Whether English for the job or Spanish for the vacation – many want to learn a foreign language. And do it quickly. To speak a new language, there are numerous methods. The best tip is still to use them as often as possible in everyday life and to speak in the foreign language. We show additional tips to learn a foreign language, online and offline – including advantages and disadvantages. Plus: the most frequently asked questions and answers..
➠ Contents: What awaits you
Learn a foreign language: tips + methods
Learning a new foreign language is mainly about developing automaticity and making everyday contact with your favorite language a normality. And the future of learning is on the web: Take advantage of it! It saves time and money.
You can also use the following suggestions Also combine and adapt to your environment. And yes, you can also start conventionally with a dictionary and sit at the kitchen table cramming. But you don’t have to – here are the alternatives:
1. In everyday life
Incorporate foreign language learning into your everyday life as a sideline. If you constantly surround yourself with foreign vocabulary, you will learn it much faster. You can achieve this in different ways. Place Post-its in a prominent place, so that your gaze falls on the respective vocabulary in passing (see tips). Tune in to a foreign radio station where you can listen to the news for a change. Also very easy to implement: Change your settings on your cell phone or laptop to the language you want to learn.
2. On weekends
Take two hours off on Saturday or Sunday and sit in front of the monitor at home. About online portals like Italki.com you can find language teachers for a dozen foreign languages and communicate with them via Skype. The advantage: You are actively challenged, receive direct feedback, and can ask questions immediately. Important: Allow for mistakes. If you’re afraid of embarrassment or looking like a fool, you’ll make much slower progress than brave jumpers into the cold water.
Concentrate at the beginning on the most important words of a language. According to the Pareto principle, we need only 20 percent of the time for 80 percent of a task – and vice versa. Means: If your basic stock is filled with, let’s say, the 100 most important words of the language, you will already get relatively far in everyday life. Alternatively, simply take pen and paper to actively repeat what you have learned.
Learn foreign languages for free
The Internet makes it possible: numerous sites and programs provide their knowledge for free. But not only there: learning for free is easier than some people think:
Learn foreign languages with apps + portals
For beginners or as a supplement, there are also learning portals such as Babbel.com or Duolingo.com on. Experiment a bit to find the right media for you. At Babbel, however, only the beginner lessons are free of charge. A rather unknown portal that offers its app for Android and Apple is 50 Languages. Here prospective customers can learn even already 57 foreign languages – everything completely free of charge. Be sure to also use Youtube as a training portal. There are countless tutorials for language learners that teach you the basic rules and terms for free.
Learn foreign languages through direct contact
Often free ways is the exchange with other native speakers. Form a language tandem with someone who wants to learn your native language. You do not know anyone? In addition to groups on Facebook, there are special platforms for this, for example Conversationexchange.com or tandem partners.org. Students can easily find a partner via notices at the university. In analogue life there is the possibility to get to know people who come from another country through reading cafes or district cafes. Often cities also have corresponding regulars’ tables, organized, for example, by the German-British or German-French Society.
3. While commuting to work
Safety note beforehand: As a commuter in rush hour traffic, your main focus is naturally on what’s happening on the road. But: There is nothing wrong with listening to a foreign language audio book or learning CD. The more contact you have with the foreign language, the faster you’ll learn.
4. During the lunch break
Keep your lunch break free (or at least a part of it) to read some articles on the net in the respective language. Every lunch break, try to read and understand at least one long text. News sites are particularly suitable for this – as is content that is of fundamental interest to you or that affects you professionally. Useful: open an online dictionary like Leo in a second tab.org to look up vocabulary sporadically. Also useful: In another tab of your browser the audio archive Forvo.Open com to have individual terms read correctly to you (you will need headphones for this, so as not to disturb your colleagues).
5. During work
If you can, may and want to work with headphones, then doein.com a good recommendation. Use the streaming service to listen to radio stations from all over the world while you work. This way, you’re consistently exposed to pronunciation, common terms, and language sounds – which helps.
