10 Tips To Learn A New Language


Anyone from anywhere can access information much easier nowadays. Don't believe it? It doesn't matter where you are right now, you can always read my articles in this blog, can't you? In fact, this blog has been viewed by readers from more than 100 countries around the world, even from some countries that I didn't know they exist. It is very incredible to learn about how information flows faster than the flow of rain water into the sea, something that my mom could never believe, not to say my grandmom.

I stumbled upon an interesting article entitled Brain Scans Reveal Which Networks Help Us To Learn A Foreign Language, and I saw a video of Alex Rawlings sharing his 10 tips to learn a new language. Alex is a well-known polyglot, at least, in polyglot communities. I do agree with what he shares but at the same time, I have also learnt new ideas from him. By taking the same 10 tips from Alex, I would like to express my thinking towards each of them, and hopefully I could share ideas worth sharing with you, as well as motivate you to keep on learning languages.

1. Learn the languages that are around you.

Taiwan actually has a big multicultural society that many people outside Taiwan might not know. There are lots of students from countries in the Pacific and Central America that study here under the government scholarships since these countries have established diplomatic relationships. They represent various languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Pacifican languages, like Tuvaluan, Marshallese, Gilbertese, etc. I studied my university degree here so I have known many friends from these countries, and of course, having the opportunities to learn and speak their languages is priceless.

Apart from that, there are many South East Asian migrant workers coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines. There is also Little Burmese located in the capital city, where you can see and hear Burmese language being used together with Chinese. This situation makes South East Asian languages quite useful in Taiwan because you can have the chance to use them very easy. There are South East Asian areas where you can find lots of South East Asian restaurants and shops. I had taken the chance to learn these languages before, and although I cannot speak them, I am happy to have the chance to learn them.

2. Language learning never stops.

Once I started to learn languages, I can't stop until today. It is like an addiction! But in a positive way. Knowing more languages leads to more opportunities, such as being able to know friends from different cultural background with us, having more work opportunities or a wider perspective towards this world, etc. At least, this is what makes me the person today. I can communicate with people from many countries in different languages, get much more and detailed information online, and enjoy songs and movies from different countries. This is why my language learning never stops.

3. Reward yourself when you've made progress.

Of course! Who wants punishment? Children usually get punishment if they don't get good mark in their language exam, and how can one learn well under this circumstance? I reward myself with satisfaction when I can read comfortably, let's say, an article without much necessity to check dictionary or when I can keep the conversation going as long as possible in target language. You may say that you would buy yourself a new dress if you could accomplish a task. The purpose is to give positive feedback so you will be more motivated to keep on learning.

4. Love what you do.

Without love and passion, your language learning will stop. Not just language learning, if you do anything without love and passion, it will fail sooner or later. Many people asked how I can keep on learning languages with my busy schedule, I can do it simply because I have the love for language learning. I always have free time for language learning. This is the most important of all.

5. Be proud of where you're from.

It is because everyone is unique, everything has the good and the bad. Be proud of where you are from because your identity will be yours for your whole life. Whether your language is important, beautiful, or influential, is actually just a matter of perspectives.

6. Don't translate sentences in your head before you say them.

When you say "I am hungry" in English, Spanish speakers say something which means literally "I have hunger". Can you imagine if you make this mistake? It would lead to confusion, or worse, embarrassement. Never ever translate directly what you want to say from your language into the target language. It is best to keep on listening or watching tv as often as possible to learn how native speakers express their minds.

7. The best method for learning a new languages is to use it.

Everyday I always read, write, listen or speak in many different languages. I do this in order to keep on using those languages because I believe that continuous usage of the language is the key to maintain and improve the level. If you don't use your native language for a long time, you will forget it too! It doesn't matter how you use it, the more important is that you use it.

8. Mistakes are your friends.

I don't understand why many people are afraid of making mistakes. Making mistakes should be seen as a sign of improvement, it means that you are progressing. Most of the time, I can remember my mistakes because I won't just remember which mistakes I did but also in which situation I made the mistakes.

9. Imagine yourself speaking the language in ten years' time and make that your goal.

I think we all can accept the fact that our language skill can be used for an unlimited range of time. I always think language learning as an investment. I feel that spending several months to a couple of years to learn a language that I can use for my whole life doesn't seem like a big deal. I can use my language skills to share ideas with people from other countries or to earn money from translating and writing articles about languages.

10. Do something everyday. Ten minutes is better than none.

In fact, you don't need 2 hours to learn languages everyday, even 10 minutes is enough. The key here is to use the language continously, doesn't matter how long you use it. What I do is I always try my best to listen to audio while waiting or walking, and read at least one article for each language everyday. 

I used to take language courses but I think that spending 2 hours for each lesson is too much for me. I am more of an independent learner, I learn anywhere anytime at my own pace. Did you know that you can only learn as fast as the slowest student in a language class? It is different if you have a 1-on-1 tutoring in which your learning subjects are customized according to your necessity. So, let's say you won't often use name of animals in real life, why bother learning it right now? You can always come back to learn the subject you are weak at.

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