I’m not here to recommend you a course. My purpose is to provide some insight into foreign language learning. This will be a tremendous help for anybody who needs a clear and satisfying answer to the question: “What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?”

It is indisputable that there’s a lot of online counseling that could mislead you. The Internet is full of hyped offers: purchase this latest novelty 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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Most of us know that things don’t work that way. Learning takes time and commitment. Besides, there are no shortcuts.

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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 a foreign language. In other occasions, it’s years trying to learn and not being able to see much significant progress.

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The question about the “easiest way” is rather difficult to answer. But the main point underlying this question is to find a way to learn a foreign language in which you could start making the progress you have sought after for so long and this progress itself will motivate you in such a way that your learning would continue without declining. So what you have been looking for is an approach which will satisfy your expectations of attaining desired skill levels and achieving improvements in the target language. All this done in a way that 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 very beginning. It is necessary for you to identify your goals. It is also very important to know how you will use this language.

In this post we’ll focus on the needs of learners that want to master a language with communicative purposes in mind. These learners want to be able to understand and talk in the target language. If that’s your case, you need to continue reading. Please do so!

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

The previous ways in which you’ve tried to learn your target 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… “What’s wrong with that?” I’ll be back next week!” “Isn’t it supposed to be that way?” And next week, the cycle begins again. Definitely, that’s not the way to learn a foreign language! Let’s predict what will happen. Two years later that person will state he sees very little progress despite all his 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 two key points here. Did you recognize them?

Exposure and Good Content!

Not everything 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 this 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 advanced, 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, during the first days, you’ll still hear sounds mainly. But because it’s repetitive, after time you’ll be able to recognize those sounds.

When you choose complex content in the language which 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 make 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 suggestions. Here is a short list:

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

2. Listen to audio content as podcasts and audiobooks in the new language. I’ll never overemphasize how important it is to listen to others talking the language you want to learn.

3. Read books for children and learn through other types of materials created for kids in the target language. Children’s material is simple and in most cases it can even be fun!

4. Watch subtitled TED, also watch TEDx talks about topics that are interesting to 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 a foreign friend who only speaks the target language were right beside you.

Wrapping up

Once you have a real insight into this approach, you’ll discover that learning a new language is something of everyday life. You will even come up with your own ideas; self-assignments that can be inserted into your routine which will add exposure to the language you’re learning.

And above all, having fun learning the language by incorporating it into activities you enjoy. It will not only make you stop considering dropping out, it will make you feel excited to share with others your great discovery: “The easiest way to learn a foreign language”!

The principles which have been stated in this post are valid for learning any language. By now, you have realized how important it is to have the language you’re learning surrounding you every day. Please click here to read a post with good and practical advice on how to accomplish this.

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38 Comments

coralie · March 26, 2020 at 3:31 AM

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.

    Jonathan Henry · March 26, 2020 at 2:49 PM

    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.

Geri · March 26, 2020 at 3:35 AM

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!

    Jonathan Henry · March 26, 2020 at 2:56 PM

    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.

Aly · March 26, 2020 at 3:35 AM

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?

    Jonathan Henry · March 26, 2020 at 3:07 PM

    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!

GarryJam · March 26, 2020 at 5:54 AM

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.

    Jonathan Henry · March 26, 2020 at 3:25 PM

    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.

Smoochi · March 27, 2020 at 12:29 AM

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.

    Jonathan Henry · March 27, 2020 at 11:55 PM

    Thank you very much for your comment.

Ella · April 16, 2020 at 2:01 AM

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. 

    Jonathan Henry · April 16, 2020 at 2:36 AM

    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!

Riley · April 16, 2020 at 2:01 AM

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.

    Jonathan Henry · April 16, 2020 at 2:29 AM

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

Rashaad · April 16, 2020 at 2:01 AM

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.

    Jonathan Henry · April 16, 2020 at 2:23 AM

    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!

evans · April 16, 2020 at 2:08 AM

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!

    Jonathan Henry · April 16, 2020 at 2:49 AM

    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.

Bathwag · April 16, 2020 at 2:42 AM

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!

    Jonathan Henry · April 16, 2020 at 3:18 AM

    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.

Patricia Bracy · July 3, 2020 at 9:24 PM

I thought I knew Spanish until I traveled to Spain and natives started talking to me. You go through that moment in which you realize that learning a language is a journey and that there is no finish line. And if you’re not comfortable learning, you’ll quickly get discouraged.

I liked the way you approached this topic. Thanks for this rich input.

    Jonathan Henry · July 3, 2020 at 9:33 PM

    Hi Patricia, I completely agree with you that learning a language is a journey. You must enjoy it. That makes the difference, in most cases between somebody that commits to learning a foreign language and somebody that gives up.