6. After work
After a hard day at work, you probably don’t feel like cramming anymore. But definitely watch a good movie or this new hit series from the USA. If possible, watch the episode in the original (or. in your language of learning) with subtitles. By the way, numerous non-German programs also flicker across the screen via satellite or cable. If your language is included, please have a look. The more contact with the language, the better. If you work continuously and integrate the language into your everyday life with a certain ease, you will not only make quick progress, but also have fun doing it.
7. On a short vacation
If all the extra effort you put in doesn’t seem to be working, you still have the option of combining a short vacation with a language course. Some language providers promise to cram 900 new vocabulary words into the cerebellum in three to six days. This is made possible by intensive courses optimized from the point of view of learning psychology – but they are not cheap either. It’s not a vacation anymore, but it can be very practical and time-saving. For example, if you need to brush up on your business English at short notice or acquire a basic knowledge of Chinese for a business trip.
Feelings of home interfere with learning
If you want to learn a foreign language, eliminate everything in your environment that could remind you of your mother tongue. Because if you think about your native language while learning, you’ll have less success with the new language. Social psychologist Michael Morris from Columbia Business School in New York discovered this by accident: A Chinese student had slipped up in a presentation and accidentally mixed Chinese and English, although she had actually been fluent in English for a long time.
The trigger: She had only looked at her Chinese professor during the presentation. Or as Morris would say by now: she had seen something that reminded her of her home country. Further tests and research confirmed the thesis: things, objects, photos, even people that remind us of home (and thus our native language) can be extremely disruptive when learning foreign languages.
7 unusual language learning tips that are fun to use
When it comes to learning a foreign language, many people think of endless vocabulary lists, irregular verbs and complicated grammar rules. There are also very simple methods and tricks how you can learn a foreign language – and have fun. We have listed a whole seven language learning tips for you here:
Cover your apartment with pieces of paper
For example, if you want to learn English, stick a note that says "Refrigerator" on the refrigerator or a Post-it that says "Drawer" on your drawers. Whatever you do in your home then – speak out what you read on the notes. How to learn technical vocabulary along the way.
Talk to yourself
Sounds funny. Studies show, however, that self-talk can help enormously in learning a language. Especially if you do not have a learning partner. In the beginning, it is enough – in English, Spanish, French – to talk about what you are doing or what is on your mind at the moment.
Write a diary
And you guessed it: Not in your native language, of course, but in the new foreign language you want to learn. Train yourself to formulate analytical sentences in the foreign language and record your learning progress in writing.
Watch movies in the original sound
Watching series or movies in the language you want to learn is one of the most entertaining language learning tips. Especially on Netflix or Youtube, it’s child’s play. Simply switch the language settings to the desired language. Alternatively, you can of course download podcasts or audio books in a foreign language or listen to radio broadcasts.
Engage with the country and culture
Language learning can become theoretical and dry. Therefore, you should also study the culture of each country: Research and collect the typical jokes, proverbs or tongue twisters of the language. Read blogs from the country or recreate typical recipes and specialties of the country. The main thing is to connect what you learn with multiple senses and experiences.
Find a learning partner
Engage a native speaker who, in turn, wants to learn your native language. This way you can learn and talk together, each speaking in the foreign language and correcting the other (on pronunciation, accent and grammar).
Use the foreign language to write a poem or sing along to songs in the foreign language on the radio. In addition, there are numerous learning programs and apps that support playful learning and are often even available for free. This way you can learn new things, keep your motivation up, and have fun while learning.
Advantages and disadvantages: What are the benefits of learning a new language?
- New contacts
Whether in a VHS course or on vacation when communicating with locals: You get to know new people. This opens the way to new ways of thinking, allows friendships to develop.
- Professional advancement
A new foreign language opens up new career prospects. Depending on the position and job, companies may want employees who speak a second foreign language (besides English).
- Concrete insights
If you can communicate with locals, you gain knowledge about the country and its people. Getting involved signals openness and tolerance. For example, intercultural competence also helps in everyday professional life with foreign business partners.
- Improve your thinking
When you learn a foreign language, your cognitive performance also benefits: Memorization, reasoning, and problem-solving skills all gain from language input.
