5 Tips for Learning Another Language

If traveling were a grilled cheese sandwich, language would definitely be the ketchup. Not impossible to enjoy yourself without it, but it sure can drastically improve the experience. (Sorry to all you ketchup haters out there. Except not really.)

Weird analogy? Yes.

Does it get the point across? I really hope so.

Being able to communicate with more of the world is a skill that is so important for expanding your horizons globally, and that can help further your knowledge of other countries and regions around the world (and, well… isn’t it just kind of satisfying to swear in three different languages when you stub your toe?). Learning a language is a process that can seem daunting, but if you set your mind to it, it’s definitely worth the time and effort. If you're looking for something to do over the holidays, here are a few tips to get you started with your venture into the world of polyglots.

1. Become familiar with the culture around the language

Before you begin your journey, I think it’s best to gain a certain level of respect and knowledge with regards to the context of the language you’ve chosen to learn, and that begins with the foundation upon which the language was built: its regions, its various dialects, the customs, the people, the social atmosphere. Even something as seemingly superficial as food can have a huge influence on language.

2. Explore books, movies, YouTube videos and music

This is one benefit of learning a language in this day and age: the access to resources. Go online and discover authors, musicians, content creators, and directors who create media in that language. This is the best way to begin to familiarize yourself with day-to-day conversational speech, and to help your comprehension. Apps like Duolingo can help you practice your new skills and test your grammar in a way that feels more enjoyable than writing out countless verb charts.

3. Learn the slang

This may sound like a weird one, but I truly think that learning the nuances and slang of a language is how you truly become comfortable in it. Learning commonly-used phrases and sayings, and how elements such as humour are portrayed, really solidifies your understanding of the rhythm of the language. (Surprisingly, expressions of humour differ between languages a lot! I’ve learned this the hard way.)

4. Immerse yourself in the language

If you get an opportunity to do a study program, or even to just visit a place for an extended period that speaks your chosen language, take it! This is honestly one of the most key elements in becoming comfortable interacting, because being immersed in a language is, in my experience, incomparable to any other form of learning. Basically it’s an “adapt or you don’t get to eat” scenario.

5. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the learning process

This is another important tip. Learning a language isn’t something that can be done overnight (at least not to my knowledge), and you have to cut yourself some slack. It’s a gradual process that requires a lot of discipline and commitment, but if you find ways to engage yourself while you’re learning, you won’t even realize how fast you’re picking it up.

Bonus tip: try not to accidentally start speaking French in the middle of your Spanish presentation in front of the entire lecture. Not that I would know, of course.