Many of us dream of being able to effortlessly converse in many languages. Let’s face it—multilingualism is a widely desired trait. It’s a key that unlocks new cultures and ways of thinking. The benefits are numerous: speaking a second language increases cognitive abilities like problem solving, creativity, and memory. Quite frankly, becoming and being bilingual actually makes you smarter!
“The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.”
Intellectual advantages aside, being multilingual provides social rewards, too. Multilingualism requires consideration, intuition, and awareness. People raised in multilingual environments are adept at seeing other people’s perspectives. Inherently, they must understand context and think about who in their environmental speaks which language and when.
When learning a new language, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel a little silly at first. Don’t worry about being 100% accurate. Instead, focus more on using the language as fluently as possible, even if you’re a beginner and this means making mistakes. (Of course, some accuracy is needed, otherwise you’re just talking nonsense.) Avoid translating into your first language or immediately critiquing whatever you’re about to say. Shifting back and forth from language production to review can be debilitating if you second-guess every word choice or grammatical structure. You’re bound to feel a little embarrassed or nervous when you try speaking in a foreign language among locals, but often they’ll appreciate the effort and you’ll increase your fluency!
While native-like fluency usually takes many years to develop, you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can acquire a second language if you practice daily or are fully immersed in the language. And, more and more research show that you don’t have to start learning in your early childhood to develop full fluency. With enough persistence, you can master a language at almost any age.
Some of the best ways to develop fluency in a second language are:
Watching movies and television in a new language
This is a great way to get used to the cadence of a new language. Try starting with half hour comedies, for instance. The language may be colloquial enough to acquaint you in the early stages of language learning. Try also starting with subtitles at first and then without them!
Listening to local music and learning lyrics in native contexts
Songs are also a great way to start learning a new language because songs often use repetition. Plus, you may be encouraged to sing along. Verbalization always helps.
Chatting with a native speaker
If you have a friend who speaks a language you’re eager to learn, the best way is having simple conversations in which you’re forced to not speak English.
Practice real world usage
While studying vocabulary and formal grammar is important for accuracy, you won’t get far without using your target language as fluently as possible in real life contexts. You can practice by role playing with other learners or seek out environments where the language is widely-spoken (hint hint…).
Reading and writing
OK, this might be a bit obvious, but you’re limiting yourself if you’re only working on your speaking and listening skills. At first, you can speak aloud as you read and write. Start off with children’s books before you work your way to higher-level texts. Hallmarks of true fluency are being able to appreciate the literature, read up on news, and write effectively in the language. These skills can open doors for college and your career…
Want to know the absolute best way to learn a foreign language? Full immersion by living and studying abroad! According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), “Most immersion students can be expected to reach higher levels of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs.” Full immersion in a country or community where your target language is the majority language is the quickest way to gain fluency.
Plus, if you get a head start before taking off for your trip, you’ll have an easier time adjusting at first and learn even more. Check out TakeLessons to start working on your language skills and use promo code GETLESSONS to receive $20 off.