Did you know that the number of American students who move abroad to study has tripled in the past two decades? According to experts, the growth in international education, better career aspects, social awareness, and standard of living have all contributed to this figure and are expected to continue to rise with time.
While studying abroad may sound like nothing but an adventure, there are various elements to consider when embarking on this journey. One such element that most students come across is figuring out how to learn a foreign language on their own.
After all – if you plan to live in a foreign country, even for a short period, you should have a firm grasp of the language spoken there to succeed.
How to learn a foreign language on your own
Language involves words, slang, speed, and rhythm. Learning a foreign language involves a keen understanding of all of these elements and the knowledge to understand and speak the right words at the right time.
Many studies show that learning another language boosts memory and concentration and improves brain function and the rate at which your brain ages.
So, if you are ready to learn a foreign language, below you’ll find eight simple steps to help you get started.
Step 1. Go back to basics
As strange as it may sound, one of the best ways to learn a foreign language on your own is by starting with the basics. Practice everyday greetings like “hello,” “how are you,” or even “have a great day.” Focusing on these commonly used verbs, adjectives and phrases is a great place to get started in your new language.
Additionally, there are many resources, online language experts, videos, grammar books, and apps which you can use systematically build your vocabulary.
Step 2. Speak up
Now that you have identified the most commonly used words and phrases, you must learn how to use them. Start by focusing on how the word sounds and its pronunciation. One great way to do this is to listen closely to native speakers and then repeat the sound of the words yourself with a language partner.
Try listening to podcasts, movies, and even the news in the new language – these serve as an excellent means to supplement your learning process and achieve your learning goals.
Step 3. Be consistent
Another important aspect of learning a foreign language on your own is remaining consistent. To properly grasp a foreign language, you should spend at least 20-30 minutes per day practicing it.
From talking to yourself in front of the mirror to conversing with a friend or roommate, regular and consistent practice allows the language to stick while making you feel more comfortable with the dialect. For best results, try setting a reminder for yourself every day, so you don’t forget to spend time with the new language.
Step 4. Be creative
For those of you who find it almost impossible to find time to learn a foreign language on your own, especially if you have a hectic timetable, being creative is the key! Try squeezing the learning in unexpected breaks – perhaps during your commute or while standing in line at a grocery store.
You could even replace part of your daily social media scrolling time with learning the new language. You’ll be surprised how much you have accomplished by simply being creative and dedicating a few minutes here and there to learning a foreign language on your own.
Step 5. Review and revise past lessons
The idea of learning a new language or doing something for the first time can be both appealing and exciting.
Unfortunately, the same isn’t always true when it comes to reviewing and revising, which tends to feel more like a chore. However, if you want to learn a foreign language by yourself and ace it, then instead of memorizing a few fancy words, it’s important to review the past lessons daily and revise what you have learned earlier before moving on to learning something new.
This helps to build on your progress and, in the long run, it polishes your language skills, and keeps you from getting rusty with what you have already learned.
Step 6. Practice, practice, and practice a little more
The key to succeeding at learning any new language is capitalizing on the art of repetition and then applying what you have learned in a new context. Doing so helps develop a connection between what you have already learned and the new words you will learn.
While using different apps is a great way of improving your language skills, if you genuinely want to know how to learn a foreign language on your own and master it to fluency and perfection, then practicing it with others as part of your daily conversations is the key to success.
These live interactive sessions with colleagues or friends – or even your neighbors – in a new country will allow you to get ahead of the language and see the words, dialect, and grammar in a new light.
Step 7. Give it time
Now that you have understood the basics of how to learn a foreign language on your own, the next step is to sit down with yourself and devise a plan of action. Make sure you stick to a plan that is practical and suits your lifestyle and routine. Once you have a routine and timetable, things become a lot easier and you can focus on learning.
It is essential to remember that the language you are trying to master is entirely new for you and learning it will take time. There will be days when you fall off your schedule or you make mistakes.
When that happens, try and remind yourself that just learning a foreign language is, in itself, a huge win, and making mistakes is merely a part of the learning process.
Instead of worrying about and dwelling on your mistakes, celebrate the milestones you have set and accomplished, no matter how small they might be, and keep reminding yourself that consistently revising the old and practicing the new in the language is the key to success.
It can be overwhelming and demanding, but remember that all worthwhile endeavours involve some pain.
I’m an educator and writer living abroad. I love languages, experiencing different cultures and going on adventures with my family.