A practical guide to simulating a foreign learning environment.
Whatever language you’re currently learning, you probably want to improve. But with an inability to buy a plane ticket to the other side of the planet, heading to another country to learn a new language merely isn’t practical for most people.
Right? As much as we all love the idea of flying to Costa Rica for a few months, many other life commitments (Such as work or college) get in the way of assimilating into another culture by going abroad.
So what do you do? I can bet that you tend to download Duolingo, get a five-day streak, and then quit the language learning process altogether because it’s difficult to remember anything useful.
For the longest time, one of my biggest ambitions was to become fluent in another language. Although the process of learning Spanish in High School was horrific, I loved the idea of going abroad and not having to ask if someone speaks English before initiating a conversation.
So I began teaching myself sentence structure, frequently used words, and watched loads of Latin Netflix shows for “educational purposes.”
In case you’re wondering, that’s the excuse I told my parents to stay up until 2 am to watch Narcos.
Admittedly, It took a long time to reach conversational fluency. However, my life completely changed due to the ability to learn new languages in the comfort of my own home.
Below are a collection of techniques which will help you simulate a foreign learning environment at home. Each one of these insights helped me to enjoy the process of learning and eventually increased my confidence while speaking a foreign language abroad. I hope they do the same for you, too.
Focus On Frequent Vocabulary.
When learning a language, we’re often told to start with greetings and how to say that our favorite food is pizza, etc. Although this may occasionally be useful to introduce yourself, this common practice doesn’t help you understand what someone is saying during a conversation.
I’ve discovered that a better solution to learning a language is by writing down the most frequently used words in a conversation.
Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of the results.
But I’m going to tell you a secret: this concept also applies to languages. The Spanish language has approximately 150,000 words. However, only 750 words are used daily by native speakers.
So instead of trying to memorize every piece of vocabulary, all you need to do is remember the most commonly used words to become conversationally fluent.
Reset The Language On Your Devices.
Since most of us spend hours on our phones every day, optimizing your device for learning is a great step to immerse yourself in another language digitally.
One technique that I’ve found to be incredibly useful is resetting the language on both my phone and iPad to ensure that Spanish is continually at the forefront of my mind.
If you’re wondering how this technique will help you learn a new language, here’s what I learned from implementing it myself:
- I was able to massively improve my reading ability as I was already reading Spanish phrases daily on social media etc.
- Muscle memory of apps helped me to navigate and understand translations throughout my phone with relative ease.
- Seeing Spanish words multiple times a day on my phone made it much easier to recall them during a conversation.
Changing your phone’s language won’t make you fluent overnight. Still, it will undoubtedly help you become more comfortable using your desired language during everyday life.
Listen To Music In Another Language.
While sitting on the sofa in the living room (or anywhere else), listening to music is something that you can do with almost zero effort. As you hear the grammatical structure of lyrics and word pronunciation, it’s an enjoyable way to reinforce what you already know.
Another great strategy is writing down the lyrics of songs you enjoy, and translating them into English so you can understand what the artist is saying with more clarity.
You don’t have to spend hours every day trying to learn a new language. But instead of watching a pointless TV show to cure your boredom, or spending an hour scrolling through Instagram, use that time as an opportunity to learn your desired language.
Remember: making continual progress (however small) is the only thing that matters when it comes to learning a new language. Because as long as you’re doing what works for you, whenever you’re able to, I guarantee you’ll eventually reach whatever level of fluency you desire.