How to Learn a Language by Yourself
by Charmaine Yip
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart." --Nelson Mandela
If you ever wanted to learn a new language, I recommend that you test the waters on your own before working with a teacher. Learning on your own has many benefits: you can set your own goals and track your progress of how you are doing; work on a schedule that fits you best; and it forces you to be more proactive and take greater initiative for your own learning.
Here are three easy steps how you can learn a language on your own!
Step 1: Online Language Site
Learning always begins with the self. For this reason, I recommend taking the initiative to learn on your own using an online language software before reaching out to others to help you. The first time I tried to learn French via online, I used Babbel and I loved it! That was in 2012 and today, it has grown to many other languages! Today, you can learn English, French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Indonesian, Dutch, Polish and even Russian!
I love their site because it is very interactive and makes learning more interesting! They don't make you learn a lot of information at once. Instead, it breaks it down in chapters and introduces only a few vocabulary each time. Then, it tests your memory using multiple choice and fill-in-the blanks. Finally, it ends off with a listening comprehension, where you learn how the words are now used in context of a real conversation. It really is an all-in-one interactive package that makes learning fun!
Step 2: Find a Language Partner
Once you have started to grasp some basic grammar and vocabulary, it is time to find someone to practice with you! This is really key because you need to practice your new knowledge and to not forget what you had just learned. Personally, this is my favourite part becuase I like meeting and helping people, so this is kililng two birds with one stone.
In my How to Make Friends Abroad post, I already mentioned that language exchange is a great way to learn from locals. Since you are also teaching someone your native tongue in exchange to practice theirs, it's a win-win situation and you both learn something for free
! For many years, I have used Conversation Exchange
to help me find a language partner when I am in a new city. They have a 'country' option where you can scout for someone who is located where you currently reside in. However, if you prefer an online conversation, they can also do that too!
I suggest 20 minutes in one language and then switch to the other language for another 20 minutes.
Step 3: Practice makes Perfect!
Take some time to meet a few language partners before you decide who is going to work best for your learning style. Everyone learns differently, so it is important that you discuss what method will work for the both of you and how your exchanges are conducted. Don't fret - it may take a while but you will find the perfect partner! And once you do, your progress will move very smoothly and quickly!
Remember, once you have a partner, you can practice both online (i.e. text messages or whatsapp) and offline (i.e. face-to-face meeting). One way that I like to practice is to try to create sentences on my own. For example, I like to (________) in my free time. Since I don't know the word in my targeted language, I will be forced to look it up in the dictionary to complete my sentence and voila!
I have learned a new word and in the context of a sentence. Therefore, I have a better memory association since I actively used it.
Your language partner will always be there for you to help you so don't forget to send these sentences to them! They can correct you and explain to you complicated concepts. Keep doing this and overtime, I am sure you will be surprised how much you are improving!
Good luck and have fun language learning! Please let me know if these strategies worked out for you!
Charmaine Yip is a Canadian who has lived abroad since 2012. She is currently working in the education industry in Hong Kong. Prior to that, she has lived in Singapore and France. She gives advice on how one can live abroad successfully on her blog, The Canadian Wanderer. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.