If you like to travel or you are fascinated by different countries and cultures or you just want to be able to communicate with as many people as possible, you might have learned or tried to learn a new language. If you are not a language genius, and I am far from it myself, you might have wondered what the best way could be to learn a new language.
Probably the best method with the fastest results is total immersion. A friend of mine studied in Italy for a semester and she didn’t know any Italian. So, she learned a few words and then moved to Italy into a shared flat surrounded by only native speaker. She made it very hard for herself not to speak Italian. That is very courageous and also smart. Our brains want to prevent pain. Being clueless in a different country and having no means to navigate is painful. So, our motivation is increased to learn as fast as possible. Sure, this method only works if you actually have the resources to do it and when you are forced to live abroad for at least a few months.
What else can we do to learn a new language? A couple of years back, I participated in a workshop about learning held by my professor. The participants were mainly elderly people and one participant asked what she can do to learn a new language. As our brains still re-wire themselves even in old age, we are always capable of teaching an old dog a new trick =). His suggestion was to not just learn grammar and new words, but to learn context-wise. For example, you want to go grocery shopping. Then create a story that includes all the common words we use when we go grocery shopping. Learning in stories and predefined-contexts makes it easier to remember what we have learned.
One step below might be the most wonderful app regarding learning language that is known to me: Duolingo. Duolingo is a free language app build by a community of language enthusiasts. If you speak English, you can learn almost any language there is. But even if you don’t speak English that well and you’d like to learn a new language in your native tongue, chances are high that you can do that, too. At least the mayor languages like French and Spanish. Besides being for free, the community constantly improves the platform. By the way, you can also use it via your desktop. Then, you have additional access to grammar details.
Duolingo has a lot of gamification elements which makes it fun to learn. That is actually their mission: to teach languages for free and in a fun way. You start with the basics and each finished set unlocks 1-3 new ones. Those sets always have a singular context. Like animals or grammar or numbers etc. Therefore, you will learn words and sentences that belong to the same category. This aims at increasing the retention. It is really a wonderful platform and a perfect example what a community is capable of.
What is your favorite way to learn a new language?