7 Tips for Learning a New Language

I wish that I had read Fluent Forever before  I started learning Mongolian. Instead, I was 4 months into language school before I picked it up. So now I’m trying to change systems while I’m using them, when I could have set them up well from the beginning. I’m sharing what I’ve learned (and am learning) in hopes that it will make your language-learning journey easier earlier!

Rather than giving a full review of the book (summary: you should buy it and read it before you try to learn another language) I’m just going to share a language tips from the book that I’ve integrated along with a few things I wish I could go back in time to change.

Tip #1: Listen to the language, even if you don’t understand it, daily, for months before you actually start learning the language. The goal is simply to get your brain used to hearing new sounds and rhythms. You can watch Youtube videos, find podcasts, or watch familiar movies that have been dubbed in your target language.

Tip #2: Begin learning words in order of frequency used rather than in groups and categories. If you need to learn groups of words to function in every day life, by all means, do that. But augment that with frequently used words; this speeds up your language comprehension dramatically…because you know the words that are most commonly being used.

It was difficult to find a frequency list for Mongolia (but I finally found one here). It shouldn’t be hard for more popular languages. I’m going to begin adding a few of these words to the words I’m picking up from my language school book and from everyday conversations.

Tip #3 Learn pronunciation first. Once you get used to making the sounds of your new language it will be easier to pronounce words and remember them…you won’t constantly have to focus on pronunciation and you’ll comprehend what you hear more quickly. I suck at this and wish we had spent more time on pronunciation initially.

Tip #4 Memorize words by translating them into pictures, rather than English words. Here are several reasons why this is a good idea:

  • it’s quicker to think of a cat and translate that image into your new language than to think of a cat, name it in English, then translate it into your new language
  • the act of searching for a word in your host language on google images will help you discover nuances to words. We recently learned two words for “to look for, to search” but only one of them brings up images of Google and other search engines so I know to use that word when talking about looking for something on the internet.
  • when you search for an image, especially if you find an image that creates any kind of emotional response within you, is that you now have a shared experience and emotional anchor with the word which will make it easier to remember.

Tip #5 Create flash cards for grammar rules with specific examples. And create them from several different angles. I’ll explain what I mean in a minute. This tip is, I think the worst. It’s hard and time consuming but I think it will help me remember things that I keep forgetting.

Tip #6 Obviously talking with local people is the best thing to do. This is hard for me. I feel like I’m so bad at language that I don’t even want to try to talk to people. But that’s how you learn, right? I’ve found that having a game or something else to distract you/give you context for a relationship is helpful.

Tip #7 Used Spaced Repetition to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules. One of most effective ways to memorize something is to force yourself to recall it (creating a web of associations beforehand, like images, experiences, and connecting it to something you’re already familiar with makes recalling it easier).

The most effective time to try to recall it is just before you forget it. So new words you might try to recall twice a day. Then, once you’re comfortable with a word, put it in the pile to recall it tomorrow. Then, when that recall is successful, put it in the pile to recall three days from now, etc. I’m not saying it accurately scientifically but you get the basic idea. He recommends a specific app in the book that is free and spaces the words out for you.

The book, Fluent Forever, says SO MANY more tips, along with great explanations and samples of what his process looks like, and resources (like what dictionaries and grammars are most helpful, links to websites, and lists of other resources). If you’re planning to learn another language, it’s well-worth the read.

When I wrote this post, list price was $16.99 but it was available for $11.40

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It

*The links to Fluent Forever are amazon affiliate links. This means I earn a small commission on books and some other items you buy if you click through the links. It does not cost you anything extra. I wouldn’t recommend the book if I didn’t love it and hadn’t found it so useful

2 thoughts on “7 Tips for Learning a New Language

  1. Good tips. I am learning Russian since 1,5 years and I find it’s the repetition, listening to native speakers, writting flash cards and trying out your new skills that make a difference.

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