Learning a new language may seem daunting — even with technology at our fingertips, it’s hard to know where to begin. But the effort is rewarding — it can help you encounter new ideas and experiences and cultures, all of which make life richer.
But it’s not easy, and often the hardest step is the first one. Here are a few fundamentals that will get you on the right track to speaking a new language.
- Find a language program or app.
- Watch children’s shows or movies in the language you want to learn.
- Immersion — book that flight!
Although Rosetta Stone is comprehensive, I have a hard time sitting down in front of a laptop with a headset on. My favorite (free) app is called Duolingo. Duolingo is not the only platform you will ever need to learn a new language, but it is a helpful tool to begin learning conversational terms, pronunciation, and comprehending the written language.
Babbel is a new, paid app (free first lesson) that has been gaining traction, with enthusiastic reviews that detail being able to speak and comprehend a new language in as few as three weeks!
Either way, having an app on your phone provides the accessibility needed to take a lesson on the morning commute or during a lunch break.
This may sound like a funny way to learn a language, but watching a children’s TV show or movie, like this Hebrew film about a rare white Koala named Joni, will help you put the words you’ve learned into a social context.
As you begin to learn basic words, hearing them appear in shows will help you see how they are used. For example, in this film, common phrases appear frequently: “My name is/I am called,” “everything is in order,” “Oh no,” “excuse me, or look out,” “yes,” and “no.” As you watch the show, you encounter the phrases in conversations and begin to pick up on sentence structure and social cues. I recommend finding a film that includes subtitles, so you can learn the written language while you learn how to speak it.
I am a firm believer that experience is the best teacher. I could study a language for a year, and still not learn as much as I would by spending one month in another country. So, learn the basics and then pack your bags! There is no better way to truly experience a new culture than to take steps to using their language, and (more often than not) the locals will be happy to help you. You may even walk away with a new international friend!
Communication is a powerful gift — it enables us to find our way when we are lost, to discover the best food and drink when we travel, and to build relationships with people we would not have otherwise met. As you learn new ways to communicate, you step closer to making lasting connections and memories.
These fundamentals can help you to acquire the gift of a new language — the first steps on a momentous and exciting journey.