The first thing I want to say is that language study isn’t just about how to learn languages, but why you should learn them. When people ask me how I learn languages so quickly, my response is: “Language study isn’t just about learning languages!” Learning a language takes time and effort. That’s the first thing you need to understand when starting out on your journey of learning a new language.
I actually recommend spending much more time studying than actually talking in the target language. The language you learn in-depth will be much more accessible to you than a language you know only superficially.
The number one step for anyone who wants to master a language is learning how to study effectively. There are several great resources available on the internet, but my favorite is a book called “How To Study” by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tutor, Dr. J. Lyle Bachman (you can find it here). The book goes into detail about how to learn at home or in college classes and focuses on studying subjects that students find difficult such as science and math courses. In the book, Drs Bachman and Anderson tell students that they should spend 2/3 of their time studying outside class instead of actually being in class! Having this mindset about your studies will set you up for long-term success with your learning goals by being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to subjects you feel less confident about!
When I think about language study, it’s always compared to building a house: You have to have a foundation before anything else can go on top of it – if not, there will be cracks that appear later because the foundation wasn’t strong enough from the beginning! If this sounds similar to what I just said above – don’t worry because they’re both helpful strategies! In fact, you should probably read over them again – I’m not going anywhere… ok. Now that you’ve read them twice, let’s look at what I mean by the “building a house” analogy!
I’m going to start with the most important part – your foundation. The most important thing to do when learning a language is grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t know how to structure sentences and know basic words and phrases, then you won’t be able to communicate effectively in the language! Being familiar with the basics of grammar will allow you to understand what people say much easier than if you were just trying to guess. Remember: Empathy is key for effective communication!
That’s why it’s so important for students starting out on their journey of learning a new language should concentrate more on studying basic structures than looking up every word they don’t know. For example, I remember when I first started learning Spanish as an adult it took me forever just to read books because there were so many words that were completely new (this was before Duolingo). That was until I realized something: 95% of all words in any language can be broken down into 3 different parts – Nouns (people/things), Verbs (actions), and Adjectives (descriptions). Once I understood this simple concept, it made reading Spanish much easier since almost every sentence was using those 3 things! Nowadays, my biggest problem isn’t looking up unknown words; it’s remembering how certain verb conjugations work or which nouns take which determiners. That’s why it’s important to learn basic grammar and vocabulary as early as possible!
Once you’ve established a strong foundation, the next thing you should do is start building on top of it. Your house is built by stacking those rocks one at a time, and I think it’s a great way to illustrate how language study works! Start with small structures like nous (French for “we”), verbs like to go, or maybe even personal pronouns. Think of these structures as the bricks that go into making your wall – if you don’t put them in right away then your wall won’t stay standing for long – unless you’re putting up a brick structure instead of building a house! In this case, having some foundation knowledge will help keep everything together later on down the road. Here are some examples from different languages:
In English: We went over there –> Nous sommes allés là-bas In German: Wir sind dorthin gegangen In Spanish: Nosotros fuimos allá In French: Nous y sommes allés
You might also want to build onto things so that they become more complex or have more depth to them. For example, take just one sentence from above and change around the subject/verb/adjective so that it means something completely different! Keep in mind that each language has its own rules when doing this kind of thing because each language uses words in different ways.
I hope this post has helped you get a better idea of how language study works! Just remember that language study isn’t just about learning languages – it’s also about why you should learn them. By understanding the reasons behind your goals, you’ll be able to take more practical steps in reaching them. Good luck on your journey of learning a new language!