5 tips for learning a new language

International student smiles at camera while learning outside.

People learn a new language for different reasons, some want to move overseas, increase their job prospects, or have an interest in a different culture. Whatever the reason – there are proven ways that help people learn and retain new language skills. Like anything in life, learning a new skill takes time. But with enough practice, commitment and some planning your language goals will become a reality.

1.     Set Goals

In order to make your dream come true you need to set goals. A learning goal allows us to plan effectively, manage expectations and measure success. Because learning a language takes time and persistence, you need to have clear expectations of what you want to achieve. Is it a short- or long-term goal? Do you want to be fluent or just able to hold a conversation?

Don’t be vague, start by thinking about your end-goal, set a timeframe and organise this into smaller actionable steps. This way you can begin to build your knowledge and tick off progress.

2.     Find the right app

There are plenty of language learning apps on the market, some are subscription based while others offer free basic features. Language apps often specialise in a style of learning or a particular language.

The app Duolingo is considered an all-rounder for beginners, while Babbel is like an online language course with a structured curriculum. There are some apps that focus on casual conversation and others that emphasise visual cues and interactive features for learners.

There’s even an app called Lirica that specializes in Spanish and German, it uses popular music to teach students the meaning of words in song lyrics.

Thanks to the abundance of apps, there is something for everyone. Just make sure to research and read customer reviews for the one that could be right for you.

3.     Learn in context

In a language learning setting, context helps us understand what someone is saying and why.  As listeners we use background knowledge of the speaker and environment to create meaning. It’s the process of connecting new knowledge with something we already understand.

The vocabulary you learn weather through an app or language class should apply to a real-world situation. It is easier to remember new words when they are connected to our own experiences or at least familiar ones.

Context could be learning words about a topic that already interests you, introducing yourself or how to order at a restaurant.

4.     Watch a variety of media

Most languages follow the Pareto principal, with the 1,000 most common words making up 80% of everyday speech.

Language teachers recommend students watch movies or television shows in their target language and use subtitles in their native tongue to begin learning common words.

Movies provide context, and an introduction to slang, expressions and cultural references. The on-screen dialogue helps develop basic conversation skills and assists with pronunciation and tone.

Watching Netflix is engaging and fun way to learn – it doesn’t always reflect reality but it’s still a useful resource for beginners.

5.     Conversation

Conversation is learning by doing and develops important skills you cannot learn in a textbook. Find a native speaker to have regular conversations with. There are plenty of online resources to connect with native speakers online or in your local area.

One study found that conversation practice was the ‘bridge’ between grammar, vocabulary and punctuation. It connects all linguistic elements and develops our cognitive ability to form sentences.

Conversation also helps us practice active listening. If we actively listen to what people are saying to us, we start to understand elements like pronunciation, vocabulary and culture. You’ll be surprised just how much you pick up when you’re really listening to the people around you. Make sure to be willing to ask questions when you need or have a lexis handy.

Practice and routine

There is no one size fits all when it comes to finding time to practice a language and develop a regular routine. It must be what works best for you and needs to fit into your schedule.

Many people ‘stack habits’ to develop a new behaviour like regular practice while you learn a language. This could mean you listen to a language app on the way to work, watch a movie in another language before bed or practice new vocabulary while you make dinner. It helps to take an existing part of your routine and add some language practice on to it.

Study In Australia

Are you learning English and want to study in Australia? Melbourne has been voted Australia’s most student-friendly city!

This was based on real student feedback about affordability, quality of education, safety, jobs after graduation and lifestyle. The City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government provide ample resources and free services for international students. You will also meet many like-minded students and get to enjoy Melbourne’s thriving food, music, and festival scene.

Embracia Education has a dedicated Student Support Officer who can talk to you about your study options and time in Australia. Our team assists students every step of the way and can offer increased employment outcomes after graduation. Contact our friendly team to find out more.