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Learning a new language

Photo credit: Education World, “Language Learning Programs are Getting Smarter”

It seems like many people are learning one or more languages these days. As someone who is learning English in the U.S. and teaching Japanese to a native English speaker, I have gained some insight into how the language learning process works. Here are a few useful concepts:

1. Know the difference

Make it clear what the main differences are between your new language and your native language (or languages, if you already know more than one). It helps to figure out what aspects of the language you need to focus on. For example, Sara Varner, a high school student who is learning Japanese, said, “pronunciation” is the most significant difference, because “there is no L, [in Japanese], and that is confusing.” (Japanese uses “R” for writing, but it usually pronounced like “L.”)

2. Make a routine for practice

Schedule a regular time in your day for language learning. The time doesn’t have to be a substantial length; even 5 minutes per day helps you to maintain what you have learned so far. Also, if you set a shorter time goal, it will be easier to start your routine. The important thing is to make sure you have a specific time for studying.

3. Evaluate your work once a week

Keep track of what you have done each week so you can figure out what you have to focus on the next week. It will let you recognize your strengths and weaknesses as you progress. Besides, keeping a record of your learning helps you feel more confident, especially when you start to become overwhelmed by all of the things you need to master.

4. Find things you can enjoy with the new language

Language learning is not always memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. It can take many forms. For example, listening to music in another language provides fun opportunities to learn general pronunciations of words and some colloquial expressions. You may find helpful YouTube channels that let you want to learn the language more. For example, I found Bilingirl Chika interesting. That channel taught me useful phrases and American culture which I couldn’t learn by studying at school.

5. Get help from native or more advanced speakers / writers

This is the best way to get used to using the language once you’ve learned its general rules. It also lets you get a better feel for the culture(s) in which the language is spoken.

6. Have a goal that keeps you motivated

Being an enthusiastic learner is hard when some concepts in the new language are entirely new to you. Also, if you keep studying in the same way, you may soon lose your interest as things become difficult. Determining a “big picture” goal for why you want to learn the language and how you want to use it in the future can help. Recalling this goal can help you feel refreshed and reawaken your excitement for learning the language. For instance, Sara said that her dream is “traveling [to Japan], learning the whole culture and history, everything like that.” Doesn’t it sound exciting? Imagine this goal as clearly as possible so you can enjoy the learning process.

In conclusion, the most important part of learning a new language is developing a routine that keeps you motivated every day. Since the writer doesn’t know all the languages in the world, everything above will not necessarily fit all possible situations. Please make adjustments so they will meet with your case. I hope your language learning goes well!