on April 14 2012 04:01 pm 0

10 Ways to Get Started Learning a Foreign Language Today

A view of Budapest's Liberty Statue from Ménesi Road.

A view of Budapest's Liberty Statue from Ménesi Road.

You hear it all the time: “I’d like to learn Greek some day” or “I’ve always wanted to learn Japanese” or any other similarly phrased wistful comment on language learning. Some people keep saying something like this for years. If they’d invested as much time in learning as they had in dreaming, they’d at least be able to hold a simple conversation in that language they’ve “always” wanted to learn.

Sound familiar? If so, why not start now? As in, today. As in, right this minute (well, after you finish reading this post). Yes, I know you’re busy, but even so, there are ways to squeeze in a little learning. Sure, if you’re under an unusual amount of stress right now, it’s just not a good time to start something new. But otherwise…

Just Start for Crying Out Loud! :)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you’re having trouble getting started, what you learn doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting into the habit of working with the language every day.

Spend five to 10 minutes a day this week, then 10 to 15 minutes a day next week, and keep increasing little by little until you get up to 30 minutes or an hour. Take it slow, though. If you overdo it and try to spend an hour or two every day the first week you start, you’re likely to get sick of language learning and stop.

Super-Easy Ways to Build Serious Language Learning Momentum

If you’re not sure what to start with, I’ve listed 10 ideas in this post. Not all of these will work for every language, so you may have to modify them for yours. Most of these assume you’re at an absolute or near beginner level, too, but you can make them more challenging if you’re at a higher level.

These aren’t enough to learn a whole language with, but they can help you develop the habit of studying regularly, so you can move ahead.

  1. Learn three letters if your target language uses a different alphabet. Find something in print (or print something from the internet) and scan the page looking for those three letters. When you find one, circle it. Next, try writing the letters.
  2. Listen to song and look up the title (Google or ask someone). You don’t have to memorize it, just look it up so you understand what it means. This may sound simplistic, but over time, you really can learn vocabulary and even grammar this way.
  3. Learn one basic phrase (“My name is…,” “How are you?,” etc.). Already know the basics? Create a short dialogue with some basic phrases.
  4. Learn two nouns. Because they often represent things you can visualize, nouns are easy to remember. And food words are always useful!
  5. Have a textbook available? Do one exercise in your textbook. Just one. Or even half of one.
  6. Look up a conjugated verb in Google and collect the examples of how it’s used. (Be careful to take your examples from a reliable source)
  7. If you know some basic vocabulary, find a picture and name things or make sentences to describe what you see.
  8. Tune into an internet radio station and just listen. Look up some basic weather vocabulary–twenty bucks says you’ll be able to understand the weather report in no time! If you really hate listening to something you don’t understand at all, though, just skip this one.
  9. Learn a phrase with a preposition. If you’re studying a language that uses cases, these “model phrases” can help you learn how to use the cases.
  10. Grab a magazine or newspaper, or find a good webpage and read the ads. They’re usually short and simple. If you don’t know any of the words, choose two and look them up. If you can’t read the text, see suggestion #1 :)

  11. I tried to keep these suggestions short, so if anything’s unclear, just leave a comment and I’ll explain in more detail.

    If you can get into the habit of doing something with your target language for at least 10 minutes a day, I guarantee you’ll know at least a tiny bit after a month.

    You’ll have a better understanding of the writing system, you’ll know a few more words, or you may even be able to hold a simple conversation. From there, you can move on to a more organized plan of study and start making some real progress.

    Related posts:

    1. 7 Low-Tech Ways to Study a Foreign Language
    2. The Worst Language Learning Method Ever…Or “Why Review and Practice are Important”
    3. How to Set Goals for Learning a Foreign Language
    4. Foreign Language Learning for Introverts: Speaking Practice Tips for Immersion Situations
    5. Learning a Foreign Language Online: Cheap and Convenient or a Waste of Time?

Filed under Mindset,Strategy Planning

Leave a Reply