How to learn a new language
Studying a new language can be fun, exciting, and valuable for your career, and there are now more options than ever for how to learn. From casual to fully immersive, and from short-term to long-term, there are a plethora of options for language learning. Today we’re discussing some of these options and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Free Online Courses
Websites like Duolingo or Livemocha are advantageous as they are free, you can learn at your own pace, going as fast or as slow as you need to, and you can fit this learning in whenever you have time. This is particularly good if you are working full-time, as you can fit in your learning around your working hours, and you needn’t be committed to language lessons at a particular time each week. However, this can be a disadvantage too — it means that you must motivate yourself! You have to push yourself to put in the time required to learn from these services. And remember, even if you’ve been practising your pronunciation with a microphone, you’ll still need to go out into the real world to gain confidence with your spoken language and to ensure your pronunciations are correct.
In addition to online courses, you can also find mobile apps to help you learn a language. Duolingo offers an app as well as an online service, Anki is a popular flashcard app to help you remember important words, and Memrise augments your learning of languages with information about history and culture. For many people having this resource on their mobile phone is extremely convenient. It means that you can learn wherever you are, fitting in language practice while you’re on the bus or waiting to meet a friend. These tools are great for brushing up your skills or adding some more vocabulary to your repertoire, but to get the most from them you need to have a decent understanding of the language before you start using them.
If you’re already enrolled at a university, then it should be easy for you to sign up for a semester-long language course. The advantage of such a course is that it is often free for students to attend, and that it will have a regular structure of classes and assignments, which is helpful if you struggle to motivate yourself and manage your time unaided. They also tend to have different levels of difficulty offered, and may include an exam or test which you can put on your CV as proof of your language skills. The disadvantage is that such classes are frequently large, sometimes having hundreds of students in one room, and hence they are not personalised or able to adapt to your specific learning needs.
Short Courses Abroad
If you have the time and the money, there’s no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in it completely. When you are obliged to practise your language for social interactions as well as everyday needs like shopping or ordering in a restaurant or bar, you will pick up words and gain confidence in your language skills far faster. One way to do this is to take a short, intensive course of a few weeks. This will load you up with a large amount of knowledge in a short time, and the intense focus makes it easier for you to understand the principles of grammar and to get a good overview of the language. However, the large amount of classroom time will leave you with little time to explore and get to know the country in which you are staying.
Long Courses Abroad
The great advantage of a longer-term course of study abroad is that it allows you to really get to know the people and the place in which you are staying. When you have a course of a few months rather than a few weeks, you can build up social connections with local people and experience some of the local culture, like food, music or books. The downside is that such an extended course of study can be expensive, both in terms of the language lessons and your living costs. But if you want to know about the history and society of another country as well as being able to speak the language, this is a great option.
Originally published at inomics.com.