Guide to Learning a Language

I’m going to break this up into two sections: theory and practice. Theory will include the basic steps you can take towards learning a language, and practice will be specific recommendations of what you should do in order to learn the language. Why don’t I just put all the suggestions under “Theory”? If I did that, it would feel like something was missing without having examples of how it works in practice. So let’s get started with some theory! I’ve included useful links for each section so check them out if you’re interested!

Theory: How to Learn a Language (in Under 2 Minutes)

Have Fun – You’re learning a language for fun or because you need it for work/school/etc. Why not have fun? It’s much easier to enjoy yourself when you know what your doing and why your doing it. I am not multilingualism expert. I don’t know all the secrets of language learning. What I do know is that you should have fun!

Learn One Thing at a Time – It may seem counterintuitive, but learning more than one thing at a time will actually take longer to learn than learning one thing at a time. Don’t worry about that though! Learning multiple things will be easier and faster once you master the basics of your language. If you’re confused about how this works, here is an explanation from Stanford professor Carol Dweck: “People can usually handle two or three elements simultaneously; they’re good at juggling tasks,” she says. “It’s when we get to four or five that we really start to lose it.” So if you learn vocabulary, grammar, and syntax (the basic rules) separately before trying to put them together into coherent sentences, the process will be much easier for you in the long run because each element gets your brain used to dealing with different parts of speech and sentence structure besides just vocabulary.

Learn the Basics First – This is related to the last point, and it’s something I hear a lot. “Should I learn nouns/verbs/adjectives first?” No! You need to learn some basic rules of your language before you can start learning words. If you don’t know anything about grammar (like how there are no articles in Turkish), how do you know what the word “noun” even means? It’s important to build up your understanding of your language before focusing on vocabulary.

Learn How Your Language Works – Languages have rules! It’s important that you understand these rules so that they stick in your head and become second nature when speaking or writing. If you don’t understand why certain words go together, it will be much harder for them to stick. For example, if someone tells me “I am very angry”, I have no idea whether the speaker is saying he or she is angry because of another person, a circumstance, or an event (or maybe all three!).

But when someone says “I’m very angry at my brother for breaking my computer”, now we’re getting somewhere! We’ve determined that this person is expressing anger towards another person rather than a circumstance or event like losing their job [contrast: He was fired from his job]. The same idea applies with prepositions like into, out of and onto – if we don’t understand why these words go with certain verbs (e.g. into the water, out of the classroom, onto the table), then we won’t know how to use them when we speak or write!

Practice: How to Learn a Language in 5 Steps (with Examples)

Step 1: Set Goals for Yourself – This is essential if you want to learn a language. Why are you learning it? What do you hope to achieve? These goals can be anything from “I want to be able to ask my boss for a raise” or “I want my friends and family on Facebook [or wherever] to think I’m cool” (however these might not be ideal goals…). Whatever your goal is, write it down and keep it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

The more specific your goal is, the better. It’s easier for me personally if there are numbers involved because I am very competitive with myself. If this isn’t your style though, that’s totally fine! Make sure whatever your goal is that there is some sort of time frame associated with achieving it; otherwise you’ll never have anything concrete by which you can measure yourself against.

I hope it has helped you learn a language. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please feel free to leave them below!

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