TenFigures welcomes a new editor – Kunal Roy. He will be working with us to make the blog a better place for people to learn  about a lot of practical matters and grow while doing so. This is his first post.

Due to technical issues, I had to post this instead.

There are only two ways to learn a new language. One way is to acquire it by hearing the language being spoken by people around you and the other way is to sit down with a couple of textbooks and actually study the language from the textbook, as if it were any other subject. I’ve found the best way to be a little bit of both. So, grab some learning material and make certain preparations to practice your language skills with others who fluently speak the language and the following tips should make your life easier.

10 things to keep in mind when learning a new language –

1. Spend a minimum of twenty minutes everyday.

On what? You could design your own mix of exercises that cover the three basic learning practices of speaking the language, writing the language, reading the language and arguably the most important practice – listening to the language. 

     It might be a while before you can design such an exercise that you know works best. But experimentation, you will find, is always the best way to learn anything. The same applies to languages. Just try it. You would know best exactly where you stand. So, the exercises that you design for yourself bearing in the mind the level you think you’re currently at, would be best suited to your level. You can work your way up from there. 

For example, start with simple words that see frequent everyday usage. You can practice them for the first week. Then, you can continue with more words that are frequently used and practice them through the next week. To complement this technique, you can also learn and practice basic pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions to help you string these words into sentences. Set goals for yourself. For example, for the first couple of weeks or so you can make certain that you are learning a minimum of three words from each part of speech per week. By doing this, you will see you are better able to express yourself in the new language in a relatively small amount of time.

With a minimum of 20 minutes of practice each day, you will quickly find you are able to design more complex training exercises for yourself.

2. Review and practice previous lessons constantly.

The important thing with learning a language is constantly going over what you’ve been learning each day. You simply cannot afford to forget a previous lesson and expect to continue effectively learning the language. If you feel saturated at any point during the learning period and find that you are not able to accumulate any more previous lesson knowledge, you can stop at that point and perfect everything you may have learned up until that point and then when that much starts coming naturally to you, you can proceed.  

3. Expect improvements in plateaus up till a certain point.

 It is normal that a person ends up learning a whole lot through a certain length of the learning period and then finds himself/herself to be frustratingly slow at picking up at other points during the learning period. This would mean that your learning is following a ‘plateau’ pattern. Sometimes the pattern follows a steep rise and at other times it sees a sharp dip. Do not worry yourself with such uneven patterns of progress. It will likely happen more than you might think. The important thing is to be sure that you are trying.

4. Find friends learning the same language.

 The best way to acquire a language is by continued practice. Obviously then, you need friends who are learning the same language. It may not be a great idea to start having conversations with people who fluently speak the language you are attempting to learn in the initial stages of learning. What helps more is trying to have these practice conversations with other learners. That way you won’t unnecessarily be on the receiving end of a barrage of words and expressions that you simply can’t catch. This can be quite disheartening. So, find friends learning the same language.

5. Find ways and means that would allow you to hear the language being spoken out loud to you.

Watch television shows in the language. You can watch movies in the language. More than anything, you learn a language by listening to the language. 

6. Don’t be discouraged if the learning isn’t happening at the pace you’d hoped it would.

This is likely to happen in most cases. Just follow the speed of your progress and do not expect too much from yourself. 

7. Find an online pen pal from a country that speaks the language.

 Oftentimes, you find that you are more comfortable with the learning practice of writing more than you are with the other learning practices. People always write things down when they want to remember them for longer periods of time. Writing is often the most productive way to practice and the same is true for languages. So, it always helps to find a pen pal – someone you could write to regularly and who would write back to you. This also eliminates the fear or that feeling of awkwardness when trying to practice speaking in person. Of course, at some point you are going to have to start speaking the language. But if writing helps bolster the learning process you can write until you are confident enough and then attempt speaking.

8. Listen to music in that language.

 Listening to music can help a learner appreciate the semantics of a language and the nuances of some of the words that have more than one dimension to their usage. This is true with any language. While you may be able to speak a language, listening to the language being used to express a certain art form adds a new level to your understanding of the language.

9. Don’t try too much too fast.

A lot of the times, it can happen that you hear a language being spoken and it sounds beautiful to your ear. For whatever reason, you may quickly find that you are too concerned with how you sound and with not butchering the way it has to be said. As a learner, you must actively stay away from obsessing about pronunciation and tone. Just learn the language structure and usage for starters. The rest will come with continued practice.

Make sure to augment your vocabulary at a pace that you can sustain. Set realistic goals for yourself. Again, always be sure not to try too much too fast.

10. If possible, visit the country speaking the language.

This has obvious benefits. A learner always learns better when everyone around him/her is speaking the language he/she hopes to learn. 

 A great website to get started with learning some useful new languages is www.duolingo.com

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