How Easy is it to Learn a Foreign Language?

how to learn a foreign language
credit: James Kovin

Not everyone manages to walk away from high school or college with a mastery of a foreign language. In the United States, only around 20% of the population regularly speaks another language other than English. Being able to speak another language fluently has many advantages. It broadens travel horizons and allows you to adventure off the beaten track for starters. If you have big career ambitions, being bilingual will also improve your employability.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to take on a new language in addition to your native tongue. Admittedly, adults find it more challenging to get to grips with the fundamentals. However, with a bit of patience and the right approach, it’s fairly straightforward to learn Japanese or become fluent in French.

Make Plenty of Time for Language Learning

how to learn a language
credit: Olya Kobruseva

Learning a new language from scratch can seem like an uphill struggle. One of the main excuses for not taking up foreign language study is a lack of time. While a busy schedule can impede your efforts, it doesn’t need to derail them entirely.

If possible, you should allot 30 minutes a day for learning. However, this isn’t possible for most people. So instead, break things down into manageable chunks and make language learning a staple part of everyday routines.

Need to stock up on groceries? Consider writing your usual shopping list in the foreign language you’re looking to learn and using that as a reference. You may take a little longer than expected at the store, but this exercise effectively boosts your vocabulary.

Target Relevant Words and Phrases

how to learn a foreign language
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Avoid trying to master too many words at once. For example, the English language includes more than 171,000 recognized words. Meanwhile, the French language boasts a word count of more than 100,000, with more than 170 new entries being registered in 2022 alone.

To start building a vocabulary, focus on the words and phrases most relevant to you. Start with the absolute basics to begin with. This includes the alphabet and pronunciation. Next, explore basic sentences that you can use for commonly encountered interactions. With these in place, you can think about introducing yourself to verbs. Only when all of these foundation blocks have been laid should you start devouring more words.

If you only plan on using a new language as a travel aid, it makes sense to polish up on service industry scenarios and questions the average tourist is likely to ask. However, if you’re developing foreign language proficiency to improve career prospects, you’ll need to be far more targeted with your approach. Investigate industry-specific words and terminology. You’ll also want to consider the differences between informal and formal interactions.

Immersion is Important

foreign laguage immersion from home
credit: Florencia Viadana

Even if you’re committing a considerable part of your routine to learn a language with a tutor, you’ll want to maintain your usage. This will prove almost impossible with the aid of language resources. Switch up your usual viewing abandons to keep yourself entertained while you learn. Forget about soap operas and reality television and explore the world cinema libraries of your preferred streaming platform instead. You may not realize it, but a little background chatter goes a long way in cementing newly acquired words and language rules.

Ultimately, how quickly you master a new language depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put in. If you’re prepared to fold language learning into your daily routine, you can achieve true fluency in less time than you might expect.