How To Learn English (and Other Foreign Languages)
As someone who has been running what I call my “one-woman English academy” for the past two years, I’ve learned not only how to teach my native language to others of all levels, I’ve also learned the techniques to learning a second language. I always tell my students not to be shy in front of me, because I’m a student myself—learning their language, Spanish.
So when Kaplan asked me to share what I think are the best ways to learn English, I related it to my experience not only as a teacher, but also as one of a student, learning a language myself.
In order to learn English (or any foreign language) you need a few key elements:
- Lots and LOTS of motivation. You need to have a very clear-cut reason for learning a language because this reason is going to be what carries you through your studies. In language learning one day you’ll feel like you’re making leaps and bounds, while other days you’ll feel like you’ve regressed terribly. It’s easy to get down on yourself, and for that, motivation is of the upmost importance.
- Natives to practice with. There are so many resources online that make native speakers of nearly any given language available to practice with. Better yet, travel abroad to the country that speaks your target language. Being immersed in the language makes everything an opportunity to learn new vocabulary or practice a new tense.
- Thick skin. Learning a language is a humbling experience. You’ll likely embarrass yourself often mixing up words and locals will probably laugh at your expense more than once. Though your first reaction may be to curl up in the fetal position and ask yourself why you’re putting yourself through this, the much more reasonable option is to simply build up some tough skin—you’ll need it!
No matter what language you’re learning, listening to music/podcasts and watching TV/films in the language is a great way to boost comprehension. To practice speaking, a language exchange (in-person, via Skype) with a native is your best bet.
Whatever you do, experiment with lots of different methods, and you’ll find one that works for you. Everyone is different and learns at a different pace, so what worked for your friend may or may not work for you.