What is the best way to learn a new language?

by James A. Smith

More and more, language learners are taking to the internet to learn languages online. After all, online language courses and resources have never been more widely available.

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) has meant that software developers and app creators have been able to incorporate trialled and tested language learning methods into a visually appealing format.

This caters for audio and visual learners alike; today, language learning is a billion dollar industry. But with all this choice, how can we, as language learners, know what the best way to learn a foreign language actually is?

My native language is English and I am a fluent speaker of Spanish and French. I have learned both Spanish and French through a number of successful methods, including online language learning, in class study and, most importantly in my opinion, cultural immersion.

The best way to learn a language nowadays depends, in large part, on your receptivity to these methods, what works best for you and a number of other key factors.

These include:

1. Your native language

It is no coincidence that speakers of Germanic languages tend to speak exceptional English. Likewise, Spanish speakers will (generally speaking) find learning Portuguese, Italian or other Latin languages much easier than learning German or Dutch, for example.

It's likely that right now you already want to know which new language you would like to learn. If you don't, and you are new to language learning, then it may be worth choosing a language similar to your own.

2. Your preferred learning style

People often ask what the quickest way to learn a language is. This depends, in large part, on one's preferred learning style. Many people are visual learners, meaning they learn best through visual means, whilst others are classed as auditory learners, meaning they learn best through auditory means (listening).

I'm not saying that all language leaners sit within one of these two camps, but the vast majority of language learning apps on the market today tend to adopt one of these two approaches.

Online language courses and apps have revolutionised language learning. See what's available at what cost and read some reviews before choosing which is right for you.

3. Your patience

Becoming bilingual, trilingual or multilingual is as much about patience as it is about practice. The best way to learn a new language quickly is to remember that the step from zero to fluency does not take place overnight.

Be patient, find which methods work best for you and stick with it.

Whichever learning style works best for you, start with 30 minutes of study per day, when possible. This worked for me during my French and Spanish journeys, but has also worked for dozens of other language learners that I have met along the way.

Overkill can zap the fun out of language learning, and that's the last thing you want to happen!

4. Your ability to travel or work abroad

As I mentioned, online language courses and resources have never been as accessible as they are today. I am a firm believer that the basics of any language can be obtained online. Listening and reading skills too can be improved through online learning.

However, the ability to actually speak another language, which is usually what we deem most important, comes through real life scenarios and face to face conversation.

Plenty of companies now provide learners with the ability to converse with native teachers via Zoom, Skype or in-house platforms. Whilst this is effective and valuable, I don't believe it comes close to physical contact.

Thinking about my own personal experience, I found actually being in France was the best way to learn french. I immersed myself in French culture throughout my time living in Paris and Lyon, making friends with locals, forcing work colleagues to speak to me only in French to practice my conversational skills.

If you are given the opportunity to live or work abroad then I cannot recommend this method enough. Cultural immersion is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn a language today, despite the plethora of excellent online resources available.

About the writer

My name is James and I am an online language tutor of English, Spanish and French. I am the founder of the site travel-lingual.com, set up to provide language learners with a range of online language courses and resources. I love to travel and to meet new people whilst doing so. I have been to 35 countries and counting!

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