Learning a language is hard. I'm sure you all know this, since you are here on this website! I am currently learning French and German, and have also learnt Italian in the past, so I know how frustrating it can be. However, I have found a few things that have really helped me not only to improve, but also to motivate myself to learn, which can sometimes be the hardest thing.
Here are just a few of my favourite hints and tips:
Go to the country
I know this one may seem really obvious, but it can help in more ways than you would think. Going to the country whose language you are learning not only allows you to hear the language spoken in context by real native speakers. It also gives you an insight into all the things that make you want to learn the language. For example, when I started learning Italian, I was frustrated because I thought I wasn't improving fast enough. Then, I got the chance to go to Italy for a few days and everything changed! Suddenly, everywhere I went I was surrounded by delicious Italian food, historic Roman architecture, and (of course) the beautiful Italian language. It made me desperately want to improve my Italian so I could be a part of such a wonderful culture. Going to the country gives your language learning an aim, and gives you lots of reasons to want to improve. Of course, not everyone can travel to where their language is spoken, but if you do get the chance, I really recommend it!
Read, read, read!
Reading is one of the skills that you need in order to succeed at learning a language. But I'm not just talking about serious things like literature or difficult newspaper articles. You may think that challenging yourself to read harder texts will help you to improve quickly. But the truth is, any sort of reading is going to help you, as long as it's in the language. I would even recommend not choosing difficult things to read, because you are more likely to get bored and give up, or just not understand anything. And what's the point of reading something if you don't understand it? Instead, why not choose something fun that you want to read, like a girly magazine (if you like that sort of thing!) or a children's book. I am currently reading Harry Potter in German, which may not be the most challenging book in the world. But I love the story, so I'm much more likely to persevere with it than with something by Goethe. If you want to challenge yourself to read something more difficult, go ahead! Just make sure you don't lose your enthusiasm along the way.
TV and films and videos
Another thing that really helps me learn a language is watching television programmes or films in the language. Again, it doesn't have to be anything really difficult. In fact, I would recommend starting with a children's show or something that you have already seen in your native language. That way you will already know what's happening and can concentrate on writing down useful words and phrases or trying to repeat what they say with an authentic accent. Of course, you could just watch the show without doing those things, but you will learn much faster and will benefit a lot more if you do. In addition to this, you can watch YouTube videos in the language (in your case, English), to give you a fun way of hearing the language spoken in a more natural way than you would hear in the classroom. Actively listening (while taking notes, etc.) is one of the best ways of speaking the language better, especially if you then try to use the new vocabulary and expressions you've written down in your own conversations.
So there you have it! Three of my top tips for learning languages. Of course, there are many other ways to improve your language skills, and I'm sure you will find the ways that work best for you. Don't forget, one of the most important things is to have fun. That way, you will stay enthusiastic and will be able to motivate yourself much better to learn!
What do you think about Rachel's top 3 tips for learning languages? Do you have any more tips that you can add?