“I really want to learn [foreign language].”
I see this on a lot of to-do lists and goal summaries. Being a self-confessed language geek, I love seeing this on lists… but where to start? Here are a few basic steps you can take right now if you’ve been wanting to get started but haven’t pulled the trigger.
The good news
Getting started is the biggest hurdle. Sure, actually learning the language, memorising vocabulary, understand grammar and the myriad other things involved will also keep you amused: but getting started is the first challenge. Why is this good new? Because once you start, if you really make an effort, you’l love it so much you won’t look back.
What you can do right now: commitment-phobes and OCDers (like me) all welcome
In no particular order, here are some steps you can take today if you’ve been wanting to get started.
Small things (for the commitment phobes among us)
- Ask a friend who’s learnt the language: where did you take classes? Did you like it? How were the teachers? Get recommendations.
- Go to an authentic international restaurant and listen to the waiters’ accents. If you want to learn Arabaic, go to a Morrocan restaurant. Does it whet your appetite? Imagine yourself speaking with that accent.
- Get iTunes, download three episodes of a free language learning podcast, and listen to them on your way to work/school/whever you go each day. There are hundreds of free podcasts available – many cheesy, some good. (If you want some suggestions for a certain language, feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help.)
Bigger things (for the more serious)
- Book yourself into a language class. Pay the money, and set a specific date and time (e.g. a $250 French course over 8 weeks for 2 hours every Monday). The investment will encourage you to prioritise it and get started.
- Hire a private tutor. This can be a lot cheaper than most people think. Websites like www.tutorfinder.com.au have sprung up everywhere (for non-AU resources, contact me via the comments or try Google) , and offer great private tutors for as little as $15 per hour. I’ve invested quite a bit in private tutoring, and found that my rate of learning increased dramatically. Committing to a real person will also keep you moving.
- Sign up for a paid subscription from a language learning website. This allows you to learn while mobile, as much (if not all) of the content is delivered electronically. Paying the money means you’re more likely to commit to doing it.
- Beware: this one is scary. Post “I’m learning [name of your new language]” on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever other Social Media platform you use, where people you know will see it. It’s no good posting to your Twitter if none of your friends and family look at it. The goal is to make it public. This makes you more accountable, and it’s more likely you’ll stick with your goal. [Tell everyone you know in person, too.]
Language learning isn’t for everyone. In fact, I have several friends who have zero interest. That’s fine with me. But reality is, many of us yearn to know another language. The most challenging part is taking the first step, and making the language a part of your life rather than ‘just a goal’. If you’ve thought about learning a language, consider giving one of these options a go. You never know, you just might like it.
Question: How did you get started on learning your language? Or if you haven’t yet, how do you plan to? We’d love to hear it via the comments below.