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20 Tips for Learning a Second Language

Learning a second language is a lot of work, but that’s not what motivated you to start studying it in the first place, right? Instead, you probably want to travel or work abroad, or be able to talk with people from other countries, maybe even study literature or history… Whatever got you interested in this language in the first place, it’s probably a lot more fun than all this studying is.

A key part of learning a new language involves training your ear.
Also, even beginning language learners can benefit from something called conversational shadowing.


There are lots of tips to help you with your language learning.

  1. Start with the 100 most common words.
  2. Carry a pocket dictionary, always. 
  3. Movies, TV shows, newspapers and magazines are the best.
  4. Keep practicing in your head.
  5. You’re going to say a lot of stupid things. Accept it. 
  6. Don’t try to be perfect.
  7. Learn to appreciate mistakes, and push yourself to become more comfortable with making errors.
  8. Figure out pronunciation patterns. 
  9. Use audio and online courses for the first 100 words and basic grammar.
  10. After the first 100 words, focus on becoming conversational.
  11. Aim for the brain melt.
  12. One-on-one tutoring is the best and most efficient use of time .
  13. Date someone who speaks the target language and not your native language.
  14. Create opportunities for ‘low-stakes’ practice, where you’ll feel comfortable practicing and making mistakes.
  15. If you can’t find someone cute who will put up with you, find a language buddy online. 
  16. Facebook chat + Google Translate = Winning.
  17. When you learn a new word, try to use it a few times right away.
  18. Most people are helpful, let them help. s
  19. There will be a lot of ambiguity and miscommunication.
  20. Music, especially popular songs, can be especially well suited to language practice, since you’re likely to memorize the ones you enjoy. Ask a teacher or native speaker for recommendations if you’re struggling to find good examples. Children’s songs can also be fun practice tools.

Photo by Clarissa Watson

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