Lucie · July 3, 2020 at 9:31 PM

Fantastic article, as if written for me! I admit I am one of those who tried but gave up. Many years ago I used to attend an Italian class once a week. I did so because I had an Italian boyfriend and was very motivated to speak his language. But the problem was that we always spoke English only, and when his friends came over, it was too advanced for me – exactly as you say. I should have labeled the whole house with words! And all the other great tips you’ve suggested. Maybe also watch an Italian movie with English subtitles or an English movie with Italian subtitles. And listen to Italian songs and translate the lyrics. Thanks for your great, motivating post!

    Jonathan Henry · July 3, 2020 at 9:38 PM

    Hi Lucie, I’m glad you found these suggestions useful.

    Yes, building up considering your level in the language is very important. It takes time but it’s effective.

freefromtheboss · July 5, 2020 at 10:51 PM

Hi,

I want to use these day I have been staying at home to learn a new language. I have been searching for resources but up to this point I haven’t found anything appealing.

But you have given me several ideas. The most exciting one is to use audiobooks in the target language and at the same time learn things about topics I already enjoy.

    Jonathan Henry · July 6, 2020 at 7:48 PM

    Hi, yeah, that is a good way to get exposed to the language you’re learning. But you must be careful to choose audiobooks that have content that matches the level you’re in the language right now.

osei kwame · July 6, 2020 at 3:51 AM

There are several things I like about this article. First of all, it has encouraged me. It has also given me several tips I had never considered before. And last, it has made me understand the correct mindset one should have when starting to learn a language. Thank you for this helpful post!

    Jonathan Henry · July 6, 2020 at 7:53 PM

    Hi Osei,

    I’m glad you found this post helpful. Stay tuned for more useful content on this site.

Jamie · July 6, 2020 at 1:38 PM

I appreciate the insights. When we’re learning a new language there are several mistakes one commits. But usually we don’t have counseling around us to help us know better.

I like that your site deals with these issues and gives us practical recommendations. Thank you for this. You’ve gained a follower.

    Jonathan Henry · July 6, 2020 at 7:57 PM

    Hey there Jamie,

    Thank you for following our site. We hope to continue delivering useful content every month.

Vincent · July 6, 2020 at 3:41 PM

I really enjoyed your introductory paragraphs and thank you for the concept of “inviting the foreign language into our daily lives.” 

I love your 5 points on exposure especially living and talking as if you live with someone who is a native speaker. Reading children’s books also seems a good advice because they have simple content and they take us back to how we learnt our first language.  Thank you for these tips. I always wanted to learn to speak and understand Spanish. Using my long commute to and from work is also another doable suggestion.

    Jonathan Henry · July 6, 2020 at 8:09 PM

    Hey Vincent, I’m glad you found these tips useful. Start implementing them and you’ll see results. All the best learning you new language.

Dana · July 8, 2020 at 11:18 PM

Great post… love the images!

The tips you described in learning a foreign language are spot on… you need to use it daily for continual exposure not just during class time. I love the idea of labeling things and using kids’ books.

My 5 year old son is interested in learning Japanese thanks to a YouTube video he came across… He learned more Japanese watching kids speak than I could ever teach or learn. Every opportunity he gets, he uses the Japanese words he learned (please, thank you, excuse me, good morning, yes/no) instead of the English equivalent. So proud of him! I honestly think kids learn a foreign language better than adults.

    Jonathan Henry · July 8, 2020 at 11:25 PM

    Hi Dana,

    I’m happy to hear that about your kid. He truly seems to be motivated. And that’s applicable for anybody that wants to learn a language: must try to get exposed to it and use it as much as possible.

abdul · July 10, 2020 at 4:19 PM

This has been very helpful to read through! I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, especially Italian and French. I must say thank you Assassin’s Creed for that. I have recently discovered that what Ezio Auditore da Firenze says is “Requiescat de Pace…”

I have tried learning a few words here and there, through some app. But it never progressed further than just a few words as they were random and (not at all surprisingly) I never used them on a daily basis. I can say I never got serious about learning Italian.

But I have clicked with this you’re explaining here. I’d like to begin exploring a way that syncs with my interests.

    Jonathan Henry · July 11, 2020 at 1:36 AM

    Hey Abdul,

    It’s good you’ve wanted to learn Italian and French for some time now. Finding things that are interesting to you is key. I’m glad this post helped you realize that. All the best on your journey.

rjkennedy · July 19, 2020 at 5:28 AM

I think that it’s a cool thing if everyone could learn a foreign language. Now that I really think about it, maybe the world would be in better shape learning about the different cultures and understanding their language. It would be good, not only for those big international travelers, but for all of us too.

I like traveling to Thailand and the Dominican Republic. I enjoy meting great people when I travel. Up till this point, I have always been “too busy” to pursue this challenge of learning their languages. But how much more enriching would my experience be if I was capable of connection through their native language with these people.

Thank you for encouraging me to learn a second language. If it’s not now (during this pandemic) it will never be.

    Jonathan Henry · July 21, 2020 at 1:09 AM

    Hi,

    I am glad this post has encouraged you to learn a second language. Yes, please do.

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