Learning a New Language: Table of Contents
Not many things are as beneficial to your brain as learning a new language (also referred to as second language acquisition). Not only does it expand your cultural and cognitive horizons, but learning a language also protects against degenerative neurological conditions.
And despite what you may have heard, anyone at any age can start learning a new language.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started on your language learning journey, from the principles and benefits to tips and tricks.
Let’s get started!
Why Should You Learn a New Language?
If you’re on the fence about whether second language learning is for you, the following list might convince you to start as soon as you’re done with this blog post.
A few of the benefits of learning a new language include:
1. Enhanced Cognitive Abilities
Think of language learning as a workout for your brain. Studies show it helps form new connections between neurons and strengthens nervous system links. This process is known as neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize and adapt.
Plus, if you are keen to learn a new language, you have no choice but to study and practice. That’s why this complex mental activity protects the brain from degenerative neurological conditions.
Learning a new language can:
- Boost academic performance
- Strengthen concentration and memory
- Improve communication skills by enhancing the ability to empathize and broadening your perspective
- Unlock creativity
2. Personal Growth and Improved Self-Confidence
The truth is that learning a new language is a challenging task. However, as you tackle the obstacles and reach your goals, you develop resilience and a sense of achievement. This instills a growth mindset, where you become more comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone and taking on new challenges in other areas of your life.
3. Easier Traveling
When you visit a foreign country, knowing the local language makes the travel process significantly easier. Why? It allows you to communicate directly with the locals to ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, and more, but it also enables you to engage in everyday conversations. Communicating fluently and effectively in the local language makes your travel experience seamless and helps you navigate the destination with fewer worries.
4. More Opportunities for Social Connections
Learning a new language instantly increases your opportunity to form more social connections, whether romantic or platonic. The main reason for this is obvious—you simply have more people to talk to!
The other reason learning a new language helps you cultivate more social relationships goes back to personal growth and self-confidence. The more you learn a language, the more confidence you’ll have in reaching out to other people, going to more events and gatherings, and traveling to places you’ve never been before.
Fun Fact: Learning a Second Language May Make You More Attractive
According to a Reader’s Digest article, a study by EliteSingles and Babbel revealed that for many single people around the world, intelligence is more important than appearance.
Six thousand individuals from 11 countries were surveyed, and the results showed that 93% would “prefer dating someone who can speak another language over a six-pack.” Additionally, “75% of those surveyed said they found it attractive when someone speaks more than one language.”
5. More Employment Opportunities
Knowing a second language can help advance your career and financial options in many ways. The fact of the matter is that many job postings specifically require candidates who are fluent in a particular language (or multiple languages). This is because, in an increasingly interconnected world, companies are expanding their operations globally. Learning a new language gives you a competitive advantage that makes you eligible to apply for these roles and become an asset to a company.
6. Broadening of Your Perspective
Language and culture are intertwined. Because of this, learning a second language allows you to develop a more profound understanding of and appreciation for different cultures, customs, and traditions.
Different languages can have distinct expressions and idioms that convey unique cultural perspectives and values. In turn, learning a new language makes it easier to have multiple worldviews.
How To Learn a New Language
The truth is that learning a new language is a challenging and time-consuming task. It takes dedication and perseverance. But nothing worth having comes easy, and the bountiful list of benefits listed above should make it clear why you should take on the challenge.
To learn a new language, you should:
1. Set a clearly defined goal
You have to know exactly what you’re working towards. Is it to be able to pronounce and understand 100 new words by the end of the month? Perhaps you want to order at a restaurant in your target language. Or maybe you would like to speak fluently within the year so that you’re ready for your big trip overseas.
Whatever it is, make sure it’s clearly defined. If the goal is large, you should set smaller milestones to achieve that will ultimately help you reach the finish line.
2. Make a schedule and write it down
Once you have your goal in mind, plan, set a schedule, and stick to it. Be realistic—don’t plan to study six hours a day, especially if you have school, work, or other important matters to attend to. Your plan should be optimized to fit your schedule.
3. Familiarize yourself with the key elements of learning a new language
Studies suggest that there are three key elements at play when acquiring a second language.
Comprehensible Input: Comprehensible input is a concept that states that learners acquire a second language when they are exposed to words and phrases that are slightly beyond their current level. Input refer to things that you can listen to (like podcasts, music, television, conversations, etc.) and read (like books, articles, and any other type of text).
Comprehensible Output: Comprehensible output refers to language learners actively striving to produce meaningful expressions in their target language, whether through speaking or writing. They notice a gap or make an error, and then try again until they are correct and understandable to others.
Review or Feedback: Reviewing previously learned material and accepting feedback from others provides second language learners with opportunities to consolidate what they have learned, identify areas that require improvement, and make adjustments.
4. Use language learning apps or programs, or hire a tutor
Now that you know what comprehensible input and output are, as well as review or feedback, what should you do with that information? Apply it!
Many language learning apps and programs use teaching techniques that involve the three key elements listed above. Although some apps and programs may cost money, free alternatives are also available.
If you can, hiring a tutor is another effective way to learn a second language. Doing so will also expose you to the key elements of language learning.
Tips for Learning a New Language
There are a few tips and tricks you can use to make the language learning process easier.
Keep the motivation for learning a new language in mind: What’s your motivation for learning a new language? Write it down and place it somewhere where you can see it every day.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: Making mistakes is a vital part of learning a second language. Errors are okay, and even helpful, so long as you correct them.
Watch TV shows and movies in your target language: This is an easy and effective way to immerse yourself in the target language. Watch something that is at your level, and don’t solely rely on the subtitles.
Read stories in your target language: Reading in your target language is another productive tip that can help you acquire a second language. You can start with children’s books and then work your way up to short stories and then novels.
Connect with native speakers: Practicing is of the utmost importance when it comes to learning to speak fluently in a second language. That’s why it’s a good idea to connect with native speakers. There are a few websites that can organize this, but you can also browse Facebook groups for free alternatives.
Travel to where the language is spoken (if possible): Immersion is key when learning a second language! If you can travel to where the language is spoken, do so! Of course, it’s best to save this tip for when you can have at least short, simple conversations.
Use LanguageTool as your writing assistant: LanguageTool is an advanced writing assistant that supports more than thirty languages. This means you can practice writing in your target language, and LanguageTool will detect errors and show you how to correct them (hello review and feedback).
Additionally, if you’re learning English, German, Spanish, or any of the other premium languages it supports, you’ll be able to paraphrase sentences to be more fluent, formal, simple, or concise.
LanguageTool is the ultimate accessory that can help you when it comes to learning to write in your target language. The best part about it? It’s free to use!
Reader’s Digest. “75 Percent of People Think This One Trait Makes You More Attractive,” March 26, 2019. https://www.rd.com/article/this-one-trait-makes-you-more-attractive/
Spence, Carley. “How Learning a New Language Changes Your Brain | Cambridge English.” World of Better Learning | Cambridge University Press, April 29, 2022. https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2022/04/29/learning-language-changes-your-brain/
Learning Center. “Learning Languages; Learning Center,” n.d. https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/learning-a-second-language/