How to Learn a Language [An Introduction]
You have someone you want to communicate with. There’s just one problem, language!
Congratulations, you are about to engage in one of the biggest struggles of human civilization. According to Ethnologue.com, there are over 7,000 languages around the world. So how do we go about learning one of these languages? Here are four easy steps you can follow to learn a language:
Step 1: Find a reliable source
Unlike most tools we use in life, language is built upon shared understanding. We can create sounds and marks but if no one else shares what we are creating, it is not a language.
Your source should be a connection to the culture that uses the language you want to learn. There are many great online resources available today. A simple search engine query of the language you want to learn may give you dozens, if not hundreds of places to learn language. These resources are great for getting started, but they should not be your only source of language learning.
To truly learn language, you need to be in regular contact with someone who speaks the language. This person can be a relative, neighbor, friend or professional language teacher. The important part is that they are fluent in the language that you want to learn and they are willing to spend time with you.
Step 2: Create a goal
How much of the language do you want to learn? Establish a goal for yourself with the new language in each of these proficiencies:
As you do this, you will want to ask yourself these questions:
- Who do I want to communicate with in this language ?
- What can I do with this language after I’ve learned it ?
- What do I want to communicate in this language ?
When you have these questions thought through, meet with your language source and express your expectations. On average, it will take atleast 100 hours to reach beginner level profeciency in any language.
Step 3: Create a plan
Your plan should include:
- The date you want to reach your goal.
- The amount of time you are able to meet with your language guide.
- The amount of time you plan on studying outside of the time with your guide.
- Milestones you hope to achieve on the way to reaching your goal.
- Learning activities you would like to include in your studies.
If you are working with an language teacher, they will likely have course to follow. However, what do you do if you don’t have an experienced teacher? For this, you will need a plan. Many languages already have books or applications published that will lead you through a curriculum for atleast the beginner phase of the language.
Your language guide might have an idea of which words and phrases are necessary to reach your goal. If they do not, choose a selection of children’s literature that you can explore together.
We recommend the Wordless Language Learning Guide for first time learners and teachers who don’t have a pre-planned curriculum for starting their language. This book has 22 image-led lessons that guide you through the first 1000 words and phrases in your new language.
Each language and learner will have their own plan. While some languages may require much reading, others are completely oral. Some learners will need hands on activities, while others can learn language just by hearing it.
Most importantly, formalize your plan, write it down and make a learning agreement with your language guide.
Step 4: Achieve your goal
Everyone can learn language. Not everyone can become fluent in a second, third or fourth language. Only the most motivated individuals can learn a new language.
Each individual has their own speed for learning a language and each language has it’s own difficulty. The importance is that the learner makes the goal and stays with it. Never judge your own language abilities with someone else’s.
Use your milestones and goals as motivations and celebrations. If you are having difficulty, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the plan. You made the goal to learn a new language and you can find a way to achieve it!