You guys may know it by now, I am French and, obviously, I am not writing in my mother language right now. I am passionate by foreign languages and I master French, English and German really well. I am good at Spanish, and in the process of learning Russian and Estonian. I even have a dedicated blog here thanks to which I teach English to my Frenchies. Thus, foreign languages aren’t new to me and I was so happy when Penela from the blog JustPene contacted me and asked me to write a post about ways to learn a foreign language efficiently.
I wrote a guide you can download completely for free here and which may be a great starting point for you if that is something you are interested in. It is about 50 pages long and exposes my quite “new” method when it comes to language-learning. Nonetheless, here are 5 more ways you can make language-learning easier and funnier: let’s get started!
Make sure you choose your first foreign language the right way.
Languages can be classified into different “families” and thus, such as members of a family, they tend to have common points. Thus, the first language you choose to learn is the hardest because for the next ones, you will already know two languages and that way, you will be able to compare the structure of that third language to the structures of your first two languages. When we know that our first choice matters the most, there are two ways we can make sure that choice is the best one for us:
♡ Choosing a languages that is universally known as “easy” for the native-speakers of your country (I advise you to do your research).
♡ Choosing a language we are really passionate about. I know that a lot of people love French literature and French culture so if that is your case and even though French is universally seen as quite hard, go for it as passion goes a long way.
Do not translate.
That is the thing I teach my French students the most. Languages are so different, you can’t really translate. Translators are professionals, they know exactly what they do and they know how hard their job is. Translating is far harder than mastering two languages. You can master English and French perfectly and be perfectly unable to translate one into the other.
Thus, when you want to learn a foreign language, forget about translation and remember that your main goal has to be the following: thinking directly in your target-language. Yes, directly. That seems quite impossible at first because you have so little vocabulary and you know so little grammar rules, but the sooner you get used to that rule of NEVER TRANSLATING, the better.
My best example of that is the following: the english-speaker says “it is raining cats and dogs” while the French speaker says “il pleut des cordes”, which literally means “it is raining ropes”. If a French guy told you “it is raining ropes”, you would not understand. Why? Simply because he translated his own expression literally into english. If the french-speaker had thought directly in English, he would have said “it is raining cats and dogs” or even “it is raining a lot”, and you would have understood him.
Do not reach for perfection.
Learning a language is a lifelong journey and you only need one evidence when it comes to that: you do not even master your mother-language completely. I still learn French words all the time and make annoying mistakes as far as spelling is concerned. Just be kind to yourself. Reach for fluency, but not for perfection or you will never be satisfied, and that is terrible for your self-esteem.
Do not compare.
You just can’t compare your journey to others’, and that is not only true as far as languages are concerned. Maybe my English is more fluent than yours, but that does not mean your English is bad. You do not know for how many years someone has been practicing or how many hours they can dedicate to language-learning every week. If you have children, a full-time job or any other priority, you will learn slower than some other people. Does that make you inferior to them? No, just different. As long as you are putting the effort whenever it is okay for you to take some time for it, that is just fine. Do not put pressure on yourself, learning a language must always be a pleasure.
Do not set goals that are not good for you.
Once again, that is not only a “language-learning” tip. You know how much I value balance and creating unachievable goals is something I just can’t understand. Why do you want to learn a foreign language? Is it because you want to travel alone for the first time in a new country? Is it to understand better your Spanish crush? Is it for the improvement of your resume? There is not “right” answer, the only right answer is what feels right to you.
If your goal is simply to be able to understand basic conversations, do not try to become fluent. It is not worth the effort. Going from nothing to understanding basic conversations requires effort, but going from understanding basic conversations to being fluent required a looooooot more effort. Thus, do not think you need to be fluent in order to “master” a language. “Mastering” means only what it means to you. Make sure you are not putting too much pressure on yourself.
I hope these tips helped you see that learning a new language has to be a form of self-care and that it actually can. Please feel free to tell me in the comments what language you dream of learning. Also feel free to give your own tips on that topic, I still have quite a hard time with Russian and would be really happy to know them!