Recently I emailed about 50 people whose websites have been in the top 100 language learning blogs chosen by bab.la. I asked each of them the following question:
“If you could give advice to people who are just beginning to learn a second language, what advice would you give?”
To date, 18 people have replied to the question. Each of them has different backgrounds and could be either language learners or teachers. They are from many different countries and have various mother tongues. Although each of them may be learning or teaching different languages, each person was kind to share their ideas and opinions about language learning.
Alexandra Kleijn @ Buurtaal
Learning a second language usually takes a lot of time and determination to get really good at it.
Benny Lewis @ Fluent in 3 Months
It’s really hard to summarize language learning advice so succinctly, and since you didn’t specify a length, I’d say:
“Speak from day 1, make lots of mistakes, embrace being a beginner, and have fun! You need momentum at the start more than at any other time, and this will skyrocket you to being a better intermediate or advanced learner”
Chris Broholm @ Actual Fluency
Basically language learning requires time and consistent efforts, as long as you do something every day you will succeed eventually. Be sure to stay focused and don’t drift too much between languages. That is in my opinion the secret to success.
Daria Powałowska @ Blog dla nauczycieli języka angielskiego
‘Don’t give up easily!’ as there are so many obstacles when it comes to learning and the crucial thing is to keep your motivation on the high level. Try to remember why you started learning and what you can achieve thanks to it when having worse moments. Another important thing is finding your favourite way of studying. Some people like learning words by heart, other students prefer watching films – find your way so that you’d enjoy the process of learning even more!
David Royal @ ESL etc.
My number one piece of advice for a language learner is to USE the language. In my experience, if a student is just going to study a language in class and do their homework, that is good enough to get to a basic or low-intermediate level. To get beyond that, though, you need to use the language. You need to find opportunities for real communication.
I currently work at a language program at an American university. Sometimes, our students get stuck at a low intermediate level, even though they have good grades in their classes. This is because, even though they are living in America, they are using their native language almost exclusively when they are outside of the classroom — their friends all speak their native language, they watch TV in their native language, listen to music in their native language, etc. Language is a skill developed by action — you have to DO it, not just KNOW it.
Ellen Jovin @ Words & Worlds of New York
The key for me is frustration evasion. If I got frustrated regularly, I would simply stop my studies. Therefore, whenever I’m not having fun, I switch materials — from audio lessons to grammar, from grammar to vocabulary, from one book to another book, and so on. Or I take a break and recharge my brain. Staying happy is essential to effective studying!
Federica @ Hanami Blog
Learn well the alphabet and the pronunciation of a language, especially if you intend to read books and other materials. Don’t focus only on grammar but read and listen to the language every day.
But the most important advice can I give is never give up!
Fiona Bramble @ eslenglish
There is no short answer to your question, but I’ll do my best:
The most important step to learning a new language is being brave, to not be afraid to try to communicate in the new language as much as possible even if you only know a few words. Ask questions at every opportunity; people most often want to help you succeed. Language learning never ends, so don’t doubt your progress; even during the periods in which you can’t seem to measure your success, there is acquisition taking place in some form. If at all possible, immerse yourself in the language and its culture. Read to reinforce your vocabulary. Watch t.v. and movies to practice your listening and to observe the contexts in which the language is used. Most of all, socialize and share with other people who speak that language or who are also learning and are motivated to improve and progress.
Kirsten Cochrane @ Korean Notebook
All languages are different and for different languages there are many different tips and tricks for each; however for all languages there are common factors, the few puzzle pieces that never differ. The first piece of advice I would give to a language learner just starting out on their journey is as follows:-
1. Find the learning system that works best for you. < Many people spend too much time trying to learn in many different ways, it wastes time, find something, and use it. If you want to start trying different methods of learning feel free to do so, but don’t let it harm your progress. Personally I believe in using online resources in conjunction with textbooks.
2. Once you know how you will be studying (the method) I suggest you find some great native content, you may not be at the level to read it but having great native content will most definitely help you come across vocabulary words you learn as you look through native sites.
3. When it comes to motivation in language learning ; always be positive, don’t put yourself down when you haven’t studied for a while, all that does it make you depressed and it turn harms your progress! Quit whining and start studying.
