn Languages

As you probably all know by now, I study languages – that is to say: I’ve just gotten my “Master of Arts in Literature and Linguistics”. As such, I’ve had to do quite a bit of “learning languages” – with a lot of struggle and getting back up again,

Now, I’m not saying I’m some sort of an expert, or anything, but if nothing else, I do have some tips and tricks as for how you can help yourself learn languages more easily – so let’s get started!

1. Note- and flashcards

I already mentioned this in one of the posts of my How to Survive College Series, but flashcards and such are so useful when you are trying to learn a language, specifically when you’re trying to get the vocabulary in your head.
They allow you to basically “quiz” yourself, to get some repetition in, and even just writing them tends to be very useful for me, because you actually get them “through your hand” at least once.


2. Read

Now, of course, you can’t just start reading Molière the moment you’ve learned your first word of French, but there are actually quite a few books that are aimed specifically at Second Language Learners – be it that they have a sort of “simplified” version of the story, that they show, for example, the English version next to another language and as such allow you to read the story with some ‘help’ to get through it.
In general, I also try to re-read some of the books that I’ve already read at least once – so that I don’t have to focus on what’s actually happening, as much as on what way it’s being said in the story.
– in other words: I have an excuse to re-read Harry Potter yet again –
PLUS: this actually allows you to take in quite a lot as far as vocabulary goes (because you can often derive it from the context) as well as where the spelling (orthography) is concerned!

3. Listen

Whether you’re listening to music in the language you’re trying to learn, whether you’re watching movies that have been dubbed into the language you’re trying to master, whether you find a vlog or a podcast that is created by somebody who is a native of the language you’re studying, if you really want to get a feel of how a language is used by its actual speakers, then you really, really need to listen to it being used.
One of my personal, favourite ways of doing is actually to re-watch old Disney-films, but dubbed in (for example) French. Not only is the language usually simple enough that it’s do-able to try and understand and get a feel for the words and phrase-structures, but because you usually tend to already know at least ‘somewhat’ what is being said or told, this actually allows you to pay more attention to the language as it is being used.

(There’s a reason I now know this one by heart!)


4. The internet

Not only does the internet have a bunch of useful tools (online dictionaries! looking up the conjugations of verbs!) but there also a bunch of sites that are actually dedicated to helping you learn a ne language.
Probably my absolute favourite is DuoLingo, which I’ve been using on and off for over a year now to learn some Swedish – I’d probably be way better if I actually managed to persevere, rather than constantly stop and start again, but this site is actually really awesome. (and it has an app, although I don’t think not all languages are available on there yet).
There’s a bunch of other sides as well, but let’s be real here: if I wanted to sum all of them up here, this post would just be entirely too long 🙂

5. Perseverance and patience

And yes I’m aware that this is probably the most cliché thing ever, but here’s the thing: it’s a cliché because it’s true. You’re gonna talk to native speakers and make mistakes. You’re gonna think you finally got some grammatical rule down and then you’re going to mess it up anyways.You’re gonna use a word for weeks and only then figure out it doesn’t actually mean what you think it means. And you might even get discouraged because there’s no way on earth you’re ever actually going to get the hang of this, right?
But here’s the thing: it’s way better to make mistakes and be corrected than it is to be too scared to use a language and as such just shut up. I’ve been there way too often, but let me tell you: literally the only way to learn a language is by making mistakes. Even children, as they’re first getting the hang of their maternal language, make a lot of mistake as they’re trying to make sense of all the grammatical rules and exceptions. Similarly, your brain too will have to adapt itself around the workings of a new, foreign language, and you can’t do that unless you first figure out what you’re not supposed to be doing…

So, there you have it – my top 5 tips in order to help you learn a language. Be sure to let me know any other tips you might have, and do share with me if you found any of these useful, below!