“I would love to learn another language – the problem is that I just don’t have the time!”
Nine out of ten times, the person saying these words isn’t being completely honest. Of course, there are daily obligations and a lot of time spent at work. But despite all that, shouldn’t the sentence above really be more like: “The problem is I really waste a lot of time”?
In reality, we simply have to be a bit more organized and show some initiative. To learn a language from the ground up, you have to be committed and resilient. But when it comes to language practice, it’s often enough to use your time more optimally and to jump at any opportunity to put your new knowledge to use.
Here are a few simple tips on how to make your journey into a new language a success:
1. Read Newspapers in a Foreign Language
Buy an international newspaper (many kiosks have a section dedicated to international newspapers) or treat yourself to a weekly newspaper or magazine subscription, and use the train ride into work to keep up on current events. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand every last word. Try to grasp the meaning of the words from their context, or underline them, look them up in a dictionary later and write them down in your own custom vocabulary book.
2. Fitness Training for Body and Mind
This tip is doubly valuable. If you exercise regularly, you’ll of course feel in shape physically. But if you implement this piece of advice, you’ll also make major progress in your language learning. How? It’s simple: Find a podcast, audio book or some lively music in your target language, and listen to it while you work out. You’ll get double the training, and the time you spend exercising will seem to fly by!
3. Go Out to Eat
A typical excuse for people who work a lot is, “I don’t even have time to cook. Every night, I just grab something quick on the go!”. Great! Now you can kill two birds with one stone. The next time you find yourself ordering food from another culture (it’s pretty common these days), try to do it in the language of the person serving you. While you’re waiting for your food, you can try to strike up a simple conversation with the owner or your server. It doesn’t have to be anything profound – the important thing is to overcome your shyness of speaking a new language out loud and to get used to the way it sounds.
4. Make Friends With Your French Co-Worker or Polish Neighbor
Is there really any better way to improve your language skills? Go out to lunch with that co-worker of yours from another country, find a conversation topic and ask them to correct your mistakes and pronunciation. If you have a neighbor that comes from another country, organize a dinner and put your skills to the test. It might even be the beginning of a new friendship!
5. The Well-Earned Evening
There’s nothing better after a long day’s work than sitting on the sofa watching a movie or reading a book. Why not use this downtime to combine relaxation with something useful? Watch a foreign film in its original language with subtitles (you can even try to use the original language subtitles) so you can immediately see and review the words you’ve just heard. Pay attention to idioms and expressions typical of the language and use them in your own life the next chance you get. If you’re more of a book lover, avoid books that are too difficult or complicated at first. It’s been said that some of the greatest language talents start learning foreign languages with cartoons and children’s books – the proof of the pudding is in the eating!