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Learn To Speak A Foreign Language Without Any Effort

Updated on February 18, 2016
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Wendy is a Psychologist graduated in Scotland. She also studied Communication Sciences in Peru. Currently a Spanish teacher in France.

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Learning a foreign language can be daunting for some people but it can also be fun for others. If you are trying to learn a second language, why not make it fun; after all learning a foreign language is not that difficult. Through my experience learning foreign languages through immersion and 14 years of bringing up multilingual children I can give you here a few tips to make learning a new language an easy and fun experience.

Learning French in France

The best way to learn a language is through immersion.
The best way to learn a language is through immersion. | Source

Tips For Learning A Foreign Language

For me, the 10 most important points when learning a foreign language are:

  1. Motivation
  2. Immersion
  3. Usefulness
  4. Having Fun
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  6. Listen
  7. Learn the right words
  8. Make a list of English loan words
  9. Come Away From Your Comfort Zone
  10. Relax

Language Learning: 31 Steps to Learn a New Language: Fun, Fast & Easy Steps Learn Any New & Foreign Language You Want.

1. Motivation To Learn To Speak A Language

This is a very obvious tip but sometimes overseen. If you have a good reason to learn a language, you will learn it. For example, when I learnt English more than 20 years ago; I had moved to Scotland and didn’t know anyone who spoke my language. I had some school English, but it wasn’t enough to communicate. My motivation then was simply to be able to communicate with others. Not surprisingly, it took me only a few months to be able to fluently communicate in English.

Apart From Communicating On A Daily Basis In France, One Of My Motivations To Learn French Was To Be Able To Read The French Classic Authors In French

Apart From Communicating On A Daily Basis In French, One Of My Motivations To Learn French Was To Be Able To Read The French Classic Authors In Their Own Language.  Here at the Hotel Chateau de L'Yeuse in Cognac with some of Victor Hugo's writings
Apart From Communicating On A Daily Basis In French, One Of My Motivations To Learn French Was To Be Able To Read The French Classic Authors In Their Own Language. Here at the Hotel Chateau de L'Yeuse in Cognac with some of Victor Hugo's writings | Source

2. Immersion

In my experience, Language Immersion Programs are the best method to learn a second language. It worked for me –as explained above- and it also worked for my children.

For me, a few months in Scotland without any Spanish support (my mother tongue); just got me speaking the language to a high standard.

For my children, a two months holiday in Spain with Spanish-speakers only worked as a Spanish Immersion Program and got them speaking Spanish fluently. For my multilingual children, immersion in a foreign language has always worked wonders for their language skills. As an adult, it is a method that has also worked very well for me to learn English and French.

To learn a language, you need to practise every day for a bare minimum of time. The more you practise with native speakers, the sooner you will be speaking that language. Even better if you can go further and “live the language” you want to learn, watch the tv, write text messages and emails (they are less difficult than formal writing), listen to the radio, read the local newspapers. Practice what you learn in the books every time you have the chance, immerse yourself in the language you want to learn. As a bonus, you will notice that if you try to communicate in a foreign language and people can actually understand you and answer back to you in that language it will be a big reward that will keep you motivated to continue your efforts to learn that foreign language.

If you are planning to follow a Spanish Immersion Program in Spain I would recommend places where tourists are scarce. Avoid touristic places and go off the beaten path to be immersed in the language you are planning to learn.

3. Find A Use For Learning A Second Language

If you learn a second or third language only because you have to do it (ie. school requirements) you will not make much progress in your learning and even worse, everything learnt will soon be forgotten if not put in practise.

On the other hand, if you learn a second language because you have an actual need for it, your chances of learning, remembering and becoming fluent in that language are huge.

Remember that the purpose of learning a new language is to communicate with others, a language is of not use if you just learn it and keep it to yourself. I see it every day with my Spanish students; they are all adults learning Spanish as a second language. From my group of students, those who travel regularly (at least twice a year) to a Spanish speaking country are the most fluent because they practise their language skills in an environment that is useful for them, that is to communicate in a foreign country. This is not to say that the other students are not learning because they are, my other students also learn the language and some of them have rather elaborate vocabularies, reading and writing skills but they are less good at speaking the language because their Spanish is not used in real situations.

4. Have Fun With Your Second Language

This is true for children; I have seen it with mine. If it is for playing with other children, it is sure that they will put all their efforts in learning the language spoken by their playmates. But this concept can also be used for adults. Coming back to my adult Spanish students, I can say that I always try to make our classes fun, whether it is sharing recipes and bringing them along for tasting, watching films, exchanging with Spanish native speakers that I invite to our classes or simply reading about fun and current events, we always try to have fun while learning new vocabulary or grammar constructions. So far, it seems to work very well.

Studying Techniques And Tricks To Learn A Foreign Language

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Most adult learners are terrified to make mistakes when they are learning a second language. I don’t see why… Making mistakes is part of any learning, we learn to walk falling down, we learn to cook burning meals, we learn to drive sometimes bumping into things, so why not accept that we can also learn a new language making mistakes?

