by Melissa Burns
Learning a new language is an awesome investment of one’s time in so many ways. It opens up new job opportunities; it is physiologically beneficial for your brain; it changes the ways you think and perceive the world; it is just plain fun.
However, although children pick up new languages easily, this job seems to be getting progressively harder, the older you are. Moreover, traditional language education is extremely time-consuming and expensive, which turns it into an intimidating proposition for most people.
The good news is, you do not need it. In fact, you can learn a new language better, faster and much, much cheaper without any kind of official training. It has always been possible, but today the Internet makes it more accessible than ever before. You have to know what to do.
Starting to learn a foreign language the way we do it in school and on most language courses – i.e., by learning vocabulary and grammar structures by heart and then trying to use them in predetermined situations – is probably the least efficient and most boring way of doing it. You may acquire a smattering of language knowledge this way, but your speech will be stilted and unnatural. And you will probably forget everything the moment you stop practicing.
It has been proven time and again that the most effective way of learning a new language is participating in real-life, one-on-one conversations with native speakers. This way, you are forced to speak to make your point, and no matter how many mistakes you make, you learn real communication skills. The Internet makes this step more accessible than ever – there are plenty of resources where you can hire one-on-one tutors that will teach you via Skype. If you feel that this option is a bit costly, find a language buddy – a native speaker of the language you want to learn who wants to learn English – and teach each other.
An excellent way to get the feel of everyday communication in a foreign language is to start visiting social media, blogs, forums, and other resources aimed at native speakers. Simply choose a topic you are interested in and try to participate in conversations held there. Some websites (especially ones in the East Asian segment of the Internet) are region locked and cannot be visited from foreign countries, so you may need a VPN to get access to them.
You can do most things easier if you do them together with like-minded people – and language learning is undoubtedly one of such endeavors. The Internet makes finding other people sharing your interests much easier than it is possible otherwise, and there are plenty of online communities united by the interest in a particular language. Get in touch with others who study the same language, and it will help you on many levels: from motivating you (because all these people meet the same problems you do) to giving you access to tips and techniques developed by others so that you do not have to do it on your own.
Whichever language you study, the Internet is rife with resources that can help you with this goal. After fifteen minutes of searching, you will find anything from full-fledged courses covering all aspects of the language to collections of flashcards to help you memorize the essential vocabulary, to specialized resources aimed at systemizing and ordering everything you know about a particular language to make progress easier. Choose resources that are just a little bit challenging at the time, and you will be able to maintain the flow state to maximize results.
Sometimes you just have to get the basic meaning of what is being said to you or what you read. There are plenty of translation tools online, with Google Translate probably being the best-known one today, and many of them provide surprisingly good results. If you do not expect them to give you a translation in literary English, you will not be disappointed.
Learning a foreign language today is easier than ever before – there is simply no justification for saying you have no ability to do it!
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