4. USE A NOTEBOOK. I love writing notes and that’s a personal thing, but I firmly believe that when you are learning a language you have to write down notes, most people just don’t have a memory like a sponge to remember everything they read. So writing down notes really helps to enforce what you are reading.
Finally 5. Review. You can’t learn without reviewing what you have been learning at least once a week; and to make in convenient try and review every Friday night just before bed.
Learning a language is about exploring the world beyond what you already know if your native language, allow yourself to grow as a person in your second language, you’ll be surprised how much of you you don’t understand, or just haven’t met yet!
Wish everyone the best in their journey, good luck.
María y Raquel @ El blog para aprender español
Our advice to work hard in a well-organized way and practice as much as possible. Every skill needs a specific training: speaking, writing, reading etc… it is not only grammar and it is never a passive learning!! A language is to communicate so only by communicating you will reach your goal successfully!
Monika Lach @ IngliszTiczer.pl
Know why you want to learn it and set yourself clear but still achievable goals. Then collect all the patience you find within yourself and start the learning process!
Olly Richards @ I Will Teach You a Language
The most exciting time is when you make the commitment to start learning a new language. You’ve got the passion from somewhere, and the dedication to keep going at it! However, this stage is quickly followed by overwhelm and frustration, as a few weeks pass and you start to feel that you’re not making any progress.
The best advice I can give you is as follows. You must expect the process to take time, and for progress not to happen in a straight line. Once you accept that it will take time, the most important question becomes not: “How should I study?” but: “How can I stay motivated?” This is because by far the most common reason for failure is giving up.
The most effective approach to learning a new language, then, is to develop a small but consistent routine. That means starting small, and just trying to do that thing everyday. Even 15 minutes is OK. Once you get that routine going, you can build on it and add new things. If you try and do too much, you will burn out eventually.
Stephen Dodson @ Languagehat.com
If you’re interested in speaking it well, find native speakers and converse as much as you can; if you’re interested in reading it well, read as much as you can.
Ruth Elisabeth – Thảo @ More Vietnamese
When learning a new language, words can seem to go in one ear and out the other. If that sounds like you, what you’re missing is repetition.
To help you remember these new words:
- Repeat words over and over again.Make sure to say them aloud, not just in your head.
- Watch video lessons 2 or 3 times.There can be a lot of new stuff all at once. Going over it a few times can help you to take it in.
- Use flashcards or mnemonics to help you remember what you’re learning.Flashcard programs that use spaced repetition help you to review words just before your brain starts to forget. Just a few minutes recapping vocabulary every day makes a big impact on how much of it you can remember.
Urszula Roz @ Języki Kultura Świat
My advice for beginners would be to think about their motivation to learn and to set clear, achievable goals. Do you want to pass your exams, go abroad and be able to communicate, or just to understand your favourite book in the original? Whatever your reason is, it will help you every time you feel tired or you cannot concentrate on learning. Then, just think why you started learning, what was your original motivation, what do you want to achieve and what should you do to achieve it. However, if you take up a language that you don’t like but you have to study it for any reason, you should look for some aspects that appeal to you. You don’t like Italian but you’re required to learn it to get your dream job? Try looking closer at Italian culture, songs, or even cuisine. I’m sure there are thousands of things that may make you passionate about the language. And remember, even if the beginning is hard, you we’ll benefit from it. Don’t give yourself future regrets! Take the chance!
Vladimir Skultety @ Forever a student
I wrote an article about what you are asking. You can find it here:
Five key points that I think are important:
William Alexander @ The French Blog
Don’t be shy! The biggest challenge new language students face is that we feel foolish when we make mistakes – I once told a French waiter something along the lines of “I’ll have the ham in newspaper and my son will have my daughter.” Just start talking, and be prepared to laugh about your mistakes.
Zac Tobias @ hablamejoringles.com
My advice would be to listen, listen, and listen to the language you’re trying to learn. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at first; the main thing you have to do is learn to OBSERVE the language with your ears, and then to IMITATE what you hear. Also, be patient and don’t underestimate how long it will take. It’s very important to do a little bit every day, and to really incorporate the language into your daily life. Fortunately, with the Internet this is easier than it’s ever been. Most of all, do things that you enjoy!!