* Video version of this blog post can be found here.
I’ve been asked “How did you learn to speak English?” way too many times. And I’ve always answered the same thing, “From movies.” Yes, movies were a huge part of my learning process. They helped me a lot. But I can’t give it the whole credit; practicing it was as important!
Before getting into how to learn a language, let’s talk about why to learn a language. And these reasons are based on my own observations.
- It’s fun!
- It’ll boost your memory skills.
- You won’t need subtitles or translators.
- Make more friends.
- It’ll help you to learn about other cultures, hence, you’ll become a multicultural person.
- You’ll have more job opportunities.
Now that we learned why to learn a new language, let’s get into how to learn a language.
Learning a language is just like learning anything else. All you need to do is practice it. There are many ways to learn a language and each person uses a different method. Here, I’ll share what works for me.
Let’s get into the steps!
- The first thing to do is to surround yourself with anything from that language. It could be movies, songs, TV shows, books, inspirational talks, anything that makes you get used to the language.
Watching movies and listening to songs in English language were indirect ways to learn and improve my listening skill without realizing it. Movies and songs are fun ways to learn languages. They make it less boring and more enjoyable to go through this process. For songs, find videos with lyrics.
Follow pages with short quotes, common phrases, expressions in that language and take them seriously. Don’t scroll up and ignore them. I’m guilty of scrolling and ignoring too, but I tell myself to go back and read the posts.
- Learn common vocabulary on a daily basis. After learning enough vocabulary, move on to learn sentences. Memorize these sentences, then make small changes in them, for example, “Where is the pencil?” change one vocabulary, you can change “pencil” to “book” and the question will become, “Where is the book?”, or make the noun plural, like, “Where are the pencils/books?” This way, you’ll train your brain to think in the language you’re learning. When I speak Kurdish, I think in Kurdish, and the same thing when I speak English. That’s why it’s important to train your brain to think in that language. That’s why it’s said, “As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being.”
- Repeat what you learn. Use what you learn in daily life. Having someone to practice with is a great way to learn to speak the language, but we don’t always get that opportunity. When I first started learning English, I started by thinking in English. Then a couple years later, my best friend and I made a pact to only speak English, that was also very helpful.
Another trick is using it with your family members even if they don’t speak the language. You can use basic phrases like “I’m sorry”; “I don’t know”; etc. this will help you think in that particular language.
- Don’t wait long to speak the language. I’ve seen many people who are afraid to speak because they think they’re not good enough and don’t want to make any mistakes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, accept them. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. If you wait to be fluent in the language without using it, you won’t get anywhere. We make mistakes in our first languages, too.
Another thing I’ve noticed is people apologizing when they don’t speak fast enough or make mistakes. There is no need for you to apologize! You should be proud of your learning progress and embrace the mistakes you make. Remember, not many people learn languages, so you don’t have to apologize for learning something. You’re doing great!
- Last but not the least: grammar! The reason why I put grammar at the end is because I don’t believe that one needs to know all the rules to be able to speak a language properly. I know many people who know more grammar rules in English than me, yet can’t have a conversation in that language or make a proper sentence. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think grammar is important. Grammar is very important. If you don’t know which form of verb to use for which tense, then how can you know what time you or the speaker talk about? Learn basics of grammar to help you identify the tenses, singular and plural nouns and stuff like this. Then again, don’t stress too much about the rules, because you don’t need to memorize everything.
Now let’s talk more about practicing!
Imagine, you want to build a house and have all the necessary materials; bricks, glass, wood, nails, etc., but you don’t know how to put them together and build the house. In order to learn how to build it, you’ll break a piece of glass, hammer the nail into your finger, make mistakes, but most importantly, you’ll learn along the way and that’s the practicing part, then finally will be able to learn how to build that house. But if you don’t go for it and bring more materials and do more reading on how to build that house, you won’t learn or succeed.
Speaking a new language is like that. You can know as many words as possible, memorize every grammar rule, learn how to conjugate every verb, but if you don’t practice it along the way, you won’t be able to speak it. You won’t succeed. The secret is in practicing and learning from your mistakes.
Learning anything takes time and patience. Some things take more and some take less time. Language is no different. Dedicate yourself to it, don’t give up after a few days or weeks.