Learning a Language by Yourself

By Sarah Tran, guest contributor


Traveling to a foreign country where English isn’t the primarily language? It might be helpful to learn a couple of important phrases such as “thank you” or “where is the nearest restroom?” and it will be appreciated by the local folks to you speak in their native tongue in their country.


The University of Kentucky does offer language courses such as Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, but not all students have the time or schedule to take these language courses. Not all languages are taught at the University of Kentucky either.


“I’m teaching myself Greek,” says Olivia Wilson, a sophomore at the university. “They don’t have classes here at UK, but it’ll be nice to understand a little bit when I’m there.”


Learning a foreign language takes patience and diligence. It can take up to years before fluency can be achieved.


“Before coming to America, I took classes in English,” says Ines Elena, an international student from Spain. “But it actually took being here for several years before I could actually call myself fluent.”


But for some people, learning new languages is easy. There is even a term for people who are fluent in multiple languages: polyglot.


Some notable polyglots are Shakira who is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Italian, according to Business Insider and Pope Francis who is fluent in Portuguese, French, German and Ukrainian, according to Babbel Magazine.


Listed a few tips gathered from English-speaking students who have taught themselves languages such as Korean, Japanese and Spanish.


  • Be persistent

After an exam, students usually shut their books and forget the information after a while. With languages, it’s important to be persistent and constant. If not, it is easy to forget what you have learned.


  • Use all available resources

It is important to not only use the language workbook but practice by watching movies, listening to music, and reading in the language you are learning in order to be proficient. “I watched Korean dramas all the time,” says Andrea Thy, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina. “I turned off the English subtitles and focused on the listening part. That really helped me when I was studying abroad in Korea.”


  • Practice speaking and holding conversations

“I made videos of myself speaking Spanish,” says Trey Kinison, a junior at Yale University. “When I went to Costa Rica, I tried not to speak English with the natives and that helped improve my Spanish.”


  • Have confidence

Learning a new language takes time and patience It’s difficult to achieve fluency after only a few months but it is the dedication that counts. “When I was in Japan, I was so scared to speak Japanese,” says Alex Lim, a junior at the University of Kentucky. “But my teachers encouraged me to just be confident and people will understand the effort and it worked. My Japanese improved and I made new friends along the way.”


Whether you are traveling soon or interested in a culture, learning the language will help build bridges between you and the country. Even if you do not speak the language fluency, it is always important to know a few phrases to help you in case of an emergency. Language learning takes time and patience not skill!