5 Tips And Tricks For Learning A Language

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I like to compare learning a new language to riding a roller coaster. One moment you are on a high peak, feeling totally fluent and able to conquer the world. The next moment you are in a low dip, feeling like a total impostor who can’t speak a single word! But the experience wouldn’t be as rewarding without both of these feelings. I’ve been through my fare share of German-related breakdowns, but I finally think I’ve turned a corner. I can form coherent sentences without a five minute delay, and understand 90% of other people’s conversations. But it certainly didn’t happen over night.

If you are learning a foreign language, I’m here to cheer you on! Below are five tips and tricks I’ve picked up along this roller coaster ride that have really helped me, and might help you too. Enjoy!

1. Utilize Movies, Books and Music- Watching one of your favorite movie in your desired language is really helpful! I like to watch Disney movies in German with German subtitles, so I can fully understand what’s going on. I already have a feel for the plot, so I can focus on the language with out getting too confused or lost. Dual-language books or children’s picture books are also wonderful tools. And lastly, listening to music can help with pronunciation and speed, plus it’s a fun way to internalize the culture!
2. Learn from Children- Children make the best teachers (read my related post here), because they don’t care about your grammar or accent, all they want is for you to play with them! Reading children’s books and playing games are great ways to improve your skills. Much of the time you are learning the language with them, and can discover new words and phrases together. Plus, is easier to take corrections from children without feeling bad.
3. Join a Club/Organization- This step has been HUGE for me! I joined a local church, and it is by far one of the places where I speak the most German. The people are super friendly and encouraging, and it is a safe place to fall down and get back up again! I’ve also joined a gym, and learned a whole new set of vocabulary through the work out classes. Join a club or organization you think you might genuinely enjoy, where you will meet like-minded people and improve your language without even noticing!
4. Find an Accountability Partner- In the beginning, I was terrified to speak German in public, so I stubbornly spoke English to everyone because I knew they would accommodate me. Until one day, a friend pulled me aside and said, “Micah, you have to speak German. That’s the whole point you are here and you’re only doing yourself a disservice by speaking English.” Talk about a wake-up call! I knew they were right, and from that point on I only spoke German because I didn’t want them to hear my speak English. Sometimes a little accountability, spoken in love, is the push you need to jump head first into the language!
5. Work with a Private Tutor- I took two years of German in a classroom setting, where I learned to read and write fairly well. I was tested on the grammar and vocabulary, but hardly ever spoke. Unless the teacher called on me or we had a verbal assignment, I did not intentionally practice my speaking skills. But when I moved here this summer, I met with a private tutor twice a week for an hour and a half each time. She spoke hardly any English, so we spoke German almost the entire time. I couldn’t sit silently and never raise my hand like in class, I had no choice but to speak. Private one-on-one tutoring may not always be an option, but if it is, I highly recommend it!

I’m rooting for you friend! If I could give you a hug, I would.
Question of the Day
If you could learn any foreign language by simply snapping your finger, which would it be?


7 thoughts on “5 Tips And Tricks For Learning A Language

  1. This is a great list! I’ve been really bad about speaking German, too, because I’ve managed to make a lot of friends who aren’t native German speakers. Maybe joining a German speakingchurch or club will fix that.

    1. I can totally relate to making friends more easily with english speakers! I always have to remind myself to make the effort to reach out to native speakers as well 🙂 I think joining a church or organization might help you make german friends in a welcoming environment.

  2. These are great tips! Unfortunately for me, I’m only supposed to speak to my host kids in English so I lost out on that chance all year! Even so I’ve learnt a lot from listening to and interacting with them (because the little guy hasn’t started speaking English yet!) 🙂

    1. Wow, that is really fascinating! So the parents want the kids to soak up English from you? I bet you have still grasped so much of the language just from your environment- it would be impossible not to! How much longer do you have as an Au Pair?

  3. That’s so true… I like the 5min delay, been there a million times. Last time when I went to Berlin & I was practicing my awful German all over the place, then I had a school reunion & everyone at the table was German. When I tried to order my food, all words scraped me. All eyes were on me, and I wanted to run as far as possible from there, argh. My friends didn’t care & helped me, but it was embarrassing for me. Oh well, gotta practice more…

    1. Oh man, I can definitely relate! Sometimes you can practice till you are blue in the face but when push comes to shove, the pressure is just too much! Where did you go to school?

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