What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?

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I’m not here to recommend you a course. When you ask yourself this question: What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language? I believe many online could mislead you. The Internet is full of hyped offers: purchase this latest thing and you’ll obtain the results you’ve always wanted, sign-up to this platform and you’ll become fluent in no time.

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We all know that things don’t work that way. Learning takes time and commitment. And there are no short cuts.

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When you ask for “the easiest way”, I understand your point. I have been there. Sometimes it’s pressure to learn this language. In other occasions, it’s years trying to learn and not being able to see significant progress.

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We both know that the easiest way doesn’t exist. But what is underneath this question is trying to find a way in which you start to make progress and that progress excites you so much that you want to keep on learning. I perceive that what is beneath this enquiry is that you want to discover an approach in which learning feels natural.

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Why do I want to learn this language?

This is a basic question that must be addressed from the start. Identify which are your goals. How will you plan to use this language?

In this post we’ll focus on persons that want to learn a language with communication purposes in mind. People that want to be able to understand and talk in this new language. If that’s your case, please continue reading.

I have tried to learn this language but it’s too difficult!

The previous ways in which you’ve tried to learn this language haven’t worked because there has been a problem in the approach. So you really don’t need the easiest way. What you need is the most effective way! One that syncs in perfectly with you.

What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?

Playing house with the language. What does this mean? Let me explain. Invite that foreign language into your daily life. Welcome it at the door and let it into every room of your existence. Live and breathe that language you want to learn.

A mistake some students make

Some students with tremendous effort set apart two hours a week to learn a language, and that’s commendable. During those two hours they strive to learn as much as they can. And once those two hours have ended what happens? Yeah, you guessed it! They close the platform, put away their books, leave their notes at the studio and forget all about it… hold on, ‘til next week! Yeah, just until next week. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it supposed to be that way? And next week, the cycle begins again.

That’s not the way to learn a foreign language. That definitely is not the way! Let’s predict what will happen! Two years later that person will state he sees very little progress despite all the effort.

What should I do to learn a foreign language?

Use every opportunity to get exposed to the new language. As we stated above, the problem with many students is that they approach the process of learning a language the wrong way.

A person lays all day in the beach and inevitably will get sunburned. Somebody willfully gets exposed continually to good content to learn a language, and what will the results be? You guessed it!

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So we have just hit to key points here. Did you recognize them?

Exposure and Good Content!

Not anything in the new language is suitable to be used for you to learn. There are certain basic criteria and we would like to talk about it briefly.

What type of content would help me learn a new language?

We have basically considered two main points here. They are:

1. Content must be in harmony with your level of understanding in the new language. If you choose content that is way too advance, all you’ll hear is unrelated sounds. When you’re absorbing this new vocabulary, you need to make associations. And these associations are done when the words are simple and repeated frequently.

When you choose simple content in your target language, you’ll still hear mainly sounds the first days. But because it’s repetitive, after time you’ll be able to recognize those sounds.

When you choose complex content in the language you’re trying to learn, time will go by and you’ll continue without grasping much despite listening to it every day. Please don’t commit this mistake.

2. You must find the content interesting. There is nothing more boring than having to go through topics you don’t care about. It will be harder for you to pay attention. Besides when you enjoy the time you spend with the material you choose, you’ve already won half the battle.

What can I do to get exposed to a new language?

Here are just some ideas. You could pick up those that work for you and we also encourage you to come up with your own ideas. Here is a small list:

1. Take time to write down labels for every object of your house with the word written in the foreign language. This may seem simple but it’s effective.

2. Listen to audio content as podcasts and audio books in the new language. I’ll never emphasis too much how important it’s to listen to people talking the language you want to learn.

3. Read kids’ books and consume other types of content created for kids in that language. Children’s material is simple and in most cases it can even be fun!

4. Watch subtitled TED and TEDx talks about topics that are interesting for you. You should already have a general idea about the topic from your native language so your brain may be able to do the associations.

5. Live-narrate parts of your day as if you had beside you a foreign friend that only spoke that language.

Wrapping up

Once you’ve assimilated this approach, you’ll discover that learning a new language is something of everyday life. You will even come up with your own ideas. Things that can be inserted into your routine that will add exposure to the language you’re learning.

And above all, have fun learning the language incorporating it into activities you enjoy. It will not only make you desist from dropping out. It will make you excitedly share with others that you’ve discovered “the easiest way to learn a foreign language”!

These principles stated in this post are valid for learning any language. This site you are in right now, also gives specific recommendations for learning Italian. If the language you’re learning is Italian, then you need to take a look at this post too by clicking here.

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20 thoughts on “What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?”

  1. I just like many people have always wanted to learn a new language. For me though it was German. Family history and stuff.

    I think that you are right that many people fall short and give up because they didn’t take the right approach. I love your tips about putting post it on everything in your house. I also love the children’s book idea. Let’s be honest that is how we learned when we were young.  

    Very informative and helpful post.

