As a native English speaker, it feels like you are either born with the language-learning gene or you aren’t. How is it that some people can speak up to three or four languages? But you can’t?
During my trips abroad, I was always dumbstruck by how many Europeans had several languages hidden in their tool belt. They could pull them out in any situation. It was incredible.
I asked my friends how they knew so many languages at such a young age and their response surprised me. It turns out, there is no language-learning gene, but there are tools and tricks for faster learning…
Here are a few tricks that I have picked up along the way while learning Spanish:
Use the Flashcard App Anki
I am telling you right now, this one is a life saver. If you are interested in learning a lot of vocabulary quickly, this platform uses space repetition to boost your word recall.
Download and import a flashcard deck into this app to save time. Anki has a database and search engine that helps you find ready-made flashcard decks in any language.
Check it out at this link: Click here
For example, as a B1 Spanish learner, I typed: Intermediate Spanish Cards with Audio (this prompts audio files to attach to the cards).
Learn Vocabulary BEFORE Grammar
This is a tip that most language learners do not follow. But, I would highly recommend sticking to this tip until you have reached an intermediate stage.
In my experience travelling to Spanish-speaking countries, nobody ever cared if I made conjugation errors. I can have the coffee with sugar please. True, my verb conjugation was not flawless, but you understood my message, right?
Stop trying to memorize conjugation tables and begin learning words (it’s also a lot more interesting). As long as the person can understand the gist of your message, all is well!
Mirror your Favorite TV Show
This is a fun way to pick up a language and even sound like a native speaker! I have recently started watching La Casa De Papel (also known as Money Heist in English) and have used it to help me learn Spanish.
Here are a few steps:
- Turn subtitles and audio on in the language you are trying to learn.
- As the words flash on the screen, pause the video.
- Now say the sentence aloud. Are there any words you need to look up in a dictionary? Do you understand the meaning?
- Now, play the video and listen to how the actor pronounces each word. Did you sound the same?
Practice with Native Speakers / Download iTalki
This one is the hardest tip to follow. If you are anything like me, speaking to someone in a language that you are not comfortable with can feel daunting.
However, don’t let that fear hold you back from practicing. The months that I learned the most amount of Spanish was when I was travelling and forced to speak the language in another country.
That said, you don’t need to visit a foreign country to master the language. It can be accomplished from the comfort of your own couch!
I recommend downloading the app iTalki to practice speaking with native speakers. It pairs students with qualified teachers for a super cheap price ($10+ / hour).
Keep an Address Book with Vocabulary
Purchase an address book at the dollar store to keep track of the vocabulary you have learned or are currently learning.
This was extremely useful for me while I was travelling. If you want to review a word while standing in-line waiting for a table, an address book is small enough to carry in your back pocket (you can also use an app on your phone if you prefer).
I like to use these books because instead of keeping contacts, I can use the letter tabs on the side to make my own mini-dictionary.
Those are just some of my tips for learning a new language. Best of luck for now, and leave a comment below if you would like to see more blog posts with tips for language learners!
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