Here’s a special blog. Megan, who is undertaking work experience with us this week, has put together some top tips for learning languages.

Studies have identified different aspects to learning languages, whether it being adults are more motivated to learn or children having more intuition to pick it up easier. We know empirically that children, especially under the ages of 10-12, have better pronunciation but a limited vocabulary, suggesting that they become fluent in a new language much more quickly than adults – but is that always true? It could simply be down to motivation and attitude rather than age.

With my own experience of living in Cyprus for two years I noticed children picking up languages very quickly in a short space of time, but only because at their age they tend to blend into the environment, unlike adults who are much more self-conscious and unwilling. I do believe that adults can learn languages just as easily but only if they have the patience to learn. The only thing that matters is that we can learn at any age. If we are 50 there is no point in wondering if we were able to learn better than when we were 5. If you can motivate a child to learn a language when they are young, that’s great. Otherwise it is never too late to start.

To be able to learn a language, you have to be motivated at all times. I don’t mean it literally but you must try and trick yourself into learning occasionally to keep your mind focussed. For example, you could download an app on your phone to help you learn phrases even while you’re out, which in the long run will help you remember them much easier than sitting with a dictionary for an hour, hoping you will learn, which I did when I lived in Cyprus. My parents paid for a teacher to help me learn Greek, which didn’t help me at all because all she did was give me a book to copy words and every so often go off the topic talking about her puppies or something. So yeah, don’t waste your money on a tutor, unless they are even the slightest bit eager about you learning.

A good way to learn if you are one of those who sit browsing Facebook 24/7 is to use different websites like BBC Languages for learning socially online which gives you the chance to pick up pronunciations and phrases. Checking a website every so often is going to help you because your brain will gather the information you are reading without going overboard trying to remember too much.

I know it sounds like I’m saying you shouldn’t learn academically, but I do think that you should spend a short amount of time writing up a few phrases in a notebook or something small that you can carry around at all time. It’s an old fashioned way of learning which does help you, just not for too long. I’d say 10-15 minutes every so often throughout the day is enough.

Even when I was learning Greek, I always  found it really difficult learning present tense, past tense and future tense, the words will always change, and it gets very confusing and irritating, so I think you should always learn the past tense before learning the present tense and then leave the future tense till last.

A good way to learn things much more quickly is using little notes for things you are learning. If you want to learn names of everyday items like your bathroom, you could put little notes on your toothbrush, shower gel and soap etc. It’s a good way to remember things easier because you don’t realise you are learning them. Little words like these are easily forgotten even if you already know them.

Here are some more ways to learn languages:

  • Listen to YouTube videos or the radio every so often because it will help you pick up the pronunciation much more quickly, which will then give you the confidence for speaking vocally.
  • Invent funny or silly mnemonic phrases to help you remember new words or concepts.
  • Try and buy some books in your target language in order to help your mind let you think in the language you are learning.
  • Learning a new language can be mentally draining so in order to learn you must give yourself a break from time to time. I don’t mean a week or so, but a day or two will help your mind rest from all the new phrases you are learning.

The most important thing to remember when learning languages is to give yourself time, and be patient, you can’t expect to learn everything in a month’s time so don’t go over the top by trying to learn everything at once. Pace yourself and don’t rush into new topics because you will only forget everything you have just learnt if you’re not ready to move on

Image from kretyen