Want to be bilingual? Here are 10 tips for learning a new language

Flags of NATO member countries flutter during a handover ceremony at the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)

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If your summertime travel plans include places where English isn’t the primary language, it’s a good idea to pick up some key phrases before starting your trip.

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Here are some tips on how best to learn a language.

1. Immerse yourself

Surround yourself with as much of the language as you can. Dedicate daily time to practice, but also try to think of phrases during your daily life.

For example, if you’re texting a friend, try to think of how you would say a phrase you sent in another language.

2. Embrace your mistakes

One of the barriers in learning anything (not just language) is the fear of making mistakes. But if you don’t try, you won’t improve.

Try to place yourself in a child’s mindset – open to the world and everything around you. Think of the sense of wonder you will have when you’re exploring a new country and try to bring that to learning the language.

3. Practice

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice.”

This old musician’s joke applies to learning a language as well. Simply, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Try to learn as intensely as time will permit you to. Also when you practice with natives, it will also help you by listening to them and allowing them to help you with pronunciation.

4. Use technology

There are lots of fun applications you can download to help you learn languages. Look into apps such as Duolingo, Mondly, Memrise and Babbel. These applications allow you to download exercises as games as well as creating flash cards.

If you don’t have a smart phone, you can always go to the library and check out some lessons on CD.

5. Get a pocket dictionary

Either in app form or a paper copy, when you are learning a new language, it helps to have reference material handy. You will always be encountering new words, phrases, terms and idioms, and having a security blanket at hand to help you will be a relief.

6. Watch TV shows and movies

It’s not just being able to speak the language — you need to understand it when it is spoken to you. So try watching TV shows and movies in that language.

While it will be hard to follow to start, but getting used to the rhythm and sound of words together will help you grasp your lessons. And subtitles can be employed to help you follow the action.

7. Focus on the important things first

When you’re traveling to another country, learning just a few important phrases can give you a much better experience.

Learning how to say “Hello,” “Please,” “Can you help me,” “Where is the bathroom,” “I am an American,” “I speak a little (of your language),” “Do you speak English” and “Thank you” (especially that) will get you a long way.

8. Find a native speaker

If you can find someone who speaks the language to practice with, you’re a step ahead of the game. Both of you are motivated to learn each other’s language, and you’re both willing to help each other. Your favorite phrase will become “How do you say that…?”

9. Talk to yourself

If you want someone who is guaranteed to listen, talk to yourself.

As you pick things up in the course of your day, try to name them in the language you’re learning. As you start to think about a conversation you’re going to have, think about how you could speak in the other language.

10. Enjoy yourself

It’s not the easiest thing to do, but learning a new language should be a fun experience, especially with the reward of going on your trip and having a more immersive experience. As you practice, try to talk about things you enjoy and care about; make it personal, so you feel more connected to it. And enjoy your trip!

What do you think?

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