Every day, exactly 0% of people are born bilingual.
Not trilingual or quadrilingual either.
The myth that some people are born bilingual is not true. Instead, they are rather put in an environment that allow them to learn a language as easily as possible.
Everyone can learn a new language, write it, understand it, and most importantly: speak it.
Indeed, everyone has different ways of approaching a new language. And if you have not yet managed to learn a new language, it’s just that you have not found the best approach for you.
HERE are my 7 tricks to learn a new language:
1. Put yourself in (almost) full immersion
If you want to learn Spanish for example, you should put your laptop in Spanish, your phone in Spanish, your watch in Spanish, because it will force you to think and execute in Spanish.
If you watch a sport like football on streaming, take Spanish links to have Spanish commentators.
And if you get upset because you don’t understand anything, that’s a good thing. Because strong emotions will allow you to remember the words/phrases you were blocked on.
Just take “google translate” and translate what you don’t understand.
2. Practice On Topics You Love
Watch and listen to things you actually like in your target language. It’s really easy to watch TV, movies, series…, so do it. Your brain will get accustomed to the language.
But you have to do it in areas that are entertaining for you.
As for movies and series, there are a lot of people who advise to put subtitles on, others off, to put them in your native language or in the target language.
Here’s how I did it:
→ In the beginning: You put the subtitles on, in your native language.
You will squint the majority of the film on the subtitles but you will have moments of glory: “Oh that’s what it means!”.
This is for beginners. It is to really have a notion of the most basic words and sentences.
→ Midway: You put the subtitles in your target language.
What’s very important here is not to squint on the subtitles. You’re going to tell me, “What’s the use of subtitles then?”
The subtitles actually serve as a confirmation to what you have (or not) understood in the sentence said in the movie. Let me explain.
When you watch the movie, you listen to what the characters say and then, and only then, you watch the subtitles.
So it’s true that you must be fast to do this. But it is the most effective technique I’ve found because it forces you to think about what the character says and then to verify it. If you get the answer right away, you can not progress.
→ Experienced level: You remove the subtitles.
When you feel comfortable and you no longer need to watch the subtitles, or you just want to get into the big game, now is the time to remove the subtitles.
This is the best technique when you already have an average-good level because it allows you to focus only on the movie and the dialogue without having to worry about what’s going on down there.
3. Thinking and Speaking in Your Target language
This is the most effective trick because it’s the most active technique. When you watch a movie or series you’re almost inactive.
But when you speak in a language, you have to build your words and more importantly: your sentences.
The fact that you are more active improves your memory which is our long-term goal.
And if you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to yourself. And when I say talk, I mean out loud.
You can talk about the movie you just saw, the news, or your cat, it doesn’t matter.
The first thing that you will realize is that it is very difficult because in a sentence you can hardly forget a word if you want it to mean something.
But you have to try to make a complete sentence with at most one missing word in your sentence that you can not translate.
You need to set specific goals to make it easier for you to follow them.
After that, an interesting technique that I now unconsciously use is to think in your target language. What is interesting with this trick is that it allows you to go into total immersion.
You will begin to think in your native language unconsciously but you will stop, take what you wanted to say, and translate it in your head and only in your head.
I did this for weeks and now when I think I do it 50% in French, 50% in English, and that unconsciously.
4. Not Relying On Motivation
Some days you’re motivated and you want to do well and other days you don’t want to do it and it is a torture (especially after the first weeks: from my experience). So do not depend on your motivation or you will give up.
The trick is to set a specific goal. I already mentioned it in the thinking part.
Duolingo is a site where you can learn dozens of languages and which allows you to set specific goals: from 10 to 50xp per day (xp for experience).
But the most important thing is that Duolingo shows you your current streak. And when you start having a big streak you don’t want to spoil everything and get back all the way to zero.
Thanks to Duolingo I’m currently on a streak of 117 days. You can imagine that breaking this streak would do me more psychological harm than anything else.
Here’s my blog post on how Duolingo is the best tool to learn a new language.
If you decide to be serious in learning a new language and choose to use Duolingo, you can add me as a friend → nicolasbilic.
It’s always easier to learn in groups, you can see the score of your friends and the general ranking.
See you on Duolingo 😉.
5. Do Not Lose Your Time Looking For A Partner
I have the feeling that many people think that if they do not have a friend or someone else to talk with them in their target language, then they can’t learn a new language.
It is stupid.
Today with technology and internet, anyone can learn a language without needing a person to talk to. There is also no need to go abroad to be good in a language.
6. Going Abroad
« Nicolas, you just said we didn’t need to go abroad to learn a new language … » – YOU
That’s true but I said to be good (B2 level at most, which is the second best level a foreigner can have).
If you want to reach mastery and put yourself in more trouble because you will be forced to respond quickly to people, spending a year abroad is a good exercise.
It will force you to think more quickly in the situations you encounter, and thus drastically improve your level.
7. Put New Words In A Precise Context And Derive them
When you learn a new word, the best thing you can do to remember it is to put it in a sentence related to a subject you love or that gives you a strong emotion.
Another technique to reinforce your memory of the word is to derive it. Let me explain.
→ Let’s take the verb Choose. You can derive it by making several sentences while keeping the same root of the word:
« I Choose to Learn English », then « Today, I have Chosen to Learn English », or « This is my Choice to Learn English », or « Yesterday, I Chose to Learn English », and finally « I am Choosing to Learn English ».
Being capable of doing five sentences with the same basic word allows you to better remember it.
If you have to retain and apply only one advice of this Post, it is to set yourself a daily goal: whether it is 20xp on Duolingo per day or 10 minutes each day.
If you do this, you will discover techniques by yourself that will allow you to learn more easily and quickly.
I hope that your path to becoming bilingual/trilingual is clearer to you.
What do you think?
I would be curious to know which tricks you think are the most effective or if you have developed other techniques.
Or if you have a question about a point of this post.
In both cases, let me know by leaving a comment below.
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