Learning a foreign language can seem daunting at first, but with the right techniques, anyone can become proficient in a new language. Hardly anyone these days would flatly deny that knowing a foreign language or two is a huge bonus in every way. Yet for many people taking up another language probably means spending hours at the school desk and cramming till you’re fed up. Where to find time and enthusiasm for that, they’d sigh and put off their dream to master another tongue. But there’s no solid reason to do so – in fact, adults can be excellent learners of new subjects, too. It’s just a matter of suitable technique – and here’re some of them.
1. Engage Multiple Channels of Perception
New neural pathways emerge much quicker and grow much stronger if you perceive and process new information in various ways. A common method is drawing a mind map of a lecture you’re listening to; or something as obvious as watching a movie with subtitles. Using mnemonics that involve building visual associations is an excellent tool for more effective learning as well.
2. Tutor Someone
Once you feel more confident about what you’ve learned, a proven way to systematize your knowledge and enhance your skills is to teach someone else. Probably a kid next door is struggling with an essay on family for his French class, and you are able to make this task easier for him? Help out once, twice, and who knows – maybe you’ll like tutoring so much that you’ll make it your job and become one of the well-known French tutors in NYC.
3. Use Flash Cards
Repetitive reading in one session is of little use for learning anything. A much more productive way is spaced repetition, when reviewing units of information is spread over time. A typical application of the method is flash cards; and you don’t even need a stack of papers for that nowadays – you can have all your flash cards in an app such as Anki or Quizlet, and access them anywhere you can use your PC, tablet or smartphone.
4. Find an Engaging Activity
It goes without saying that you’d be bored out of your mind if you try to learn something you don’t care about. So, once you’ve covered the basics like the ABC and general pronunciation rules, take up an activity you’re passionate about and learn the language in this context. Scrapbooking, contemporary ballet, cooking, deep sea diving, you name it – there’re tons of resources on these and countless other topics online, so don’t hesitate to explore them as much as your schedule allows. As you get familiar with new vocabulary, you may even start a blog about that hobby of yours! Or just take the first step – imagine you’re talking about it to a friend. Oh, speaking of which…
5. Get a Pen Pal
…you should definitely find a friend or two (or a dozen) who’s a native speaker of the language you’re learning. The thing is, any language user masters their mother tongue in micro and macro environment. The micro environment varies from individual to individual: it’s how you use language in the family, communicate with your closest friends and in peer groups, the media you’re typically exposed to. When you meet someone and communicate regularly, their language micro environment becomes much closer to yours, thus compelling you to use foreign language in personal interactions – which boosts your learning abilities in their entirety.
As you see, there’s nothing supernatural about language learning. It is available, what with all the modern technology at your disposal, it is fun, it works wonders on brain health – and it sure is immensely rewarding in many other aspects. Just don’t let mistakes undermine your confidence – after all, the worst mistake is to never try anything new!