Some people were lucky enough to learn multiple languages through their parents. Others just seem to have an extra spot in their brain which allows them to understand a new language just by surrounding themselves with it for a few days. I’m not one of those people and since I discover how much I love travelling, I regret I never paid more attention to my language classes at high school. However, my motto is to never ever stop learning, so here are 5 ways to improve your language skills that are still helping me massively.
1. USE A LANGUAGE APP
Where to start when you miss even the very basics of a new language, as well as the money to buy a decent language course like Rosetta Stone? No worries, there are plenty of apps that are free or at least super cheap. I tested many, but the first I found and actually liked was Memrise, especially after they launched official Memrise courses. Later on I discovered Babbel, which I might like even better. Memrise offers way more courses, also on specific topics, but Babbel does a better job at including and explaining grammar. I believe it gives a more solid base. I now use them both to learn Spanish – Memrise to increase my vocabulary and Babbel to truly understand what I’m doing.
2. SPEAK TO NATIVES
Once you know enough to introduce yourself, tell someone how your day was and ask some basic questions, it’s best to just start talking to native speakers. There a numerous forums out there that connect language learners. Babbel’s website has for example one, but just Google it and you’ll find enough options, like ConversationExchanges.com and iTalkie.com
3. READ LOCAL NEWSPAPERS (ONLINE)
Ready to go beyond the basics? Find a newspaper, or magazine of your interest with a news section, and starting reading. Even when it’s just one item per day, just try. It will be frustrating at first and you might need Google Translate in your bookmarks bar, but it’s a great exercise. You will see the words you’ve learned in their real context and pick up news words, too.
4. LISTEN TO THE RADIO
Even when you’re not confident about your new skills just yet, listening to a local radio station works wonders! Just put it on in the background while you’re cleaning your house. Familiarise yourself with the sounds of a new language and even try to sing along with some songs. Don’t know any radio stations? Try TuneIn.com.
5. VISIT THE COUNTRY
Of course, the best and fastest way is to just visit a country where they speak your desired language and force yourself to stick to the language. Even if you feel like you speak like a 5-year old, order your drinks, ask directions and buy tickets in the local language. If you have the possibility of doing this for 3-4 weeks, or even longer, that’s great! But even a weekend will help you improve.
These are my 5 favourite ways to learn a new language, but I’m always happy to learn about new tricks! What do you do to improve your skills? Tell me in the comment section below, or join the discussion on social media!