Hello all! Sorry for the silence this past week, life has been so busy! That being said though, I am now sitting in my Laverie, and seeing that my two most popular posts this year (10 Reasons To Take A Gap Year & 30 Gap Year Travel Ideas) have been written in this very seat, I thought I’d give it another go. So today, here are my tips for learning a new language. I came to France not even being able to formulate a sentence, but now am speaking French on the daily, and understanding almost everything when I read and listen. Click through to see my advice and tips, and how you can get better, quick.
- Move to the country. No duh, Julia. While I know this may not be possible for you, it comes down to being the quickest way to learn a language. While you can immerse yourself at home, it helps if you take out the earphones playing French music, and are then forced to read French food labels and speak French to the cashier. Moving to France gave me full immersion, and just helped me become comfortable speaking it in everyday life.
- Start listening to music in the language you wish to learn. In the beginning stages of learning French, this is what helped the most. Catchy songs by Mika (Elle Me Dit) or Vanessa Paradis (Mi Amor) will get random French sentences stuck in your head, helping you learn vocabulary. You’ll be more likely to hum the chorus under your breath than you’ll be to repeat some line from a French movie! I remember how excited I was the first time I understood a sentence in a French song.
- Get a penpal. In the beginning, it was easier for me to write than to speak, because when writing you can really think about your grammar and sentence formulation. Writing helped me get phrases “stuck in my head”, and then suddenly one day while I was speaking to someone, one slipped from my tongue, just like that! Also don’t laugh, but I used Tinder to practice. Many people on there were super nice and loved practicing their English with me in return, and it also helped me learn some French slang. (Dac?) My speaking became a lot more relaxed and comfortable.
- If possible, put the subtitles of anything you are watching into the language you wish to learn. While I can watch French movies now sans subtitres, it was not possible 6 months ago. So, I started watching lots of French movies with first English subtitles and then French ones, and English movies with subtitles as well. Although you might not realize it, your brain takes in a ton of new words this way.
- Sign up for language classes to help you along the way. This was honestly a lifesaver for learning the really specific grammar stuff. I attend language classes 6 hours a week. While I believe that only living in France and chatting away with French people has made me comfortable with speaking, these classes have made me a better reader and writer. I mean, I would have never been able to understand conditionnel on my own!
- Read bloggers and watch Youtubers in the language. This is a great way to start improving your skills when you have some basic knowledge. Back in November, I started reading Le Blog de Betty in its native written French rather than English, and began watching EnjoyPhoenix on YouTube. They speak the language quite casually making them quite easy to understand. When studying for my German Abitur exams, I did this as well along with watching the German news online each night to learn new vocabulary.
- Do a language exchange. I’m telling you, the only way to really learn a language is to get talking. And if you can’t live in the actual country for a bit, find someone in yours who will speak the language with you. A great website for finding a speaking buddy is this one, and I also recommend this one. Honestly, I can say that my French improved in just one day after gabbing for hours with my French neighbor, and then inviting her out that night as well. Also, speaking French with my Au Pair kids has made my skills skyrocket. Speaking is key!
I hope that this has helped out anyone trying to learn a new language, or has inspired anyone who is considering to do so. It’s the best feeling in the world when words of the new language start slipping between the ones of your native tongue, or when you realize that you just understood every word of a conversation (and were able to contribute your own opinions without even having to think about it). Knowing more than one language is a blessing, one that I wish upon all.
Do you have any additional tips you want to add below? What languages do you all speak? I’d love to know. In case you can’t tell by now, I speak fluent English and German, and am getting there with the French. 😉
*Images above courtesy of Pinterest.