8 best ways to learn a new language fast
Here is some heartfelt advice, from a qualified multilingual tutor (me), directly to you.
How wonderful would it be to wake up one day and speak Italian, Spanish or French?
You would be ecstatic, wouldn’t you? However, such an overnight success would take away all the joy of learning that language step by step. It would take away the feeling of accomplishment and pride for every achievement you experience during your learning journey.
Did you know motivation itself is a powerful predictor of how well you’re going to accomplish your language goals? As a matter of fact, it is empirically proven to be the second strongest factor in determining second language attainment. There are decades of academic research on this subject, so you can be assured it is true.
So what does this mean for you?
It is very important to know why you want to learn a modern language. For how many months have you been saying to yourself I want to learn Italian, Spanish or French, but have never started? Well, take a break and give some thought to the reason/s why you want to learn another language.
Is it because you have foreign origins or is it your partner’s native language? Maybe you want to learn with your kids? Or do you have a property abroad or is it that you simply fell in love with the language? Perhaps you are learning the language at school or University?
Narrow down your reasons and write them down. Think about the language you have chosen; what do you appreciate about it? What part of its culture do you find fascinating?
Perhaps you enjoy its cuisine, fashion, people, history, arts, etc. Do you need to learn a modern language for work, but do not feel enthusiastic about it? If so, it may help to consider all the benefits that it could bring into your life. First and foremost, learning a new language can slow the cognitive ageing of the brain, delay dementia and Alzheimer’s. Do you need more reasons? You will be able to close more sales deals, you will be able to get around more easily and get a caffè latte instead of a glass of milk if you accidentally ask for a “latte”.
1 – Set your goals
A wish remains a wish if you don’t set goals for yourself.
Once it is clear why you want to learn a modern language, write down your goals. What level of fluency would you like to reach?
Would you prefer mostly speaking the language or does your work require you to acquire reading and writing skills too?
Put your answers into bullet points because that will tell you exactly what learning style you need to adopt. It won’t happen overnight, you will need practice, practice and more practice.
2 – Plan your learning journey
Be disciplined; decide how much time you can dedicate to your learning and set out a routine based on that exact time allocation you can afford to concentrate on the new language for. Nevertheless, remember, learning another language it is not a burden, it is not something you must do, but rather it is a pleasure and a privilege, so treat it as such.
For each day, write down in detail what you are going to learn, for instance: how to introduce yourself, how to express your nationality, and so on.
Do you have the right resources? Are you getting your didactic material online?
Always check the author and their credentials; you would be surprised how many mistakes there are out there.
Everyday, read your journal containing your goals and the reason/s why you want to learn this language, and then begin your learning journey for the day. Avoid getting overwhelmed and take your journey day by day, especially at the beginning.
Learning a new language it is not studying it, it is living it, embracing a new lifestyle and a new way of thinking. You can even accomplish this without going or living abroad. How? You can take advantage of movies, music and so on, to immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of the language you are learning.
It’s even easier if you live in a city with a large Italian, Spanish or French community, for example. You can actually interact with people in the target language by going to Italian, Spanish or French restaurants, delis, markets and expats meetings. In my opinion, the best way to practice a new language, by far, is called “learning in context”. For a full explanation of what learning in context is, please read my article here: https://www.languagesalive.com/italian-breakfast/
3 – Grammar
Does the word grammar sound like a nightmare to you?
If so, please don’t worry; it is just a bad image in your mind. In fact, grammar can be fascinating, interesting and above all, it makes you speak correctly!
You will discover how beautiful it is to play with words, and with verbs, plus you will learn to construct sentences that are actually correct. Why guess when there are rules that can be learned? Anyone telling you Spanish, Italian, or French grammar is very complicated is misleading you.
Of course, it is different from English grammar, but that doesn’t mean it is so difficult. These three languages are based on logical rules which are recurring. Obviously there are irregular verbs, but guess what? There are irregular verbs in English too. The good news is that there are no phrasal verbs!
Discover grammar, read dialogues first, then learn the grammar used in them.
Every time you successfully construct a sentence you will feel an awesome sense of achievement. Isn’t that marvellous?