    1. Hi Coralie. I wish you the best learning German. And these simple tips can really make a difference. Please keep us updated with your progress.

  2. Very useful pointers about learning a foreign language.

    The one that really resounded with me is to surround ourselves with audio in the language we want to learn. I enjoy listening and we can do it all day long (even while we’re doing other activities).

    I have bookmarked your site to keep on coming for more tips. Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Geri. I’m glad you liked this post and I agree with you. Listening to our new language is very effective. Please check this post that deals with this topic about listening to the language we want to learn by clicking here.

  3. Hmm, this is interesting. While I do think that there is validity that there needs to be a natural way to listen and practice a new language, it seems like there is also room for a course or a way to actively learn another language too. I’ve found that there are some audio courses that include ways to practice the language without “studying” and trying to memorize vocabulary and language rules. 

    Would you recommend any of these audio course?

    1. Hi Aly. Yes, these audio courses are useful, specially when you have more time commuting to work or doing other activities than being able to actually sit in front of a PC to do lessons.

      Please click here to check out this post. You’ll find it useful!

  4. Hi Jonathan, nice looking article, loved the pictures, and you have some good ideas.

    I taught English as a foreign language in Japan for 8 years, and English as a second language in Australia for 9 years.

    My learning of Japanese was rather slow because I didn’t have a teacher, and since I had to speak English all day when working I wasn’t that motivated. Basically got by using a dictionary and knowing simple grammar.

    Your right about using a variety of input, and your also correct in saying that the input needs to be at least a little understandable.

    One bizarre experience I had was watching a Chinese movie with Japanese subtitles, and I was keeping up, kind of.

    After 4 years of teaching in Japan, I was a gun at taking students from zero to sentences in a very quick time. Introductions, it is/they are, adjectives, this/that/over there with questions, etc. etc.

    Watching TED talks is a good idea. Movies with subtitles was another thing I found useful. It was difficult though with Japanese because the grammar structures are kind of the reverse of English.

    1. Hi Garry. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. All these years as a teacher and also learning Japanese give us insights to how important it’s to have variety when it comes to inputs. You’re right, films and videos with subtitles are also useful and I should write a post exclusively on them.

      Please continue visiting us. I greatly appreciate your comment and all readers here benefit from your experience.

  5. I would love to create a website like yours as the template used is really nice, simple and brings about clarity of the write ups, but then you wrote a brilliant article on the easiest way to learn a foreign language. i do not know if this method will work for me because it seems very difficult for me to learn another language.

  6. Learning a language requires effort. We must consistently expose ourselves and have our sense ready to absorb as much as we can each day.

    I started learning Italian a long time ago (about 7 years ago) and had very little progress because I treated it, as you said, as a subject that was only on my mind 2 hours every week. Once the class was ended, I closed my books and also closed my mind to Italian until the next week. 

    1. Hi! I’m glad you have realized that that approach is not effective. Yes, daily exposure and conscious effort to absorb the language are key. I see you’re on the right track!

  7. I know that in order to learn Italian fast I need to be surrounded by people that speak the language. It’s impossible for me to have real people talking the language but I can try to get audios and like you said, listening daily to them. Yeah, it will be of immense help. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. Hi! You’re welcome. The more you actively listen the more you’ll learn. All the best as you learn Italian.

  8. Hello! Thank you for sharing this post. With the Coronavirus pandemic going on, I have actually been trying to learn a new language to keep busy. You provide some really great insight on why many students fail to make any progress. Personally, I have been practicing a little bit each day and I have realized how important it’s to be exposed to the language.

    1. Hi! I’m glad to hear you have been using these days to learn a new language. Yeah, exposure is very important and you’re doing well by listening to this new language every day. Keep up the good work!

  9. Most people don’t really see the need to learn foreign languages until they come in need of it. I enjoy learning languages, and these days I’ve been staying at home have been a blessing in that sense.

    Listening is so important. You get suck into the language. You make it your environment. Learning becomes so natural when we’re constantly listening.

    I’ve found there are some audio courses that include ways to practice the language without “studying” and trying to memorize vocabulary nor language rules. Those are the ones I like most!

    1. It’s always good to view the positive aspect of things and I’m glad you have been progressing learning languages while you’re at home.

      I completely agree with you! Listening to the language is key! When it doesn’t feel like “studying” and instead if feels more like “having fun” it means you’ve found the right way of being exposed to that language.

  10. Hi,

    As you have stated at the end of this post, these tips are valid for learning any language. And I see you’re not pushing your readers to learn Italian. But by providing this article so well illustrated with the flag of Italy, you are indirectly suggesting we choose Italian. In my case, I had made the decision long before reading your post.

    The eyes of the world are on Italy because of Covid-19. It’s so sad to hear about the deaths each day. I would like to learn Italian to connect with those who suffer.

    I really liked your article especially its illustrations which really make you want to read on!

    Your advice from your own experience is relevant.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi! I commend you for identifying with our people in these difficult circumstances. And learning our language means a lot to us. 

      If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela.

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