1. Know your motivation
This might sound obvious, but if you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run. Wanting to impress English-speakers with your French is not a very good reason — wanting to get to know a French person in their own language is another matter entirely. No matter your reason, once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.
2. Find a partner
If you can’t get a sibling to join you on your language adventure, finding some kind of partner will push both of you to always try just a little bit harder and stay with it.
Being with someone as a language partner may help you to stay on the track.
3. Talk to yourself
When you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself in a foreign language.
If you don’t know how to go about learning a new language, this can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind. It also helps build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.
4. Keep it relevant
If you make conversation a goal from the beginning, you’re less likely to get lost in textbooks. Talking to people is one of the best ways to learn a language, because it keeps the learning process relevant to you.
5. Have fun with it
Using your new language in any way is a creative act. Think of some fun ways to practice your new language: make a radio play with a friend, draw a comic strip, write a poem or simply talk to whomever you can. If you can’t find a way to have fun with the new language, chances are you aren’t following step four!
6. Act like a child
Try learning the way kids do. The idea that children are inherently better learners than adults is proving to be a myth. New research cannot find a direct link between age and the ability to learn. The key to learning as quickly as a child may be to simply take on certain childlike attitudes. For instance, lack of self-consciousness, a desire to play in the language and willingness to make mistakes.
We learn by making mistakes. As kids, we are expected to make mistakes, but as adults, mistakes become taboo. When it comes to learning a language, admitting that you don’t know everything (and being okay with that) is the key to growth and freedom. Let go of your grown-up inhibitions!
7. Leave your comfort zone
Willingness to make mistakes means being ready to put yourself in potentially embarrassing situations. This can be scary, but it’s the only way to develop and improve. No matter how much you learn, you won’t ever speak a language without putting yourself out there: talk to strangers in the language, ask for directions, order food, try to tell a joke. The more often you do this, the bigger your comfort zone becomes and the more at ease you can be in new situations.
You must learn to listen before you can speak. Every language sounds strange the first time you hear it, but the more you expose yourself to it the more familiar it becomes, and the easier it is to speak it properly.
9. Watch others talk
Different languages make different demands on your tongue, lips and throat. Pronunciation is just as much physical as it is mental.
If you can’t watch and imitate a native-speaker in person, watching foreign-language films and TV is a good substitute.
10. Dive in
So you’ve made the pledge. How to proceed? Is there a proper way to go about learning? No matter which learning tools you use, it’s crucial to practice your new language every single day and immerse yourself:
Remember, the best possible outcome of speaking a language is for people to speak back to you. Being able to have a simple conversation is a huge reward in itself. Reaching milestones like that early on will make it easier to stay motivated and keep practicing. And don’t worry, you won’t annoy people by speaking their language poorly. If you preface any interaction with, “I’m learning and I’d like to practice…” most people will be patient, encouraging and happy to oblige.