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How Do I Learn a New Language?

As missionaries, we are consistently around other languages as we travel around the world and share our hope in Jesus with others. We hear Spanish, German, Turkish, Mandarin, Afrikaans, Czech, Tamil, Greek, and more. As we travel and connect with people all over the world, we realize how beneficial it is to know the native language. It is extremely helpful in many practical ways, such as when ordering food or finding a restroom, but it also allows you to connect with people on a deeper heart level.

Maybe you have been overseas before and have had a desire to learn a new language. But have you thought about what it would look like to do so? We want this article to be a resource, and to give you some ideas to get you started on your journey of language learning.

1. You Have To Want It.

First things first: If you only have a passing interest in learning a language, then… it will pass! Determine where you are with your commitment and desire to learn a new language. If you’re not sure where that is, start with something simple, like downloading a language app.  Duolingo, Babbel, or Busuu are all good tools to begin with. See how that goes, and if it piques your curiosity, dive into more in-depth learning. If you don’t feel like going all in, that’s O.K.! Continue to enjoy learning here and there, and have fun trying to say simple phrases in situations that apply.

2. Speaking, Reading, Writing?

What aspect of a language do you want to learn? Do you want to be able to communicate with natives? Do you just want to be able to read a book in that language? Or do you want to be well-rounded and fluent in all areas? Determining this will help you know which direction you should be pointed in, and what your destination looks like.

3. Finding the Resources, Finding the Methods.

Knowing what resources and methods to use to learn a language can be the most daunting task of really diving into learning. How do you know that you’re using the best method and material out there? (Really finding the “best method” and “best resources” can actually be part of the problem). According to Charlotte Bowen on the MatadorNetwork, there are 5 basic ways people learn a language, and if you want to be fluent in a language, you should incorporate all 5 of them!

Here’s a few resource ideas on learning a new language. Check them out:

Rosetta Stone: a vocabulary and visual based approach to learning languages, Rosetta Stone is probably one of the best known language learning tools in the United States.

Pimsleur: maybe less well known, Pimsleur is an audio and oratory approach to language learning.

Fluenz: a digital language learning program with lessons tailored for each individual language it offers.

Check out real people who actually have learned multiple languages like Benny Lewis, Lucca Lampariello, or Olly Richards, and see how they did it. They all offer their own methods and strategies for learning a language.

Also, check out local language learning schools in your area. Taking classes or private lessons could be a very helpful tool. Middlebury College in Vermont has a unique language learning experience where students pledge to only communicate in the language that they are studying.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of programs, methods, and information out there on how to learn a language. Find something that you think will be effective for you, and go for it! If you spend too much time worrying about the right way to go, you’ll never get started, and ultimately never learn a new language.

4. Get Practical.

Start making language learning a part of your everyday life! Make it a habit to spend 15, 20, 30 minutes or more a day learning and practicing your language. Go to cultural events where your language is spoken. Make new friends that speak it. Go to a language learning club. Find stores in your town or city where you can shop for food from the country associated with your language. Make language learning a lifestyle, and you’ll probably find that you will learn a lot quicker. Practice speaking it as much as possible. Build habits into your life that will help you stay on a path of learning.

5. Persevere!

It will get hard! There’s no doubt about it. There will be times that come along when you feel like giving up, but keep pushing through! It’s similar to running a long race. There are times when you’re running that your body begins to tell you that you should stop. Your legs are tired, you can barely breathe, and you’re really hot and sweaty. But when you push through the pain and finish, you’ll reap the benefits of discipline and perseverance.

We hope this will give you an idea of where to start, new inspiration to get you going, and some good resources to help you learn a language. If you want to learn, don’t wait! Start today!