Learning a new language can be difficult, especially as an adult, don't you agree? As students, learning was our main job. However, as an adult it's a whole different story & learning a new language becomes more of an extra chore next to our job, spending time with family and all the other things we have to do. However, just because you didn't start learning a language at an early age, doesn't mean you have to give up on your dream of being fluent. You can learn a language at any age and we want to share with you some advice on how to make it more fun & easy.
１。 NETFLIX is your best friend
Do you like to watch movies? Who doesn't! And if you use NETFLIX or any other streaming service, there should be an option to turn on subtitles. For example, if you're a beginner in Japanese, you can start by watching movies and shows with Japanese subtitles. If you're more advanced, how about setting the audio language to Japanese and adding Japanese subtitles? Learning from textbooks is cool, but it can be boring and besides, some textbooks are outdated and do not use modern, everyday vocabulary. Watching a film in the language you want to learn is a great way to learn something new while having fun.
Another way to spice up your studies is watching your favourite films in your target language. As you probably already know the story by heart and won't need to concentrate as much on following the plot, you will be able to concentrate more on the language instead. In my case, the first time I heard the word 'wizard' was when I was watching Harry Potter in Japanese for the first time. It was easier for me to remember the word because I heard it in the context of my favourite movie.
2。REREAD YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS
It's very difficult to read something new in the language you are studying. But what if you read a book you already know? Just like watching your favourite movie in your target language, you can concentrate on the new vocabulary rather than following the story. If your favourite book would be too difficult, you can also start with an easier book or short story. If you want to start reading in Japanese, try searching the internet for "読みやすい諸説" (easy to read novels). When I was studying Japanese I wanted to learn some new vocabulary in a fun way, so I searched for easy novels to read and found one called "夢を叶えるゾウ" (transl. "The Elephant that Makes Dreams Come True") It was quite challenging at first and there was a lot of vocabulary I didn't understand, but the fact that there were so many new words made it fun to read and that book is still one of the funniest books I have ever red.
3。It's time for tandem!
The best advice for learning a new language is, of course, to speak it. But what if you don't have any friends from the country you want to learn the language of? And even if you do have such a friend…Will they really correct every single one of your mistakes? Friends are kind and let's be honest...they are your friends and not your teachers for a reason. So the best solution to this problem is to find a tandem (conversation) partner who wants to study your native language. Meet them once a week, via ZOOM or in person, and talk in their native language for one hour and in your native language for another hour.
However, during tandem, try your best not to mix languages (e.g. mix of Japanese and English for a total of two hours). It might seem like not a big deal, but in order to keep the conversation going, you will tend to use your native language every time you cannot find the right words, which won't help you in the long term. Also, if one of you knows one language better than the other, the conversation may end up being 80% in one language and 20% in the other, which is not very fair. It is more effective to aim for a 50:50 ratio.
But where to find a tandem partner?
Apps such as HelloTalk and HiNative allow you to ask questions anonymously and have your pronunciation checked by people who are native in your target language. On those apps you can also help people who are learning your native language to improve their language skills. And this is also where you can find conversation partners. Both apps are available for free as well as with paid subscriptions, and although the paid options give you more tools, you can definitely get amazing value from the free versions as well.
５。YOUR SMARTPHONE KNOWS MANY LANGUAGES
You are probably using your phone or your laptop every day, all day. All of us do. By setting your device into your target language, there are a ton of new words you will encounter and seeing them every day will make you remember them really quickly. Try it! Just make sure that if you have never changed the language of your phone or computer settings before, first find out (and remember!) where those settings are, so you can change them easily back in case you'd need it.
What are your tips for learning a new language? We would love to hear them!