Fun ways to learn a new language

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For many of us, the start of a New Year is the time to dust off our language dictionaries and workbooks and decide to learn a new language. But most of the time, our plans get shelved along with our books. However, to learn a new language doesn’t have to be just another forgotten resolution — it can be something to embrace in a fun and fresh new way. You may not become fluent, but knowing a little can go a long way. So join the Atlas challenge this February and learn a new language, whichever you fancy, and let us know how you are getting on. Here are some hints and tips how to make learning a new language more fun.


1. Learn a new language as if you’re (really) young

When you begin learning a language, approach it through the eyes of a child. Children’s books and learning materials, such as songs and rhymes start with the basics and break things down into small fragments—and when you’re pressed for time, this can be much easier than getting into a dense workbook.


2. Watch movies & listen to music

Listening to the spoken words of a new language in movies or songs will make not only your ear familiar with the inflection and sounds of the language, but also help you to learn a few basic phrases. It will probably not help you with ordering food or getting around a city efficiently, but you will at least end up speaking the language fluidly instead of like a robot (as you might from one of the audio-lessons). Paying attention to media in your target language introduces you to the phonetic and grammatical structure of your target language too. Once you are accustomed to the melodies of your new languages, then you can insert the grammar and vocabulary lessons. Listen first, speak later. Most importantly, make it fun!


3. Go shopping

Instead of reading about the local market in your language text, why not just go there? Visit Chinatown or other ethnic neighbourhoods in your city and talk with people to practice numbers, basic words and phrases and polite formalities. You will often find that vendors are always happy to chat and even happier to help correct language mistakes.


4. Use technology

There’s no need to invest in expensive software when there are so many free resources and apps out there. With a few downloads and apps, you can get daily updates and lessons, speak with a native over Skype or have Google hangouts with people who are also learning. For example, the BBC has great language-learning guides, which offer insight into culture and everyday life in other countries.


5. Speak as much as you can

The only way a language will stick with you is by speaking and listening often, so take every opportunity you can find to use your new language as much as possible. Talk to friends from other countries or try out an ethnic restaurant and speak to the owners in their language. Remember to work on your accent and tones—one of the best compliments to receive is “your accent is really good!”


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