Come September 2014 I'll be studying Spanish and German at university, so I know all the little tips and tricks to learning a language and actually remembering it! From firsthand experience I know how difficult it can be learning a language, these tips definitely helped me! In our modern society its becoming increasingly more important and relevant knowing more than one language. Although being bilingual can help your career prospects and even your grasp of English, I think the biggest and best benefits are in how it opens your world. There really is no better feeling than speaking to someone in a native language and seeing their world through your own eyes!
Start with the basics
Whether you've learnt the language before or are a complete novice, starting with the basics is the best way to ease yourself in. Although jumping in the deep end with conjunctive verbs may have the best payoff it's not the most sensible thing to do. If you've studied the language before then going over the basics is a good refresher and if you're learning from scratch then the basics are the sensible place to start! If you're only wanting to learn a few vital phrases for your holiday such as '¡una cerveza, por favor!' then you probably won't want to learn about the verbs and how to conjugate sentences. I'd recommend goggling said phrases and getting a guidebook with some basics included, most guidebooks nowadays have this.
We are fortunate, or unfortunate if you see it like that, to live in a world where everything and anything is at our fingertips. I recently discovered the Duolingo app, which has turned into an everyday app of mine. It has a great feature that tracks how much time you've spent on each language and you can set yourself a goal to do a certain amount each day. There are also tonnes of other apps that you can download to help you along the way. This also means that you don't have to go out and buy a lot of supplies, such as a dictionary or grammar books because both services are easily accessible online.
Listen to the language
Watching things or listening to things in the language is a great way to integrate it into your daily life whilst also learning how to pronounce certain sounds correctly. I am a big fan of foreign cinema with Amélie being one of my favourite films, even though I know only a few words of French. Listening to non-English music is also a great way to get used to hearing the language. A few of my favourite artists sing in French and German, Stromae and Max Prosa.
Don't do it alone
It's a lot easier to give up on something if there is no-one there to motivate and push you. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to learn my languages at high school in a small class setting. Having someone to answer to and go to for advice is vital in knowing where you're going wrong and how you can improve. Most community centres and schools will offer beginners language classes which are reasonably priced and provide the books you'll need.
Make it fun
You're not going to continue learning a new language if it's boring and feels like a chore. Like I stated before watching films/tv and listening to music is a great way to learn a language and it's fun. Set yourself goals and when you achieve them reward yourself! Go to a tapas restaurant and order in Spanish, there you go!, you just spoke Spanish and you have a margarita! Your goals don't have to be big or complicated. By setting small achievable goals you're encouraging yourself to develop skills and gain confidence in the language. Learning something new is meant to be exciting and interesting, try to enjoy the journey!
Without sounding like your teacher, practice does make perfect! If you want to become good at anything you have to put in the graft and the effort. Something that I do a lot is think in another language or think how to say certain things whilst I'm doing them. For example, I will mentally count in Spanish in my head instead of English and, without sounding completely crazy, I sometimes speak to my cats in Spanish! I find it so helpful to speak out loud and hear yourself speaking the language.
I hope this tips were helpful and someone is inspired to pick up a new language or even one they did at school.
Get out there and learn a new language, what's the worst thing that could happen?