Learning a new language | How to

Hello, catreaders! How are you feeling today? I’m so glad it’s the weekend already! We have tickets to watch La La Land tomorrow evening and I can’t wait to see what’s the fuss all about! I’ll share my thoughts with you next week. But today let’s talk about what to do to start learning a new language. Throughout the years, I’ve learnt many foreign languages and I think I have a good grasp of how to learn one fast and successfully. So I wanted to share that with you today. If any of you is thinking about learning a new one or you’re just curious, continue reading it.

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I first started learning English in middle school when I was 10. French came after, and then Spanish and later, German. I’m not fluent in all of these anymore, but I understand them well and can go shopping or to a restaurant and talk to the waiter. Languages need to be practised often, if not you’ll forget them. It’s not exactly like riding a bicycle, but for the most part, it is. I didn’t remember French at all when I moved to France, but as soon as I started listening to others, something clicked and I remembered a few things. The most important thing is to keep calm and be motivated.

My first advice is to start with real sentences. Most language schools and education in several countries start teaching things that you don’t actually need or use in real life. Examples of this are the colours, animals’ names and other things that of course, you’ll want to know one day, but are not the greatest way to start with. I’ll tell you why. When you start learning, as impatient as everyone is, you want to start showing off your skills from day one. If all you can say are words like ‘dog’, ‘black’, ‘naranja’, ‘katze’, ‘cavalo’, ‘vert’, you will not be as motivated as you could be if you were actually practising something you’d need in real life. So, step no. 1 is start with basic sentences but actual sentences. Something like ‘Hi! My name’s John, how are you?’, ‘I’m from a small town in England, what about you?’, ‘I like reading mystery books and I often go fishing.’ – well, that might seem odd at first and maybe too much if this is your first lesson, but the thing is, you’re actually speaking. When you finish your first class, you’ll feel proud of yourself and you’ll feel confident. Obviously, there will take a lot more than just these simple phrases to get you fluent, but you’ll feel confident in your second class. Confidence is really needed when learning a language. You can’t be nervous or scared of making mistakes. I always tell my students, go ahead! Express yourself! If you make mistakes, that’s ok! I’ll explain them to you and you will learn. That’s also how you should see it.

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I asked some friends for advice and tips and to tell us how they’ve succeeded in learning a language. Here’s what they told me:

‘I did little bits online but a 2 week intensive course when I got [to the Czech Republic]. It is hard because of the cases and sometimes the grammar, which I found quite different from the other 4 languages I studied before. Also was difficult because I didn’t like it. After B1, when you start to understand a bit more of all that its a lot easier.’ – Australian about learning Czech.

‘In my opinion, the secret to learning a language is really being attracted to it. Being willing to listen to English or having a goal. Like, ‘In a few months I’ll be able to fully understand what they are saying in this show’. Before studying in an English speaking country, I would always try to think in English as much as possible. That really helped me forming comprehensive sentences. And again, watching a lot of series in English (with English subtitles).’ – French about learning English.

‘La lengua española no es un idioma dificil de aprender pero cuando tu lengua materna es el Portugués debes de praticarlo durante toda tu vida si pretendes mejorarlo. Me fui de Erasmus a Salamanca después de haber estudiado Español por 3 años. Fue la mejor decisión de mi vida. Vivia con 3 españolas y tenía que hablar Español o si o si. Cuando volví a Portugal sentia que mi español había mejorado un montón y ni siquiera se podía comparar al nível que tenía.’ – Portuguese about learning Spanish.

As you read, they all agreed that when you’re actually talking and using the new language in a natural and real way, everything fits together. What languages are you learning this year? I’ve decided I’ll learn more Italian this year! I understand it and know how to speak it a little, but I want to actually learn it!

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Happy learnings, catreaders!

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