Learning a New Language: Tips and Resources to Get Started

Learning a new language is a very exciting experience, but knowing where to start can be the most confusing part. With hundreds of thousands of different tips and resources on the internet, I compiled some of my favorite ones to help you get started on your language learning journey!

TIPS

Learn the Most Frequently Used Words First

Did you know that only 100 words make up nearly 50% of all text in the English language and that only 800 words, many of which can be grouped into word-families, are used in about 75% of spoken English? Oftentimes, when learning a language, the easiest way to go about doing so is to learn the most commonly used words and phrases. After mastering the most common words you will have a better understanding of the language you are learning and be more comfortable in engaging in conversation, from there you can add more words to your vocabulary!

Let Music and TV Become Your Teacher

One of my favorite ways to study a language is by watching regional films and TV shows. I would suggest starting off by listening/watching with closed captions to help you pick up on the language and to make connections between English words and those in the language you are learning. I find that listening to the sentence in one language and seeing how it translates to English is very helpful (be aware that captions aren’t always accurate). Through watching tv shows and listening to music, you can also pick up on a cultural context that you don’t necessarily get from studying a language from a grammatical standpoint. 

Netflix and Youtube are great places to start when looking for foreign-language movies and tv-shows.

New Girl Nick Miller TV GIF Giphy / Fox

Cultural Immersion is Important

Often learning more about a culture can help provide context to a language and keep you far more engaged with the material. The more you learn about the cultural context of a language the more fun it becomes as it brings a sense of global immersion. As suggested before one of the easiest ways to do this from the comfort of your own home would be watching documentaries, movies, and reading more on the culture, however, traveling is one of the best ways for cultural immersion! 

From Knowledge to Application

One of the most efficient ways of learning a language is to use it! The more time you spend communicating in the language you are learning, the easier it is to learn from your mistakes and make progress in your overall study of the language. If you know a friend who speaks the language you are trying to learn it can be very beneficial to see if they are willing to help and engage in conversation with you. If you don’t know anybody in your immediate circle, there are many different websites and apps out there where you can have conversations with others to learn a language. 

Christina Morillo

Confidence is Key

Learning a language can be hard, especially if your native language(s) are vastly different from the one you are trying to learn, but don’t let that stop you from engaging in conversation and putting your skills to use. When you become scared or embarrassed to put your knowledge to practice you self-sabotage your opportunity to learn and become more fluent. It’s ok to make mistakes because that is the best way to learn! Often, people are scared that native speakers will look down upon them for not speaking fluently, but for the most part, people are happy and excited to see others wanting to take part in their culture. They will want to help you learn, rather than make fun of you for still learning. 

Resources

Transparent Language

Transparent language offers over 100 different languages for you to choose from and teaches you the language for both travel and personal purposes. The program begins by providing lessons starting from the alphabet and introducing you to the basic vocabulary you would need when traveling. Although it is a wonderful program it is not free - I was able to get a free account from my town library so I would highly suggest checking if your local library offers a free account with Transparent language or a similar language learning program.  

Duolingo

This is a great resource to supplement your language learning! The app lets you pick from 37 different languages and helps you set the intensity of your study. It will also send you reminders when you do not engage with the app consistently as per your set goals. Overall, it is a great program to maintain motivation. 

MIT OpenCourseWare

If you prefer learning languages in a structured manner much like those offered in a college course, I would highly recommend checking out MIT OpenCourseWare! These are all free courses that have been previously taught by professors and the lectures and materials (including the class syllabus) are available online to the public for free!

Journal in front of laptop Photo by Nick Morrison from Unsplash

Overall, learning a new language can open you up to new cultures and exciting possibilities. With the tips and resources listed above, hopefully, it becomes a much easier experience!