Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How to learn a second language fast and productively

Learning a second language
Learning a second language or even a third can produce numerous benefits. No point in outlining them here, you probably know and understand them far better than I could ever put into words.

If you already are fluent in more than three languages, you can probably write this article yourself, better yet, you should point out your tips& tricks in the comments section, have others learn from your experiences.

So we've established this article is not really for linguists but for the average English speaker interested in learning a second acquisition.

Here is a summary of the information contained in this article:
  1. Top best languages to learn 
  2. Easiest language to learn
  3. Hardest language to learn
  4. How to learn a language by yourself 
  5. How to learn a language fast

Top best languages to learn 

First things first. If you haven't already, you need to figure out what language to learn. Keep in mind this will be your second language, it must be somehow essential to you and have enough weight and usefulness so that you actually use it. 

Here are just a few facts that may help you take the right decision:

- Chinese Mandarin is the most spoken language on earth at the moment. And the demand for Mandarin outside China is enormous. As China becomes the world's financial superpower the need for Mandarin, from a professional perspective, will only increase. 

- Spanish. Why? Because is the second most spoken language on earth. More popular in fact than English. If you want to learn a popular language, learn Spanish! It's also reasonably easy to learn Spanish if you are an English speaker. 

- Arabic is the official language for a large number of countries located in Asia and Africa. As their economy grows so those the opportunities in the region, if your businesses involve the Middle East in any way, knowing at least some basic Arabic can do wonders for you. 

Besides Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic, other languages you can learn in 2018 (for a multitude of reasons) are German, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, French, and Hindi. 

Easiest language to learn

If you are an English speaker, you may be wondering what the most accessible language you can learn from English.

Afrikaans and Dutch are probably the easiest languages you can learn as an English Speaker. Afrikaans is perhaps the most comfortable overall since it has a very simple structure and grammatical rules. Both languages borrowed heavily from English and it shouldn't be a surprise either, both all three languages are west Germanic in nature.

Other Germanic languages that come easily to learn for native English speakers are Danish, Norwegian & Swedish.

As far as Romance languages go, the easiest you can learn are Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

Hardest language to learn

Now that we covered the easiest languages to learn as a native English speaker we also need to include the hardest languages to learn from English.

The rule here is simple: the more a country had been isolated from English and overall western culture, the harder is for an English speaker to learn that language due to lack in a point of reference.
So clearly, champions in the category are Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin. Other languages that may be very tricky to become fluent in are Turkish, Arabic, Icelandic and Hungarian.

learn a language by yourself
How to learn a language by yourself 

The answer is complicated. Why? Because you need to be highly determined and dedicated doing it alone. This doesn't mean hiring a tutor or going to class can help you achieve this goal faster, keep in mind that in the end, in both cases, it is YOU doing the learning.

Taking advantage of every resource out there is the best way to approach this:

  • Learn languages online. Take online courses for learning a second language. The information available for native English is overwhelming. So you definitely have your pick from a multitude of sources. 
  • Watch YouTube videos in the language you want to learn;
  • Learn a little bit about their culture and history, it will help you become more passionate about the language you want to learn;
  • Join online forums and communities related to the language you want to learn, maybe natives or maybe just passionate learners;
  • Watch movies in the language you want to learn without subtitles. After a few full-length movies, you will start to understand and make connections;
  • Language learning apps. Install a language learning app like Mondly and practice everywhere. It has 33 languages available for you to learn and it is probably the most immersive language learning tool around, with both AR and VR capabilities but also a bot speech requisition where you can practice your conversations;
  • Take a vacation. Want to learn Spanish? Start with the basics and head off to Spain for your annual vacation, it's the perfect place to practice and even make friends among natives;
  • Take a Skype call with a native or with someone already fluent in the language you want to learn. 

How to learn a language fast
How to learn a language fast

We've talked about determination but we haven't really defined what you should do to actually learn a language quickly and effectively. So here are a few helpful tips that can help you learn a new language fast:

  1. Studies have shown that the best trick in the book is your level of "intensity". Meaning it may be a lot more productive for you to study six hours straight than to study just one hour per day for six days. 
  2. Start with highly useful common words. Note down the top 300 words and really assimilate them. These words will become the foundation on which you will learn phrases later on. 
  3. Develop a technique. You will make a lot of mistakes and follow a lot of dead ends. Don't be discouraged, just search for the most optimal solution that makes you retain and assimilate information. 
  4. Focus on pronunciation, out loud. It will help you memorize a lot faster everything you learn and practice. 
  5. You will make mistakes. So don't worry about doing things the wrong way or pronouncing something stupid. You are a novice and the only way you can truly learn some parts of a language is by making mistakes and acknowledging them.