- More time consuming
If you want to learn a foreign language, you have to invest time and energy first and foremost. This time is missing elsewhere.
- Greater stress
If there is pressure to succeed, learning can quickly degenerate into stress.
- No fun
If you have not found the right learning technique for yourself, you will have difficulties with self-motivation. Also, difficult languages can then be particularly challenging.
- Financial effort
While there are numerous free alternatives. But you have to pay money for stays abroad, your own study materials or even pay services like Netflix and Amazon.
Learn a foreign language quickly: In a few days?
Absolutely anyone can learn a foreign language. No matter how old you are or what your professional background is. If you want to learn a foreign language in just a few days, you need ambition. According to linguist Alexander Arguelles, you need at least 250 words to form a sentence. The tenfold of this allows you to express yourself more fluently. But you would need at least 10.000 words to be at the level of a native speaker with a higher educational qualification.
Means: You can learn within a week Learn so much that you end up being able to communicate with your hands and feet. It may be enough for a visit to a restaurant on vacation. You can introduce yourself in the foreign language and make some small talk. But being able to read more complex topics or books is rather unrealistic. Meanwhile, the reasons why someone wants to learn a foreign language vary:
But what is the best way to learn a foreign language?? With all the conveniences of today: Unfortunately, it does not work without effort and discipline. These three factors are also important for gradually loosening your tongue in the foreign language:
Practice regularly and use what you learn whenever possible. You will only be successful if you stay on the ball and keep in touch with the language.
Only with repetition does the newly acquired language knowledge make it into the long-term memory. Also, refresh the older learning content from time to time – what has not been recalled for a while is all too quickly forgotten.
In order to become confident enough for negotiations or business communication, you need a reasonable amount of learning. Despite having a full-time job, you should try to do something about it every day. Set a realistic schedule that fits your daily life and frees up the time you personally need to learn.
Learning languages in your sleep: Is it possible??
Sounds unbelievable, but it works: Learning languages in your sleep. Of course, you still need to have studied the foreign language beforehand. However, the subsequent sleep supports the learning process immensely. This is the conclusion reached by sleep researcher Jessica Payne of the University of Notre Dame. In her experiments with 207 learning students, she examined the results of subjects who had to study full-time. These were tested after their learning session: half an hour after learning, twelve hours later, and again 24 hours later.
The trick, however, That some of the subjects could pause between the first immediate test and the second one by sleeping. Result: Those who got enough sleep achieved better results. The study by Stephanie Mazza from the University of Lyon also goes in this direction. She was able to prove that regular power napping helps us to process and remember information more effectively – even six months after we have learned something.
How long it takes to learn a language?
The duration depends on various factors, first of all on how much time and energy you invest. Theoretically, you can learn another language within four weeks. The prerequisite for this is that the language is related to your native language and that you are highly motivated to learn something new every day and repeat what you have learned.
However, previous knowledge plays a role and the decision for a certain language plays a role: As a native speaker of German, you will recognize many parallels to Dutch, since both languages belong to the same language family. Or if you are learning Italian and have a Spanish vocabulary to fall back on. The grammar is different, but the meaning of many vocabulary words is easier to grasp. Not only do they sound similar, they come from the same language family.
Severity delays progress
It becomes more difficult, however, if in addition to new vocabulary and grammar, a new writing system must be learned, such as Cyrillic (for Russian, for example) or the Greek alphabet. Both languages are considered difficult. But perhaps you are interested in a particularly exotic language, such as Mandarin. However, the Chinese, like the Koreans and Japanese, do not use an alphabetic language. Instead, you need to memorize thousands of characters. These are so-called logographic scripts, in which a character stands for a certain thought content. So it’s understandable if you as a language student don’t learn such languages in the same time as others.
Approach to the foreign language
A circumstance that also influences you: What type of learner you are. In school days, a method was imposed on all students. As an adult, you’re in the fortunate position of being able to put it all together yourself in a way that works for you. To learn as effectively as possible, you should know yourself and your learning type well enough:
- Auditory learning type
This type of learner acquires the foreign language primarily by listening to it, for example through poems or songs.
