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Posted on28 January 2013

Learning a New Language

Learning a new language does for the mind what exercising does for the body. It keeps your brain active as well as helping develop and improve your memory.

Who and when?

Anyone can learn a new language at any age. It is true that the sooner you start learning a language the easier it is. Nevertheless, with a bit of determination and loads of practice, you can do it whenever you choose to start.

Some people have a knack for languages and just pick them up easily, some will have to work a bit harder, but it is still achievable.

Where to start?

Start with the basics: the sounds. Especially if they are different from the ones in your mother tongue – for example the consonant blend th in English: there are two sounds corresponding to this letter combination, sounds that do not exist in many languages.

Learn the alphabet, particularly if the new language uses a different script (e.g. Latin, Arabic etc.). Numbers, days of the week and months of the year are usually easily learnt and may help boost your confidence.

Even if you are not planning to visit a country where that language is spoken any time soon, it is still a good idea to commit to memory a few useful phrases – how to say hello, goodbye, how to ask for directions or order food in a restaurant.

Then what?

Once you have mastered the basics, you can move on to more complicated stuff – don’t be put off by the word “complicated”, think of it as “more advanced”. Yes, I am talking about grammar! Again, there are some elementary concepts you need to get familiar with (learn how to say I and you, some adverbs of time – today, tomorrow…: even if you get the tense wrong, let’s say you use the present instead of past, adding yesterday for example will get the meaning across).

Who with?

Well, that depends on several factors:

  • Your learning style – some people prefer to study individually, while others feel more comfortable if they have a partner to practise with
  • Budget – hiring a private tutor may be expensive, but most likely worth it
  • Time – if you want to study with a partner or a tutor, you will need to find a day and a time when  you are both available

How often?

Ideally, you should practise every day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, you’d be surprised how much it can help.

Materials

INTERNET. The best friend you can have when it comes to languages. There are so many materials out there that it would be a shame not to take advantage. Plenty of websites that offer free resources – audio, video, grammar exercises for you to practise. Below are a few great websites you can use:

www.languageguide.org/ – Excellent for vocabulary and pronunciation

www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

www.youtube.com

Join the Atlas challenge!

Make a resolution this February to learn a new language, whichever you fancy, and let us know how you are getting on. Hints and tips are also welcome.

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