They say life is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page. However, there are many things about our culturally-rich world that can only be accessed through language. Learning a new language is not only a great career move. It can open your eyes, heart, and mind to whole new worlds.
Within language, humans have stored many subtleties such as values, historical events, and speech nuances. For example, the Spanish language has at least 4000 words with Arabic roots. Commonly used words by English-speakers like “déjà vu” and “coup d’état were extracted from French. In Japanese, questions tend to have a negative framing (“You wouldn’t want to come?” vs. “Would you like to come?”) to be more polite.
As you can see, languages are an entryway to new cultures and to understanding how others view the world and our roles in society.
Today, we’ll walk you through the basics of learning a new language and steps to get started wherever you are.
How long does it take to learn a new language?
There isn’t a one-size-fits all answer for language learning. How long it takes to learn a language can depend on a number of factors. For example, elements like whether you’ve had previous exposure to a language or if you’ve chosen a language that’s far removed from your own (different root) can affect the speed at which you learn it.
Different learning methods yield different results for students. And, of course, there is the matter of how much time a day or a week you can invest on language learning. This Cambridge report better illustrates the many variants of language learning.
But why is learning a new language important?
Benefits of learning a new language
As we know, learning a language can open ways for new experiences and looks great on your resume. But did you know that language learning can also improve your cognitive abilities?
Research shows that learning a second language, regardless of when we do so, can increase our cognitive abilities. In fact, that additional flexibility in brain power can keep our minds healthier for longer, with bilinguals being diagnosed with onset dementia or Alzheimer’s much later that monolinguals on average.
Tips for learning a new language
The most infallible way to learn a language is probably by immersing yourself into a second-language environment at a young age. Be it because you moved, because one of your parents spoke a different language, or because you attended an international school, these total-immersion experiences will ensure you’re developing a bilingual vocabulary from the start.
These are good tips to keep in mind for your kids. But what about you? Here are a few language learning tips.
1. Consume media in your target language
The easiest way to learn a new language is by consuming media in your target language. It can be anything from watching movies to listening to music. The important thing is that you’re listening to the language and choosing options that are easier to understand. For example, instead of picking a fantasy saga, start with a children’s book.
The good thing about learning through media consumption is that it doesn’t require any external aid. As long as you’re on top of your own learning experience, increasing the difficulty as you go, you’ll be able to pick up on basic conversation structures and vocabulary.
This can serve as a good base, and to get you excited, before committing to more formal training.
2. Consider an immersion experience
The best way to learn a new language is to spend some time in a country where it’s spoken. However, make sure that you’re leaving behind any and all crutches. What does this mean? Don’t surround yourself with people who speak the same language, be it at work, at a course of study, or as roommates.
Learning a new language is hard work, and our brains will prefer easing back into its comfortable neural paths: your native language. However, if you create an environment for yourself in which you’re forced to speak in your target language, you’ll stay on track and truly use your time abroad to hone those language skills.
We have a built-in survival instinct, so let’s use it to our advantage!
3. Get a language exchange partner
Spending time abroad, although ideal for language learning, is not always a feasible option. Luckily, there are other ways to get authentic language exposure: getting a language exchange partner. In our global world, it is easier than ever to find people from all over living most major cities. And even if you can’t find someone within your zip code, there are online options for you as well.
Language partners are great because they help you work on fluency. You don’t necessarily need to know everything about a language in order to be fluent in most day-to-day interactions. That’s why classes like “Business French” or “Conversational Italian” exist.
A language exchange partner may ask you to read books, watch TV shows, or recount the events of your week to help get a conversation going. They’ll be able to help you with pronunciation as well as grammar structures.
4. Download a language learning app
A quick and on-the-go option is to download a language-learning app like Duolingo or Babbel. If you’re in no rush to learn a new language or just enjoy learning the basics about different idiomatic frameworks, apps are a great choice.
These days, language learning apps cover all sorts of language-learning needs, including everything from reading to speaking exercises.
And there you have it! We hope that these tips motivate you to get started on learning a new language no matter where you are or what language you want to learn.