Ever wondered how to learn a language fast and fluently? I currently speak 6 languages fluently and I am learning two more. One time I challenged myself to learn Norwegian in 2 weeks and was able to have conversations with the locals. Just recently I decided to learn Indonesian and mastered it within 2 months. Over the years I believe I have cracked the code on how to learn a new language in record time and will be sharing all my most valuable tips with you in this blog post.
My language background
Learning new languages is probably one of my biggest hobbies. Sitting down in the afternoon to study vocab is something I consider as fun. Yes, I’m a weirdo I know 😀
It all started when I was a little girl my mom would expose me to all kinds of different languages. Whenever we travelled somewhere she bought me books in the native language of the country. Even though she didn’t understand the language she read them to me. She made me listen to audio cassettes in French and watch television in English. When I was four years old I had memorized whole rhymes in different languages or recite the entire greek alphabet after a vacation in Greece. Even though I didn’t really know what the words meant I am certain it gave me a basic understanding of languages and opened up something in my brain that helps me nowadays to pick up new languages faster.
My quick language history
I started out like any other Austrian kid learning English in school. In elementary school I remember thinking it would be fun to learn a secret language that I can speak with my friends so no one could understand what we were saying. That’s when I started studying Spanish by myself (I was about 11 back then). After realizing that my friends weren’t into the whole language thing I dropped that project though. In high school I started to learn French and took Spanish as an elective. I decided to do an exchange year in the United States and worked on my English there. I kept improving upon my French and Spanish through studying abroad and added Italian during my Master studies. Earlier this year I started with Indonesian and also Dutch. My goal is to be able to speak 10 languages by the time that I am 30 years old.
After having mastered 5 languages (or 6 if you count my Austrian dialect) fluently and currently studying 2 more I believe I know a thing or two about how to learn a language fast and efficient on your own.
So how can you learn any new language fast and fluently?
Don’t worry if your mom didn’t raise you reading bedtime stories in a different language every day. I will be sharing some of my best tips and tricks of how to learn a new language by yourself in this blog post.
1. Vocab, vocab, vocab
Many language teachers focus way too much on grammar. My credo is: get as much vocab into your brain as possible. The more words you know the more you can say and people will also understand you even though you didn’t get the grammatical structure right. Grammar is something that you will pick up with practice. When I learnt Spanish I got thrown into a Spanish family for 4 months as an AuPair that didn’t speak a word of English or German. I was running around with a dictionary the first weeks looking up every word I wanted to say in order to be able to communicate with them. I had studied Spanish a year before as an elective in high school, but our teacher was only focused on grammar. Only when I got to my Spanish host family I realized I wasn’t able to say anything because I simply didn’t know any words!
2. Learning through watching TV
I am not a big fan of wasting my time on watching movies and series, but when I do I try to at least get something out of it. That is why I always watch it in a different language. Currently I am watching a new series I really like called Shadowhunters on Netflix. I watch all episodes in Italian. In the beginning I started out putting subtitles and finally switched them off, focusing fully on what they are saying. I love Netflix for that because it lets you switch between different languages and also put subtitles that makes it even easier to follow along.
Another thing I like to do is to go to English movie theaters. I just really like to watch movies in their original language since jokes or sayings often don’t translate that well into other languages.
3. Use language learning apps
I love language learning apps like Duolingo! It lets you set a private goal (mine is 5 minutes a day) and makes it fun and easy to study vocab. It is not good for grammar though because it doesn’t really explain you anything, but rather lets you study new words. I don’t believe you can learn a whole new language solely by studying it on Duolingo, but it is a great way to practice and pick up some new words. In my experience it really comes down to saying things out loud and that is something you can’t really do with the app as I am mostly using it when I am in public and have waiting time to kill.
4. Read books
The best way to learn a new language is to soak up as much of it as possible. Once you get better you can start reading books. When I was trying to improve my Italian I went to the book store and asked for beginner books in Italian. There are whole companies focusing on bringing out books for language learners. The ones I bought always had difficult vocabulary translated and some exercises included after every chapter. This is a fun way to learn and read at the same time. It also always helps me to see the words written down.
5. Listen to audio books
Depending on your language level you can start listening to audio books on the go. This is a convenient way that lets you practice a language while commuting or doing tasks at home that don’t require a lot of attention like washing the dishes or doing laundry. I also like to download vocab on audible. A reader will read out words and you can repeat them.
6. Take lessons
If you want to get really serious about learning a language I can recommend taking some classes or signing up for a language school. Many university offer these types of language courses and there are also always language schools in every city offering great courses and classes for you to take. In Indonesia I actually had a private teacher, which was so incredibly helpful and let me learn the language within 2 months.
7. Find a tandem partner
If you are wondering how to learn a language fast it actually all comes down to start speaking it. The best way to learn a new language effectively is to get the words out of your head onto your tongue and practice with a tandem partner. There is an app called Tandem (it is kind of like Tinder for finding a tandem partner :D) I used it when I lived in Budapest and wanted to learn Hungarian for the brief time that I was there. It is so easy to find other people who want to learn your native language. You meet up for coffee, talk 30 minutes in your language and 30 minutes in the other persons language. This way both parties get something out of it and you get to meet new people! I also did Tandem in Vienna practicing my Italian, which was also a great way to practice the language before leaving for Rome.
In most major cities there are also Tandem meetups where people meet in a bar or café in order to practice their languages. I did that in Berlin a couple of times and it was great fun. After some google research for your city I am sure you will find these types of events.
8. Get local!
My best and most effective tips for learning a language is to actually go to that country and try to speak it. I have done this for every single language I wanted to master. Immerse yourself as much as possible with the locals and use every single opportunity to talk in their native language. I have lived in France, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Indonesia and the USA for quite some time. I always made sure to keep my distance from the internationals and try to make local friends. This way you not only speak way more, but you also learn a lot about their local culture and traditions. Try to meet locals! It is the number one best thing you can do if you really want to learn a new language effectively!
I know for some people it might be difficult to spend a semester abroad somewhere, but why not plan a vacation to the country you are learning the language from? Or book a one week language camp there?
The number one mistake most people make
If you are looking into learning a new language on your own make sure to really start speaking it. That is the number one mistake I see most people do. They are too afraid to speak and never get the words out of their head. Don’t be afraid of making to make mistakes. It really doesn’t matter. No one will make fun of you because you got the word order wrong or pronounced it differently. The important thing is that you try to speak because thats the fastest way you will learn.
Also stay curious. Ask the locals for new words when you speak and try to repeat them right away. Use every opportunity to speak and practice and I can guarantee you will learn any language in record time!
Learning a new language and being able to speak to locals is the most wonderful thing for me. Being able to speak in their native tongue brings your travel experience to a whole new level. Locals will always appreciate your extra effort and you will simply get so much out of it!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Would love to know what language you guys are currently trying to learn. Let me know in the comments 🙂
In case you also want to watch a video on this topic, I recorded a short YouTube video summarizing this blog post: