Long ago, in a land far, far away that was college, I briefly majored in both English and French. I had taken four years of French in high school and was ready to become absolutely fluent in it. I’ve heard that once you begin dreaming in another language, you’ve all but mastered it. For just a short period, I was dreaming in French, and sometimes even responding in it without thinking first. So, I looked into studying abroad for a semester, knowing that submersion was the ultimate test and would certainly improve my accent.
Alas, plans changed (as they do in college) and I decided to stick with one Major, satisfied all of my Minor requirements with French and moved on in life. Yet, I often long for fulfilling that desire to fully engage in another language. I look at my children and think how easy it would be for them to pick up a second language if only I incorporated it into their routines. This is why I have been researching the best ways to learn (or re-learn) a new language lately and thought I would share the results.
Naturally, the BEST way to learn a new language is to submerge yourself within that culture. There are a variety of ways go about this, including:
- Moving - Does that sound crazy? Perhaps, but considering that both my husband and I work from home, it’s not really out of the question. Read here about how one family did it for a little over two years.
- Mission - Mission work often provides opportunity to immerse completely within a new culture for extended periods of time. Even if the trips are short, there is usually the ability to return again.
- Teach - While I personally have ruled this out for now, I know several people that have taught English in another country for as little as six months and as long as five years.
- Online – Truly one of the most amazing parts of technology is the ability to learn or do anything from the comfort of home. With resources like Rosetta Stone and Live Mocha, I can read about the culture, hear the correct pronunciation of words, and even have conversations to further my learning. *BONUS – Try Verbling for free classes uploaded by native speakers. It’s not comprehensive but can be a great place to kickstart your program.
- Apps - There are also wonderful apps out there so I don’t even have to sit at home to continue practicing. Anki, Babbel, Duolingo, and Keewords are all easy to use.
- Skype - So, you have to actually know someone who speaks the language first, but Skype still provides a great way to practice conversation skills.
- Class - I tend to do well in school settings so traditional classes still appeal to me. In my area, I have found classes at the local community college, rec center and language institute.
- Groups - Connect with people via Facebook or Twitter and start your own group. Or search Meetup or other community building forums for a group of fellow language learners.
- Trade - This may be my favorite approach for my family. A friend of mine got in touch with a family hosting a foreign exchange student and offered to tutor him in English if he would come converse with the family once a week in Spanish. These “sessions” have also turned into dinner as they take turns cooking as well, expanding their topics into culture and traditions.
There is simply no good reason for me to put it off any longer! After looking at the best ways to learn a new language, I realize that with just a little effort I can fulfill a very old, cobwebbed dream of mine and become fluent in French again. I can also help my kids pick up a second language, which will carry them further than they realize.