I have noticed endless times that when new students come to my Spanish classes they are very uptight and concerned about making mistakes, after, little by little as we don’t take mistakes seriously, they become more at ease with the language and less worried about their mistakes. It is only when they are relaxed enough not to worry about their errors that they start enjoying and actually learning a new language.

Nonverbal Communication Is Also Part Of Learning A Foreign Language

Understanding each other; seen in a street near the bell tower of Xi'an, China.  Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication.
Understanding each other; seen in a street near the bell tower of Xi'an, China. Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication. | Source

6. Listen

Before you learn to ride a bike you must learn to walk and it is exactly the same for every learning experience. Before learning to communicate in a foreign language, you must train your ears to listen to that language.

When I first arrived in France –without speaking a word of French or having any study of the French language- I used to listen attentively to the tv. I remember watching re-runs of my favourite series and understanding a few words at a time. I also enjoyed listening to people on the street going on about their daily business like buying bread, paying at the supermarket, people talking in coffee shops. I was fascinated listening at this new language. Little by little I started with my first French words and I was delighted to see that people were actually understanding what I was saying.

Listening to native speakers is very important because –as those who have already learnt a second language can vouch for- a living language is not always like what we learn in books. Every community has a particular accent and way of communicating and, even more important, there are all those non-verbal communicating signs that are particular to a place and culture.

Learning a language is not just about learning grammar, syntax and vocabulary, learning a language is also learning about cultural conventions for communicating and this can only be acquired when in contact with the native speakers.

7. Learn The Right Words

This point goes back to the previous one of listening how your entourage communicates. Learning languages I learnt that for daily communication purposes you do not need to learn whole textbooks, all the conjugations and so on. In fact, when I started learning French verbs and their conjugations I found it so boring that I almost gave up on French.

In actual fact, when you learn a language a limited vocabulary can take you very far. There are also some verbs that you can use for many different situations instead of learning a specific one for every situation. You do not need to know all the words of a language to speak it (and in fact, you don’t know all the words of your mother tongue either).

In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material.

8. Make A List Of “English loan words”

Most foreign languages borrow English words and integrate them into their language with altered pronunciation. For example, In Spain you will find the word “bacon” in the restaurants menus, the only difference is that it will be pronounced the Spanish way. In France, you will hear words like “weekend” “shopping” among many other English words that have been incorporated to the French language.

When you are learning a new language why not start making a list of all these words that could enlarge your foreign vocabulary without any learning effort.

English Words Are Most Borrowed By And Lended From Other Languages. A Study Shows That 42% Of The English Language Is Made Up Of Words From Other Languages

9. Come Away From Your Comfort Zone

We all have a comfort zone when we are speaking a second language. For me, when I learnt English in Scotland, it was easy to communicate with my husband’s family but I felt incredibly uncomfortable answering the phone as I could not see the person talking to me. Little by little I put myself forwards to overcome my fear of answering the phone, first I just talked to people I knew and progressively I started widening my comfort zone to include people I didn’t know and even official calls. Every time I succeeded on the phone, I felt like if I had won a battle as if I had conquered a little bit more of the language.

If you are learning a foreign language, you too should look to enlarge your comfort zone until you become fluent in your new language and you are not worried about any language situation.

10. Relax

Learning a second language should be fun, it shouldn’t be a “task”. If you are relaxed about using your new language skills you will make fewer mistakes and even if you make mistakes they will serve as a learning experience. Tell yourself that the person you are speaking to is not there to judge your language skills. On the contrary, most people are happy when someone tries to speak their language and they are patient enough to help you along. When you try to speak to someone using his native language you are putting yourself as someone who is interested in learning a language and a culture and this will make you likeable to the eyes of the person you are trying to speak to.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

— Nelson Mandela

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© 2015 Wendy Iturrizaga


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    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      3 months ago

      A wonderful and comprehensive guide to learning another language! Thank you for these great tips. I will have to start using them in helping me learn French. I really like your approach on having fun as I think that is the best way. What a gift you've given your children to be multilingual! Thank you for this great resource.

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      3 years ago from France

      Thank you daydreamer13 I hope it helps all those people who are trying to learn a foreign language.

    • daydreamer13 profile image


      3 years ago

      What a wonderful hub! So interesting and useful. Great tips! Excellence achieved!

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      3 years ago from France

      bdegiulio: Yes, I truly believe that speaking the language of the country you visit (even if it is for a very short time) enhances your experience and completely changes the way you appreciate a place and culture.

      UnnamedHarald: Thanks for sharing your experience with duolingo.

      Happy Christmas holidays to you too m abdullah.

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      3 years ago

      Very useful tips for learning a language. Your pragmatic approach towards learning the language has been an advantage and that reflects here. Thanks for sharing Wendy. Merry Christmas.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      A few months ago I started on learning German. Your tips are right on the money, especially about relaxing, working at it every day and getting uptight about making mistakes (many times making the same mistakes will finally trigger retention when trying to force-remember has failed). Even duolingo's "experience points" and tracking how many days in a row you're on is an incentive to keep going. Very nice article, Wendy.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent tips Wendy. Whenever we travel overseas we try to learn some basic words and phrases. Even though our Italian or French is not good we always have fun trying to communicate with the locals. It's all part of the experience. Great job.


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