7 Tips To Learn Any Language From An Expert

Here’s some advice from Matthew Youlden, a polyglot who speaks nine languages.

Matthew Youlden speaks nine languages fluently and understands over a dozen more. He’s constantly switching from language to language like a chameleon changing colors. If he didn’t tell you, you probably wouldn’t know he was British, because he always sounds different. And fortunately, Matthew has some great tips for anyone struggling to learn a new language. If you currently think that you could never become bilingual, get ready to take some notes.

The 7 Best Language-Learning Tips

1. Know Your Motivation

This first of Matthew’s language-learning tips might sound obvious, but if you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated in the long-run. Wanting to impress English-speakers with your French isn’t the best reason — wanting to get to know a French person in their own language is a more noble one. This tip is so important it’s one of the first things Babbel asks you when you sign up. But no matter your motivation, once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.

2. Find A Partner

Matthew learned several languages together with his twin brother, Michael. They tackled their first foreign language, Greek, when they were only 8 years old! Matthew and Michael gained their superpowers from a good old sibling rivalry.

“We were very motivated, and we still are,” Matthew said. “We push each other to really go for it. So if he realizes that I’m doing more than he is, he’ll get a bit jealous and then try and outdo me (maybe because he’s my twin) — and the other way round.”

Even if you can’t get a sibling to join you on your language adventure, finding some kind of partner will push both of you to try just a little bit harder.

3. Talk To Yourself

If the previous suggestion on our list of language-learning tips isn’t doable because you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself in a new language.

“It might sound really weird, but actually speaking to yourself in a language is a great way to practice if you’re not able to use it all the time,” Youlden said.

If you don’t know how to go about learning a new language, this can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind. It also helps build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone else. And if you’re still starting out, you can use the Babbel Review feature and practice your speaking that way.

4. Keep It Relevant

If you make conversation a goal from the beginning, you’re less likely to get lost in textbooks. Talking to people is one of the best ways to learn a language because it keeps the learning process relevant to you. If you’re learning with Babbel, you can find a course that fits your needs, whether you’re learning for business, vacation or just to have fun.

“You’re learning a language to be able to use it,” Youlden said. “You’re not going to speak it only to yourself. The creative side is really being able to put the language that you’re learning into a more useful, general, everyday setting — be that through writing songs, generally wanting to speak to people or using it when you go abroad.”

5. Have Fun With It

Using your new language in any way is a creative act. Matthew and his brother practiced Greek by writing and recording songs. Think of some fun ways to practice your new language: make a radio play with a friend, draw a comic strip, write a poem or simply talk to whomever you can. If you can’t find a way to have fun with a new language, chances are you aren’t following step four!

6. Leave Your Comfort Zone

Willingness to make mistakes means being ready to put yourself in potentially embarrassing situations. This can be scary, but it’s the only way to develop and improve. No matter how much you learn, you won’t ever speak a language without putting yourself out there: talk to strangers in the language, ask for directions, order food, try to tell a joke. The more often you do this, the bigger your comfort zone becomes and the more at ease you’ll be in new situations.

“At the beginning, you’re going to encounter difficulties: maybe the pronunciation, maybe the grammar, the syntax or you don’t really get the sayings,” Matthew said. “But I think the most important thing is to always develop this feel. Every native speaker has a feel for their own language, and that’s basically what makes a native speaker — whether you can make the language your own.”

7. Dive In

So you’ve made the pledge. How to proceed? Is there a proper way to go about language learning? Matthew recommends the 360° maximalist approach: no matter which learning tools you use, it’s crucial to immerse yourself and practice your new language every single day, even if you can’t go to a place where the language is widely spoken.

“I tend to want to absorb as much as possible right from the start,” Matthew said. “So if I learn something, I really, really go for it and try to use it throughout the day. As the week progresses I try to think in it, try to write in it, try to speak to myself even in that language. For me, it’s about actually putting what you’re learning into practice — be that writing an email, speaking to yourself, listening to music, listening to the radio.”

We have one more language-learning tip before we go. Remember that the best possible outcome of speaking a language is communicating with others. Being able to have a simple conversation is a huge reward in itself. Reaching milestones like that early on will make it easier to stay motivated and keep practicing.

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