As far as learning a language goes, we all know by now that sitting in a classroom while a teacher yells numericals at you doesn’t really work out so well. (If it did, then, I’d be fluent in at least three languages by now…) While the idea of posting up at a Spanish academy in Barcelona for six months does sound appealing, it is rare for that kind of opportunity to be more than just a fantasy. But, just because you’re stuck in your hometown, doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up a foreign language like a pro. With the internet at our disposal, there are a multiplicity of ways for you to achieve fluency in a language other than your own. Here are my five tried-and-true tips to becoming bilingual.
1. Find a language exchange partner.
The premise behind a language exchange is simple: you teach your partner your native (or near native) language and they teach you theirs. Beyond that, it’s up to you. A lot depends on you and your partner’s interests, levels, and strengths, but I generally find it helpful to bring along a textbook, articles, or specific questions I have in order to maximize the time. The purpose of a language exchange isn’t to introduce new grammatical concepts, but rather to reinforce pre-existing knowledge and increase your fluency.
Language exchanges can take place in-person or over Skype. Some good websites for finding partners are Conversation Exchange and Speaky, but there are many more out there! Alternately, try asking your friends or local educational institutions if they know of anyone looking for an exchange. Pro tip: try sneaking a cooking exchange in there– you’ll thank me later, while you and your language exchange partner feast on home made dumplings, while jabbering in Mandarin.
2. Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is the best way to learn a new language on your own. The program conducts all lessons using your target language and helps to develop your listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills simultaneously. Plus, the interface is straightforward and comes with a series of engaging games. The program provides you with an excellent language base and is a great study tool when you’re on the go. With Rosetta Stone, you’ll be speaking in no time.
Plus, if you buy your Rosetta Stone package through Goodshop, you’ll save $250 and donate 8.5% to your cause!
3. Watch TV. More specifically, watch soap operas.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but soap operas are great for your brain. Okay, they’re at least great for your language acquisition.
In his TED talk, Hong Kong-based psychologist Chris Lonsdale outlines his strategies for learning any language in six months. He calls the first step “brain soaking.” According to Lonsdale, the mere act of listening to your target language will help you to get a grasp on patterns, key words, and rhythm.
And we all know that soap operas can be…uh…addicting, which makes it easy to incorporate them into your everyday routine. Just keep in mind that if your watching a soap opera set in 18th century China you might not want to memorize all of the dialogue word for word, lest you be mistaken for a Qing Dynasty emperor…
4. Sing along.
Research shows that music can act as a powerful trigger for your memory. In fact, a 2013 study from The University of Edinburgh found that participants who sang phrases were twice as successful at remembering them than those who only spoke them.
So what are you waiting for? TuneIn offers a wide selection of stations from around the world. Find one in your target language and get listening! You’ll be singing along in no time.
5. Set aside time every day.
Experts agree—the key to successful language learning is consistency. It helps to set aside an allotted time everyday for study, and don’t let yourself stray from it. While there are a zillion people on the Internet promising quick tricks and magic solutions, the best method out there is still hard work. But with these fun tools, the work part isn’t so hard after all!
We want to know—what are your language learning tricks? Share with us in the comments section below!