Learning a new language can be an exhilarating yet daunting experience. If you find yourself wanting to delve into language learning but are uncertain about where to begin, don’t worry! We have just the remedy for you. Read on as we delve into top expert tips to assist you with your language-learning journey.
The benefits of learning a new language
1) It helps your brain
Through numerous studies, we have gained profound insights into how our minds process the acquisition of languages. It is truly astonishing to learn that the complex journey of language learning has the power to reshape the very structure of our brains, increasing the volume of both white and grey matter, and enhancing cognitive capabilities. These changes, in fact, have been linked to a higher ability to solve problems, enhanced focus, and improved task-switching capabilities.
In a groundbreaking study, researchers discovered that bilingual individuals experienced a delayed onset of dementia, a staggering 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. Remarkably, this effect persisted even after accounting for factors such as education, sex, occupation, and living conditions. The implications of these findings are nothing short of remarkable, highlighting the profound impact that language learning can have on the intricate workings of our brains.
2) It boosts your career
There is a strong correlation between language learning and enhanced career prospects. A 2021 article reveals that employees who can speak a foreign language are generally paid better than their monolingual counterparts. A study suggests that speaking a second language can add between 11% and 35 % to your salary, depending on the language and the country you are based in.
Beyond the realm of monetary rewards, the advantages of multilingualism in the professional sphere extend far and wide. The ability to converse effortlessly in a second language opens the doors to a multitude of career paths, whether it is pursuing opportunities in foreign lands or securing positions that explicitly require bilingual or multilingual skills.
3) It improves other skills: personal growth, socializing, and cultural awareness
Linguistic proficiency cultivates creativity, multitasking abilities, and problem-solving skills. This skill set has the power to enrich your curriculum vitae in myriad ways, setting you apart from other candidates in the eyes of prospective employers.
Moreover, the benefits of language learning enable you to socialize and communicate with individuals who do not share your native language broadening your horizons, fostering new relationships, and expanding your social network.
Additionally, language learning goes hand in hand with cultural understanding. In the pursuit of linguistic fluency, one inevitably gains insights into the diverse cultures associated with the language being studied. This cultural awareness provides a gateway to immersive travel experiences where you can delve into different lifestyles and traditions.
How long does it take to learn a new language?
At this point, you are probably eager to embark on your language-learning adventure and might be wondering when you’ll be able to understand and speak it. Of course, these things don’t happen overnight. It takes a fair amount of time and dedication to learn a new language, and this often varies based on a whole variety of factors.
The United States Foreign Service divided languages into four different tiers based on difficulty, and then examined how long it took US diplomats to reach ‘Professional Working Proficiency’. Here’s what they found:
- Category I Languages. These are more similar to English and include languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Swedish. An estimated 24-30 weeks or 600-750 class hours are usually required for professional proficiency.
- Category II Languages. This includes languages such as German, Indonesian, Malay, Haitian Creole, and Swahili. An estimated 36 weeks or 900 class hours are usually required for professional proficiency.
- Category III Languages. These are harder languages that are significantly different from English and include Bengali, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Polish, Russian, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese. An estimated 44 weeks or 1100 class hours are usually required for professional proficiency.
- Category IV Languages. These ‘super-hard’ languages are exceptionally difficult for English speakers. This includes Arabic, Chinese Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. An estimated 88 weeks or 2200 class hours are usually required for professional proficiency.
Of course, you probably aren’t aiming for professional-level proficiency just yet. Thankfully, you can master many of the basics in a much shorter time span. Many of our language courses take only a few weeks to complete and can help you build a solid foundation.
How to learn a language: 5 tips to get started
So, now that you know about the benefits that come from studying another language, it’s time to get into some of our tips.
1. Set clear goals
Begin your language-learning journey by establishing clear objectives. The act of setting goals leads to a multitude of advantages, fueling motivation, boosting self-esteem, and cultivating self-confidence. Moreover, goals serve as guiding beacons toward achieving success.
Define a mix of short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. These goals provide structure and direction to your learning process. For instance, your ultimate long-term aspiration might be engaging in a profound conversation with a native speaker of your target language. However, to reach this milestone, you can set a medium-term goal of passing a language proficiency exam, and a short-term goal of acquiring specific and relevant vocabulary. By assigning timeframes to your language-learning goals, you create a roadmap that keeps you motivated and ensures steady progress.
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2. Learn practical vocabulary
When contemplating the best approach to language learning, a practical starting point lies in mastering commonly used vocabulary. This strategy expedites comprehension in everyday situations, enabling you to engage in basic conversations and comprehend others effortlessly. By familiarizing yourself with the most common 800 to 1,000 root words and their variations, you can quickly and effectively acquire language proficiency. For instance, in English, forms like “speak,” “speaking,” and “spoke” are considered variations of the same root word.
3. Find your unique learning style
When embarking on your language-learning journey, you’ll encounter a plethora of diverse tools, techniques, and methodologies at your disposal. While the abundance of choices may initially feel overwhelming, it is essential to find the ones that resonate with your unique learning style. Rather than attempting to utilize them all, it is more fruitful to experiment with a few and select the one(s) that prove most effective for you.
From utilizing flashcards to employing grammar translations, exploring spaced repetition, or immersing yourself in the language, the range of options available is vast. Discovering the optimal combination of techniques tailored to your preferences will enable you to progress at a pace that satisfies you. Furthermore, resources such as apps, websites, textbooks, and various materials, cater to different methodologies, providing invaluable support for your chosen approach. Of course, our language courses often have a mix of ways you can improve your knowledge.
4. Practice speaking
In the journey of language learning, an essential aspect is speaking. It is not necessary to immediately engage in conversations with native speakers (although it can be beneficial). Instead, practice speaking skills by conversing with yourself, vocalizing vocabulary, and even recording your voice speaking the new language. These hacks can significantly enhance your confidence and proficiency.
5. Find a native speaker
Engaging in conversations with native speakers in your target language may initially feel daunting. The fear of making mistakes or feeling inadequate at your current proficiency level can hold you back. However, the practice of conversing with a native speaker is an effective method to rapidly improve your language skills and enhance your listening abilities.
There are diverse tools available to connect with native speakers during your language learning journey. Whether it’s through face-to-face meetups, online video chats, or instant messaging, you can forge connections with individuals from the target language community, even if you are not physically present in their country. Don’t forget to sign up for our online group conversation courses. These are taught by native speakers and give you an invaluable opportunity to learn.