- Cognitive learning type
These people are good at following grammar rules.
- Motor learning type
The motor type of learner learns foreign languages in connection with movements such as sports or dance.
- Visual learning type
People with a visual memory need to visualize things. Be it by writing down or pictorial representation.
Often not every method is equally suitable for all people. Most people are a mixed type and learn best by a mixture of methods.
Foreign languages: These 10 are in demand with employers
A study evaluated more than 400.000 job ads out, in about 60.000 (17 percent) of which foreign language skills were explicitly required. The top 10 most sought-after languages provide a few surprises. As expected, English comes out on top with 75 percent of the mentions, but this is followed by some exotics (data in percent):
- English (75.01)
- French (5.67)
- Japanese (4.33)
- Dutch (4.15)
- Spanish (2,09)
- Italian (1.67)
- Chinese (1.04)
- Russian (1,00)
- Czech (0.90)
- Norwegian (0.72)
Among the top 5 are mainly European languages – with one exception: Japanese. One possible reason: In Germany, more than 1.000 Japanese companies, the majority of which are based in Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. Accordingly, many professionals with Japanese language skills are also sought there.
Learning foreign languages on language trips
Among the many ways to learn a foreign language, language travel is certainly not the cheapest. The investment can still be worthwhile, because language travel has a number of advantages:
They are fully immersed
When you learn a foreign language at home or go to night school, you usually devote only a few hours a week to the foreign language. On a language trip you are surrounded by a new language around the clock, which will lead to great improvements in a short time. At the same time you develop a completely different feeling for language, because you can use what you have learned immediately.
You have no distractions
There is so much hustle and bustle in everyday life that your mind is hardly free to really concentrate on learning a foreign language. A language study trip, on the other hand, only serves to acquire new language skills. You do not have to worry about anything else during this time. No work – instead you have your head free to really learn.
You are particularly motivated
What could be a greater incentive than being on site in a foreign country?? At home, many have to get up and sacrifice their free time first. On a language trip, you can start right away and try your hand at conversations or restaurants. You will experience immediately how far your vocabulary will take you. The financial effort should also be worthwhile, so the stakes are different.
You learn in a group
The other participants are an important aspect in every language trip. The more like-minded people there are at your level, the better for you. This way you can not only get into conversation and help each other, but also try out what you have learned right away. In addition, you will make contacts that you can continue back in Germany, perhaps to continue learning together at home.
You will gain experience beyond the language
On a language trip you get to know the country and its people, especially if you live with a host family. Language study trips often make a particularly lasting impression, which has a positive effect on motivation. You want to come back and travel the country on your own again. Then you want to be good enough to be able to communicate in the local language without problems.
Common questions& Answers to learning foreign languages
As a native speaker of German, you are most likely to have access to foreign languages from the same language family. The Germanic language family includes languages such as English, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, but also Afrikaans or Icelandic.
The big advantage with English: You don’t need to learn genders and conjugation is also simple. In addition, as a world language, it is understood almost everywhere. By the way, the same is true for other language families: As a native speaker of Spanish, you will have an easier time learning other Romance languages such as French and Italian.
The level of difficulty for native speakers of German already begins with another writing system, such as Arabic. Mandarin (Chinese), Japanese and Korean are considered very difficult. You use characters that stand for thought content instead of letters. So language students have to learn thousands of characters.
Different with languages, that have a different script, but are still based on an alphabetic script, such as Russian or Greek, which are also difficult to learn. In addition, there is the pronunciation, which uses sounds that do not exist in German. This applies, for example, to Polish, which forms additional vowels and contains numerous sibilants.
This question can only be answered with "no. Various factors are decisive for success:
- How much time you invest
- The relationship of the language
- Your motivation (hobby or career)
- How often you practice
Means: If you choose a related language and invest several hours every day, diligently repeat what you have learned and have a clear goal in mind, you can learn a language in time. Certainly not up to perfection, but it is enough for good communication.
