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4 Methods For Learning New Languages

November 1, 2018

Learning new languages is not a particularly easy task. While, as a child, it may have seemed almost automatic, things this time around are not so simple. It is no secret that learning new languages gets harder the older you get. That should not stop you from trying, however.

There are numerous methods that can help even older people to learn. Though it won’t be as easy as in childhood, it will help any new vocabulary or grammatical structures being memorized to stay in for memory. Here are a few examples of effective memory-aiding methods that can help you learn a new language.

1. Mnemonics

Creating Mnemonics

The word itself sounds foreign (actually coming from Greek origin), but it describes a range of methods that are meant to help memory recall. It is a popular method for those learning languages to remember lists of new vocabulary for their target language. Essentially, it involves taking what you want to learn (a word or the corresponding gender of the word) and creating associations for it. 

For example, I want to remember the Tagalog word Salamat (meaning: thank you). I just imagine someone at a market in the Philippines selling a mat. I think Sa-La-Mat which I associate with the words “sell a mat”. Even better, I imagine after someone buys the mat they would say ‘thank you’ to the seller, building upon the scenario and association.

To create these associations, especially for longer words, you can break the word up into syllables, as I did. From that, you can find similar-sounding words to them. You will need to create a mental picture of your association to link it with the word in your mind which should eventually be stored in your memory. So next time you are having trouble memorizing some words, try to break them down and use your imagination to help you remember. 

2. Flash Cards

Flash Cards

One of the most common ways to aid language learning is with flashcards. For this, you take a card and write a word or phrase on it in your mother tongue. On the other side, you write the same word or phrase in the language you are learning. Of course, it doesn’t just have to be words - it can also be pictures. The idea is that you place one side face down and use the word or image on the other side to guess and eventually learn what the other side says. 

If I were learning Tagalog, one side of the card would have a picture of an orange, while the other side would have the word ‘Kahel’. Over time, I will be able to look at the image and know that it is called a Kahel or vice versa. 

Flashcards are a tried and true method for learning new words. These days, you can make a digital version on your phone, or just write it on some paper. They are something you should come back to every once in a while to test yourself and see what you remember.

3. Watching Films

Watching Films

Here is a method that may be a lot more engaging than the other techniques. Of course, the idea is to watch a film in your target language. There are numerous ways in which this can be helpful. Firstly, you get to hear the language being spoken. In the average film, you will likely come across different accents and different talking speeds as well as an informal and formal language. This is good to train your ear to the finer aspects of the language. Secondly, you also get a glimpse into the culture surrounding the language, such as the mannerisms of the people. This may well reignite your passion for the language too.

Watch films in the language you are learning is an effective way to surround yourself in the language. You can mix things up by choosing to use subtitles in either your language or the language you are learning. It is also a good way to ‘re-experience’ a film you love in a new way, while also learning. Otherwise, it is a nice change of pace to the books or audio recordings you are used to. 

4. Apps

Using app on commute

One of the key ways to learn a new language is dedication. You need to consistently be learning and testing yourself to ensure you are in the best position to reach your desired level of fluency. Apps can be very helpful for this as chances are, you likely have your phone nearby in most situations. That means that every once in a while, such as when you are commuting, you can take some time to test yourself. 

Not only are mobile apps convenient, but they also have the benefit of offering sound, text, and visual cues. Having a multi-sensory approach can be very beneficial. It means that you can hear how a word sounds from a native speaker, and strengthen recognition using images. They usually include a range of different tests, challenges, and guides to help users learn different elements of the new language such as writing or grammar.

Finally, using gamification, makes language learning much more exciting. Whether you are the competitive type who will compare scores with friends or don’t find textbooks very exciting, mobile language learning apps are a good choice. We recommend Ling for your language learning needs, whether you are learning Thai, German or Vietnamese.

This is far from an exhaustive list. These also aren’t going to help you learn overnight. Rather, they are effective ways to help you retain what you are learning. While each technique alone can help, it shouldn’t be the only method you use. Try to mix and match to find whichever combination helps you to learn best.

Everyone learns in their own way. It is ultimately up to the individual to find what works best for them. What is most important, is setting a consistent schedule and realistic goals.

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