Learning a Language: Tips and My Experiences

Being able to speak a new language is a great and very useful skill. Learning a new language requires a lot of time and discipline, but eventually it is very helpful. I will give you some tips on learning a new language that have worked very well for me when learning English and German. At last, I will share more of my experiences of learning languages.

How to learn a new language?

Duolingo
Duolingo is your best friend. I have studies mostly German and a bit of Italian there, and I really enjoyed it! It is a fun and easy way to learn the basics of a language. A great advantage of the website/app is the way you revise words and sentences so that you will remember them, also on the long term.

Common verbs and grammar 
– Starting with learning the most common verbs
– Grammar is difficult and not the nicest thing, let’s be honest, but it is really important. Exercise, exercise, exercise.

Youtube 
Watch YouTube videos / movies / series in the language you are learning. This is the most fun, but also an effective way of studying. As a practice for my German oral exam, I watched German Youtubers, who spoke German in an easy, everyday way. I repeated things they said and practiced with pronunciation.

Speaking 
Speak with native people, if possible. You have to be lucky to have someone to practice with, but if you have, do not be scared and talk! Let me talk about my German oral exam again. About six weeks before my German oral exam, I went on a holiday in Germany. We had dinner with German acquaintances of my dad. My parents, knowing about my upcoming exam, encouraged me to talk German with them. I will be honest, it did not go well (at all), but it really was good practice. It also was a wake-up call; I knew I had to practice speaking German a lot (just to myself this time) for the next few weeks. Eventually, I passed with a good grade.

Read the newspaper / online news
Start with ‘easy’ sections, as gossip and lifestyle and then go on to more difficult sections. While reading the news, you will stumble across many words you do not know. Look for the translation and write them down. This is a great way to expand your vocabulaire.

Books 
In a further stadium, start reading books. At high school, we had to read around 12 books for German and 12 for English. With the first few books, I was lax; it was difficult and boring. But after a while, it got more fun. I put effort in researching for fun and (some of them) relatively easy books. My dear parents bought some of those books (second hand) for me, so that I could make notes in the books; I translated words, underlined important sentences and sometimes wrote a little summary, all to understand it better.

Think and talk to yourself in the language you are learning 
You can do this all the time! For example when you are on the way or sitting behind your desk. Force yourself to think or speak to yourself in the language.

My experience with learning languages

Dutch is my native language, but at high school I also studied French, German, English and ancient Greek and Latin (not speaking, but reading). I am not sure why schools in Holland let students study so many languages, but fact is that I spend (too?) many hours on them. Eventually, I took exams in English, German and Latin. I have not done anything with Latin since the last word I’ve written on my exams. Sometimes,  I study some German, attempting not to forget everything in case I go on a holiday there. English is, obvious, a different story. Most courses at university are taught in English, I speak the language with foreign students and, of course, almost all movies/series/YouTube videos are in English. Getting (almost) fluent in a language, took quite a long time and effort, but it really was worth it. Although studying all those other languages at high school often seemed like a waste of time, it really had advantages as well. It helped me in training the memory, increasing productivity, understanding languages better and if I would like to learn a language at some point in the future (Italian!), I have basics because of the other languages and skills how to learn it.

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