Learning a foreign language requires courage, patience, and determination. Plunging into thousands of unusual words and a completely different grammatical structure is enough to subdue many of us.
Additionally, with our usually busy schedule, forking out the required amount of time to commit to a new language can be difficult. This is particularly challenging considering that it can take anywhere from 500 to 2200 hours to reach language proficiency, depending on its difficulty level.
3 Personal Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language
- Studies show that there is a direct correlation between bilingualism and intelligence.
- Researchers have found that bilingual seniors are less hit by cognitive decline.
- According to a study from the University of Chicago, decision making is an easier process for multilingual people.
As highlighted above, adding a foreign language to your arsenal comes with multiple advantages on a personal level, but can also help you get a promotion at work or make your job application cover letter stand out. In this article, we discuss three creative techniques to learn a foreign language faster.
1. Use 3-minute Chunks Wisely
If you are trying to learn a foreign language on top of your daily job, school time or family responsibilities, it can all look pretty hard in the beginning. Most of us do not have hours of free time to dedicate to a new activity every day. Still, keep in mind that self-directed learning gives you more control over the amount of time you allocate to a new language.
Learning does not have to be done in long stretches or hourly blocks. Go for multiple three-minutes of sprints throughout your day; these can be early before leaving home, during your commute or even during your breaks at work.
During your free three-minutes, you may opt to go for a spaced repetition system (SRS) as this strengthens and consolidates memories of the target vocabulary at regular intervals. SRS programs are traditionally available in the form of flashcards that you review whenever you have some free time. Modern SRS programs can be downloaded right to your phone, allowing you to browse words and phrases in your selected language, and even to set notifications or pop-ups.
Another way to make good use of your three minutes is by listening to podcasts aimed at language learners. You can quickly find these by searching through the iTunes library for a podcast in your target language. One pro tip for finding only podcasts related to the language you are learning is by switching your iTunes country to one where your target language is spoken. This way, all podcast suggestions will be related to your target lingo and allow you to instantly download free series and episodes.
Finding hours of free time is hard, but making the most out of your free time is what really matters. These three-minute chunks can add up fast in the long run, so use them to your advantage.
2. Be a kid again
Unfortunately, after elementary school, most teachers and textbooks stop visually engaging with the learning audience. As a kid, most of us would lament at the lack of colors, pictures and humor. Going for a visual experience can help you get a grip faster when learning a foreign language. One collateral bright side of this is that you get to live your childhood again.
Hop back in time and think of how your elementary classrooms used to look like; colorful paper decorations on the bulletin boards, walls covered with drawings and textbooks full of highlighters. Get yourself a big box of crayons, some markers, highlighters and construction paper. Brainstorm on all the characters, words and phrases you plan on learning this month. From there on, let your inner-kid loose; practice your writing, draw matching pictures and make posters from your favorite movie captions in your target language. Alternatively, if you are more inclined towards the digital world, you can even go for an online mind mapping app to plan your monthly goals.
You can even take this experience further by looking for cartoons in your target language. A simple YouTube search should help you find what you are looking for. According to linguist Stephen Krashen, the best methods to learn another language are those that supply comprehensible input, instead of extensive use of grammatical rules. In most cases, cartoons provide plenty of visual humor that you can understand without necessarily mastering your target language. Also, since they are aimed at an audience of a younger age, cartoons generally use a more simple vocabulary.
The key is to keep the excitement alive when learning a foreign language. Once you identify your favorite cartoons (or even comics), you can make posters out of your favorite words or sentences, and even doodle pictures of your cartoon character to keep you entertained.
3. From babbling to talking
The very first step to start talking is babbling; all babies go through this stage before ultimately saying their first words. While adults can learn in multiple other ways, babbling still is relevant when learning a foreign language. This is especially helpful when you are trying to get a grip on the native-like intonation of words and sentences. Babble to your heart’s content while watching a TV show or movie in your target language, until you get the pitch and tone right.
After you feel more comfortable with the target language’s intonation, move to shadowing. This method has been popularized by linguist Alexander Sabino Argüelles and focuses on repeating an audio track while working on accent and sentence rhythm. The aim is to ultimately be able to speak each word from the audio track simultaneously. A study has shown that shadowing helps reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation, and sentence structure.
When you feel confident enough, the next level involves going for conversation exchanges with native speakers. You can easily find multiple conversation exchange forums online via a simple Google search. Choose the forum that appeals the most to you and caters to your target language. From there on, find someone around the world who wants to learn a language that you speak.
Voice chat, facetime or video conferencing tools are all here to make it easier. Talking to a native speaker may seem daunting, but keep in mind that during a conversation exchange, the other party is a language learner himself and is in the same situation.
Off You Go
The traditional ways of learning a new language will get you there eventually, but you have the possibility to hack your way to the top and make better use of your time. The unorthodox methods discussed in this article will help you reach your goals faster and hopefully keep the excitement alive. Take action today, and stick to it.
Silvana Carpineanu is an enthusiast Marketing Specialist who works for mindomo.com. Driven by passion and creativity, she's responsible for copywriting, advertising, SEO, and content creation. She does all of this knowing that for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.