The longer it takes and the further the distance, the more expensive it is. This is especially true for flights – accommodation may well be cheaper. For a two-week language course you should in any case be prepared with 1.Calculate 500 Euro – for the basic package including arrival and departure as well as basic accommodation on site.
Be sure to inform yourself about the cost of meals. Sometimes they are already included (full or half board), sometimes they come extra. At least 2.000 Euro should be budgeted for a two-week language study trip around the globe. It will be correspondingly more expensive if you do not want to stay with a host family, but rather in a hotel.
In most cases, anyone who wants to learn a new language – and can afford the cost – can go on a language study trip. Often providers offer different programs and special courses for different age groups. For example, there are language courses for adults, but also courses tailored to school children.
Just like at school or university, a language study trip is also measured in weekly hours. Most courses use a system between 20 and 30 hours per week.
Depending on the total duration includes a language trip therefore about 40 to 60 hours of learning together. This does not include the times you use the language in the field outside of the language course.
The offers differ partly clearly. Most language trips include the arrival and departure, the language course itself as well as the stay on site. Differences in price depend on the type of accommodation: Host family or hotel.
Alternatively you can often book the language course without local accommodation (with or without flight, depending on the offer). In this case, you will have to find suitable accommodation on your own and pay for it separately if necessary.
Here are two possibilities. Most language travel providers work with native speakers. They are trained to pass on the knowledge to a group of people willing to learn.
But it is also possible, that a non-native speaker teaches you as a language teacher. The most distinguishing feature is that he has lived for a long time in the respective foreign country and speaks the foreign language like his mother tongue.
No time for language trips? It’s easy to learn languages at home – with apps. Many are even free of charge or at least offer a free (of course slimmed down) option. Another very inexpensive way to learn a foreign language at home is to watch movies or read books in that language.
Integrate the foreign language the everyday life: sticking post-its on objects whose names you easily forget. Or simply to remember a certain term. Another option: change the language settings on your smartphone to the foreign language.
Learning a foreign language: How to start? What stops me?
When it comes to learning foreign languages, certain fears typically crop up over and over again. Talk to colleagues about whether they would like to improve their command of English, French or another language, and listen to the arguments that follow:
I am too old
It is still said that children learn languages more easily and playfully. However, this does not mean that adults necessarily have more difficulty learning languages. This could be proven by a study of the University of Haifa, Israel. In fact, it is not insignificantly dependent on how you shape your environment and your learning: Simply cramming in mindless rules is not for everyone. Maybe you need more of a playful approach? This depends on your learning style (see above).
I cannot travel to foreign countries
In times of cheap flights and almost one hundred percent internet coverage, this argument is hardly valid anymore. Because even if you can not travel to other countries – the countries come to you. Many big cities are international, getting to know people from other countries is possible, for example through local language regulars’ tables. But language tandem partners via Skype are also an alternative. This way both sides benefit and you learn directly the correct pronunciation.
I have no talent
This is, of course, a successful form of self-sabotage: If you already convince yourself that there must be a genetic talent for something you obviously lack, you will not even start. But even if others should have an easier approach to learning foreign languages: That’s nothing that can’t be made up for with the appropriate effort. The prerequisite for this, however, is genuine enthusiasm for this language. Do not consider it a constraint. If you are interested in the language, you will also learn about cultural peculiarities bit by bit.
I have a bad memory
There are several mnemonics that can help you to learn vocabulary. For example, learning vocabulary with the help of a flashcard box has proven to be very effective. The reason is that you proceed systematically and specifically learn the vocabulary you are still missing. You can also use association exercises by associating a word with a similar-sounding German word and inventing a short story to go with it.
I don’t want to disappoint anyone
Perfectionism is the biggest obstacle. Of course you will make mistakes in the beginning. However, instead of being ashamed of it and not practicing it, the biggest mistake is to. Because mistakes mean you practice. So you will eventually learn the correct sentence order or the correct intonation of a word. By the way, most native speakers will appreciate that you want to communicate with them in their language. Feelings of shame are therefore superfluous.
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