How To Learn Another Language Quickly: Tips From A Linguist

September 21, 2017

Many people who travel full time want to know the best way to Learn a new language fast. Other's may be traveling for business and want to make a good impression or can benefit from learning a new language to strike up a foreign deal. Hey, there are even people who may feel that they have a chance at romance when traveling or living abroad. Whatever your incentive is to wanting to quickly learn a new language, the tips below will help you achieve it.

We spent almost a year living in Thailand and learning the Thai Language in Chiang Mai. While we managed to learn the Thai alphabet and were capable to reading in Thai, it was still very difficult for us to speak in Thai. It was a bit disappointing to leave Thailand with a very limited ability to speak the language. Looking back, though, we realize there were some things we could have done better to have had better results.

We consulted with a linguist to find out how we could have learned the language better and faster. It just so happens that the linguist is my (Taiss) little sister! Here are her expert recommendations and tips.

learning a language tips
Thai writing - learning another language fast tips

tips to learn a language Fast - from the perspective of a linguist

First off, I think that language is a skill, it must be acquired. Just like playing the guitar, or becoming a painter.

There is NO method - Do what feels good to you, do what you enjoy-whether it’s an app, YouTube videos, flashcards, or reading a book. And that applies to all aspects-if you want to focus on grammar, go for it, but it’s not the “right way”, it’s your way.

Consistency - Even if it’s 5 or ten minutes a day. Do it EVERY DAY! Make it a habit.
Break it down- put words or phrases in chunks. For example, “greetings” or “food”. This will feel less overwhelming.

tips from a linguist on learning languages

“Crack the code”- Language is like any other equation or problem, there are patterns that you can figure out to help you figure out how it works. This will help you learn more quickly since several aspects of language are repeated. So, once you find certain patterns, you can apply them across the board, saving the hassle of memorizing a bunch of stuff and having to translate word by word. This is key to leaning another language fast!

fastest way to learn a new language

Pronunciation is VERY important - Many languages have subtle differences between meanings of a word that can only be distinguished through precise pronunciation. So, remember, the tones, accents, and softness/hardness of a sound can make a huge difference! Take Chinese for example; the meaning of mǎ (horse) is very different from mā(mother). It happens in English too, think of Sheep versus Ship. Besides the spelling difference, the long versus short vowel may come naturally to you, but that difference doesn’t exist in a language like Spanish. Setting up ‘minimal pairs’ helps you do this. What that means is find a pair of words with only one sound difference, like we did with ship and sheep.

Bidirectional translation - Make sure you aren’t only translating in one direction. Learners often focus on translating to their native language, but it’s important to translate both ways. It’s even better if at more advanced levels of learning, for you to translate within a language. What that means is taking a new word, and creating a synonym or phrase that describes it, in the language you are learning. This keeps your mind from code switching and could make you stronger in keeping your brain focused on the language being learned.

THINK in the language you want to learn - Involve emotions and people! We always learn/remember things better when we feel a certain way.

tips on learning a new language fast

Make friends with a native speaker - Surrounding yourself with people who can immerse you in the language and culture helps you to retain information better. Yes, complete immersion could mean moving to a country where the language is spoken, but it’s not totally necessary! Listen to the music, look up traditional recipes in the language and cook, watch TV shows that you might like in the language.

Ambiguity, miscommunication - remember that languages are not the same. Don’t try to conform to your native language rules. Translations are not always going to be one for one. Take the phrase ‘tu me manques’ in French. It literally translates into ‘you are missed by me’, which sounds weird in English. But understand that it’s a very common phenomenon in language, and get over it. Admit to yourself that mistakes will happen, and that it’s part of the process.

Don't Let it bog you down - Lastly, make it fun. Keep a positive attitude! And remember to avoid misconceptions like ‘you can’t learn a new language as an adult.’ It may be more difficult and require more time, but it’s not impossible. Get out of your comfort zone and TALK, even if it’s only with yourself. So, get out there, and DO IT!

fastest way learn language

The above tips and recommendations on learning another language quickly were contributed by Tandis Nowrouzi, MA Applied Linguistics.

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!

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