10 tips for learning a new language


North American Article

Moving to a new country and not knowing the language can be a real barrier to communication and setting up a social circle. Learning your host country's language is the first step towards feeling like you really belong. Whether you're learning French or Mandarin, here are 10 ways you can make the most of your study time.

  1. Make a list of your new language's 100 most-used words
    You've got to start somewhere, and it makes sense to focus on the often-repeated, everyday words you'll be using the most. Memorize five of them every session, repeating them and using them in different contexts until they become second nature.
  2. Channel your inner child
    Recent studies suggest children don't necessarily find learning a new language easier than adults, but their lack of self-consciousness is an advantage. Your speaking skills will get better with practice, so it's time to lose your inhibition and get talking.
  3. Learn to listen
    Even if you don't understand what they're saying, tune in to the people talking around you. Watching television, films or even listening to conversations in a cafe will make the words, intonation and accent feel more familiar.
  4. Download a language app
    We're living in the app age, so there's no need to second-guess the meaning of a word or how to pronounce it. There are plenty of free language apps you can download that will offer up words and their pronunciation by topic. Others will let you slow down words to check you're getting them right or structure language lessons on your behalf.
  5. Get a tutor
    More expensive than a book or online program, but typically more effective, a one-on-one tutor could be your fast-track to learning a new language. If you can afford it, learning with a good tutor for a couple of hours a day will see you reach a respectable level of fluency in a matter of weeks. Everyone learns at a different rate, so your skills will flourish with lessons that are tailor-made to your strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Learn in context
    It's much easier to learn and remember words and phrases related to a subject that's already familiar to you. For instance, you could read, watch or listen to a sports report as they will use everyday language in a context you already understand.
  7. Find a speaking buddy
    You are far more likely to remember new words if you're putting them into practice in a real conversation. Ask a new colleague in your host country to share a coffee break with you and chat. They're bound to introduce new words to your vocabulary too; keep using them that hour, day and week, to make them "stick".
  8. Make it intense
    If you want to pick up your new language quickly, immerse yourself in your training. The speed at which you'll master your new language depends entirely on your commitment to learning it. It's not about one lesson a week; it's about one lesson a week, along with practicing your new vocabulary, reading, listening and homework.
  9. Practice ahead
    Build your confidence by memorizing some fall-back dialogue you can rely on when you meet people in your new environment. It's easy to predict what they may ask you: which part of town you live in, where you've moved from and what you do for a living. You'll feel much more comfortable holding the rest of the conversation if you get off to a strong start.
  10. Accept you'll make mistakes
    And lots of them! Even though there are approximately a billion non-native English speakers around the world1, most people prefer to communicate in their own language, so they'll appreciate your efforts and help you along. And if you mess up? Consider it your opportunity to learn something new.


  1. How many people speak English, and where is it spoken? Dylan Lyons, https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/how-many-people-speak-english-and-where-is-it-spoken, Accessed February 2018
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