4 – Learn new vocabulary
Why do I keep seeing articles that say one has to learn a list of words in the target language to be able to communicate? Why are there teachers and online blogs telling new language learners to memorise those words singularly?
In my professional opinion and experience, those methods do not help and learning isolated words won’t take you very far when you are trying to learn a new language. To be memorable in a language-useful way, words need to assume a meaning for learners and they can only do that when they are learned in context. You can read a book, watch an Italian movie with subtitles, and listen to Italian music whilst reading the song’s lyrics. You need to make that connection for the new words to be stored in your long term memory.
After all, didn’t we learn our first language from a multitude of in context situations, with our parents/families? This not to say second language acquisition is the same in adults and children because it is not. If you are interested in learning more about second language acquisition in children you can download my critical review by clicking on this link: https://www.languagesalive.com/downloads/dispelling-bilingual-myths/
5 – Synonyms
Learn and use synonyms, do not obsess over a specific word, avoid translating from your first language and change the sentence. It might take longer to express yourself, but who cares? You will avoid getting stuck. It is very easy nowadays to look for synonyms; on Microsoft Word for instance you can highlight the word, right click and choose synonyms. An even better tool is WordReference.com where you also find the verb conjugator option.
6 – Pronunciation
Make an effort to learn the rules of pronunciation which are very clear when it comes to French and Spanish. In Spanish the sounds almost always match the spelling. For Italian, you’ve got it very easy, learn the alphabet and the major sounds made by the letters and you will be able to pronounce words pretty easily as Italian is pronounced as it is written. Are you ready to explore the Italian alphabet now? To act on this, read my article which includes my engaging video tutorial on the subject. https://www.languagesalive.com/how-many-letters-are-in-the-italian-alphabet/
7 – Entertaining
As already mentioned there are many resources out there which will facilitate the learning process of your chosen language. Listening to music, reading the song’s lyrics and understanding them, watching a movie with subtitles, watching engaging tutorials on YouTube, and of course seeing my YouTube channel if you wish to learn Italian https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaVwBqct6-Tb1swX4s_9-1A and my “Live & learn Italian through my family’s recipes” A unique course for beginners designed by Italian native qualified tutors. It is free on Kindle Unlimited or available for purchase on kindle.
Here are the links:
If you don’t have kindle you can still purchase the course on this link at a really competitive price https://www.languagesalive.com/learn-italian-online/
Socialising with expats is also a great idea, however, if that is not feasible, find a buddy with the same language level as you and practice with him/her as much as possible. If you are up for a language exchange with a native speaker, this could be good, but follow these guidelines; do not mix the two languages. In one session teach your language; in the other session let the other person teach you. It can easily be done online, over zoom for instance where you can share your screen and use the camera.
For further information, see my post “The best way to learn Italian for beginners” https://www.languagesalive.com/best-way-to-learn-italian-for-beginners/ It will give you further tips which can be applied to Spanish and French alike.
8 – Full immersion
Live an authentic language experience by visiting places in France, Spain or Italy which are not popular with tourists. Travelling or moving to the target country will not cause a spike in your learning process, if you surround yourself with your compatriots.
Neither will you improve your target language if you chose a place very popular with tourists where everyone speaks English. So make sure you choose a suitable destination.
When I moved to Tenerife (Canary Islands) from London in the UK, I was expecting to learn Spanish. In reality, I improved my English much more than I did in London as I was immersed in the English community, working with English people and going out with them on a daily basis. When I went back to London where my Italian friends were, my English was much better than when I left. Ironic, isn’t it?
At Languages Alive we organise tailor made language with cultural experiences in Italy, France and Spain. See our Italian ones here https://www.languagesalive.com/learn-italian-in-italy/
Do you want to take your Italian, Spanish or French to the next level?
Chose private tuition; private language courses are an effective solution that will speed up the learning process allowing you to achieve your goals much faster.
We want you to be able to communicate fluently and correctly, that is why we focus on conversational skills and we give you strong grammar knowledge at the same time.
I hope you found this post useful; I can’t wait to read your comments below!