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7 Tips to learn a new language on your own

Updated on March 25, 2015
Katiadejuan profile image

Katia is a translator turned UX/UI designer. She is a digital nomad who loves surfing and is passionate about linguistics and sociology.

If you are like me and like to learn new languages at your own pace, or don't have the time or money to join an academy, here are a few useful tips that will help you achieve your goal.

I have been using these exercises during the last years to learn up to 6 languages and I hope you find them as useful as I do.

1. Use post-its or notes

For this exercise, you will have to take a post-it or a note, place it on the things you use the most, and then write their names on it. Then, every time you want to use that object, you will have to force yourself to create a sentence with that word. You can use another system than a post-it, the point here is that you have a way to remember the words.

This will not only help you learn new vocabulary, but will also help you learn very quickly how to form basic sentences.

2. Say everything you do in that language

Yes, you read it right, say everything you do in the language you are learning. For example, if you are going to take shower and you are learning Spanish, you will have to say "voy a darme una ducha" out loud. With this you will lose your fear to speak in that language and will help you improve your pronunciation as well as learning how to form basic sentences.

It is very important that you say it out loud because if you only form the sentence in your mind, you won't know if your pronunciation is on the right path.

3. Translate as much as you can

Find a book, a newspaper or a blog that is available in both languages, your mother tongue and the language you are learning.

Now read carefully the first paragraph, then take a paper and try to write in your mother tongue what you just read. It doesn't need to be an exact translation of each word, you can just write the meaning that you think the paragraph has. Then, go to the version on your native language and read the same paragraph and compare it to the one you wrote to know if you understood correctly what you read.

You can use the dictionary if you need it, but try not to use Google translator to translate an entire sentence.The point here is that you train your brain to "think" in this new language and be able to learn and differentiate the grammatical and syntactic components, as well as the semantic and lexical components and idiomatic expressions.

Also, make sure to choose a book or article that you like, since your interest in it will help you to work harder and understand the texts much easier, even if you have just started to learn that language.

4. Watch movies and videos in that new language

This exercise will consist of three phases:

  • Start watching a movie that is in your mother tongue and that has the subtitles in the language you are learning. This will help you know the meaning of each word, learn idiomatic expressions and how to form sentences.
  • Once you start understanding easily what you read, switch to a movie with both the audio and subtitles in the language you are learning. With this you improve your listening skills by training your brain in a similar way to when you are around native speakers.
  • Finally, once you think you are able to understand what you are hearing, try to turn the subtitles off. This way you will improve your listening skills even better, as there will be no texts on the screen that can divert your attention.

5. Read as much as you can

This one is very easy. Just choose a book you like in the language you are learning and read it, but read it out loud, not silently.

This will help you to drastically improve your pronunciation, as well as losing your fear to speak that language.

6. Listen to the radio in the language you are learning

Here you will do exactly what the title says. You can find thousands of radio stations that have an online streaming option. Choose the one you like the most and listen to it as many hours as you can. You will see how little by little you are able to understand much better almost every word they say.

7. Use the voice recognition of your device

We all know how difficult it is to make that our devices understand what we are saying when using the voice recognition option.

Well, this is exactly what you will do. As you get more fluent, change the language settings from the voice recognition of your device t. For example, if you have an iPad and you are learning German, set your Siri language into German. Then start practicing conversations with Siri. It might sound silly, but practicing your speaking skills with it will help you a lot. If you were able to make that this thing understands what you were trying to say, your pronunciation couldn't be better.

Of course, practicing with a native speaker will be much more helpful, but as there are times when the last thing one wants to do is enter a chat and start having a conversation.

Well that's it. I hope you find them as helpful as I do.

© 2015 Katia De Juan


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    • Katiadejuan profile image

      Katia De Juan 2 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks for your comment, @That Is Cool. Indeed, and not only it is harmless, it s beneficial in many ways, and helps us to broaden our mind, since when we are learning a new language, we are learning about a new culture, and therefore we are able to look at thinks from a different perspective. :)

    • profile image

      That Is Cool 2 years ago

      Nice hub page on language, Communication is important and it is harmless to learn a new language. .