Best Way to Learn a Language – 8 Expert Tips

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Written By Francesca Stephens

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

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

Although learning a new language can be very challenging, it’s definitely rewarding.

Building language skills doesn’t happen overnight. Especially if you want to become a fluent speaker.

But with reliable learning sources and regular (and smart) practice, you might get there sooner than you think.

So, there’s no secret formula. Linguists and scientists are still trying to determine the best way to learn a language.

However, there are some important tips and tricks that work for every learner.

Without a doubt, these guidelines will make your learning process a whole lot easier.

8 Best Ways to Learn a Language

1. Immerse yourself in a language

Immersion is arguably the most effective way to learn a language.

You should surround yourself with the language and listen to it, as much as you can.

Immersion-based learning is indeed the most natural way to pick up new words, phrases, and expressions. But that’s also a great way to learn functional grammar.

Of course, it would be ideal to be in the country where the language is spoken.

Language immersion programs are incredibly effective – they teach languages entirely in the native language of your host country.

But if you can’t travel at the moment, don’t worry. There are other ways to immerse yourself in a language you’re learning.

For example, the best language learning apps are focused on immersion. They will allow you to listen to native speakers and use the target language as much as possible.

Besides using an immersive language app, you should surround yourself with the language in other ways. 

Best way to learn a language

Listen to music and pay attention to the lyrics.

Listen to podcasts or online radio stations.

Watch foreign movies and TV shows. And when you feel ready, watch them without subtitles.

If you’re a beginner, you can read illustrated children’s books.

And try to speak the language in different situations, even if it’s not necessary. For instance, if you’re making dinner, you can try to name each ingredient. If you don’t know the word, that would be a nice chance to look it up and learn something new.

2. Learn through context

Another element you need to consider is context.

If you’re wondering how to learn a new language, contextual learning is definitely part of the answer.

If you’re using an app to learn a language, you should make sure that it’s based on natural dialogues and real-world situations. The app should feature examples of language used in real life and audio lessons voiced by native speakers.

Some language apps also use stories.

And if you’re taking live or virtual language classes, talking to your teacher will help you understand how the language works.

If you learn individual words rather than sentences and lexical chunks, you might expand your vocabulary but you won’t improve your conversational skills. And then when you have to actually use the language, you will probably feel confused (or talk like a robot.)

Contextual learning will allow you to apply your knowledge and express yourself with precision.

It will also improve your ability to guess the meaning from the context. And that’s really important, especially when you’re just starting out.

How to learn a language

That way, you’ll also get valuable cultural insights. And learning about culture, people, and customs is an important part of acquiring language skills.

Plus, you won’t have to go through dry translations, word lists, and grammar rules – but you’ll learn them anyway!

So, whether you’re traveling around or you’re taking app-based lessons, learning a foreign language through context will make your learning process easier as well as more interesting.

3. Use a language-learning app

Another thing that can help you learn in a faster and more effective way is a reliable online language learning program.

A language app can be a great learning tool, but you can also use it as your primary learning source (if it’s thorough and well-structured.)

Nevertheless, the best apps to learn a language use cutting-edge technology, speech recognition software, and modern online study tools.

They are designed to make your learning process smooth and fun.

Some of them use gamified features to keep you motivated, and others offer detailed, linear lessons created to take your skills to the next level step-by-step.

Language learning apps

Apps are also a more affordable way to improve language skills than some other options.

And they can offer you a chance to learn a rarely taught language. And that’s a huge advantage, especially if your living area doesn’t have language classes.

With a language application, you can take classes anytime, anywhere. If the app has a hands-free mode, you can even learn while you’re commuting or walking your dog. It’s all very practical and convenient.

However, if you decide to use an app to learn a new language, you probably won’t become fluent. Many apps are great for beginners but they don’t offer advanced content. Unless you opt for an app that offers virtual one-on-one lessons.

But if you combine different apps and online courses, or use them as a supplemental learning source, you can undoubtedly enhance your comprehension and communication skills.

Apps and online language courses are also great for goal-oriented learners.

For example, if you want to focus on practical vocabulary useful for traveling, there’s an app for that.

If you want to learn other writing systems, there’s an app for that.

With so many great options on the market, learning a new language by yourself has never been easier, and you should take advantage of that.

4. Don’t skip grammar – but do it differently

Many apps and online courses avoid in-depth grammar lessons. Their creators don’t believe it’s necessary to study strict grammar rules in order to understand and speak a language.

And they might be true to some extent.

However, grammar is the foundation of every language. It’s a system of rules that allow us to structure sentences.

But people are often afraid of it or they find it dreadfully boring.

Well, it’s true that learning grammar can be challenging. Especially if you think about it that way.

But learning grammar doesn’t have to involve memorizing a bunch of rules from a textbook.

Learning grammar

Grammar can be taught through examples, stories, and, once again, context!

Games are also a great method of communicative grammar practice.

In other words, you should see grammar in action. You shouldn’t only learn grammar rules but rather see them in usage.

And you should study grammar in a relaxed environment. There’s no room for stress and frustrations.

What we’re trying to say is that grammar matters. And a different approach to learning grammar matters even more.

Learning grammar is not a prerequisite but it will help you increase accuracy and learn the language a little faster. You can see it as a shortcut or a formula for building sentences and expressing yourself.

And saying that grammar is a shortcut is probably a bit paradoxical since learning grammar takes time. And we won’t lie to you – it does take time, even if you use innovative learning methods.

But once you start learning it, you’ll realize it’s not that complicated. Things will start to make sense. And it will definitely be worthwhile in the end.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to travel and you simply want to learn practical vocabulary to get around the city, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy mastering grammar.

But if you want to become fluent, you shouldn’t avoid it.

It’s almost like musicians and notes; you can play an instrument without learning notes. But you can’t expect to become a pro if you don’t know how to read sheet music.

5. Try to have a good accent, not a perfect one  

Another important element of learning a language is pronunciation.

And that can be a tricky one, especially if the language you’re studying is completely different from your native language.

So, if you’re taking app-based lessons or online language classes, you need to make sure that your learning program includes pronunciation practice.

And listening to native speakers (or teachers) is arguably the best way to master a foreign accent.

Best ways to learn a language

However, having a perfect accent isn’t so important. Okay, it’s important in some cases. For example, if you’re learning English, you should know the difference between sheep and ship. And you should probably know how to pronounce beaches.

But when it comes to general pronunciation, it’s important that people understand you.

Many language apps promise to teach you how to have a near-native accent. But you can do without a near-native accent just fine – if you want to.

After all, it doesn’t matter if someone can hear your foreign accent as long as they can understand what you’re trying to say.

So, don’t worry about not having a perfect pronunciation. After all, having a literally perfect pronunciation is very hard. So, focus your energy on more important elements.

6. Study smart

When it comes to the best ways to learn a language, it’s important to know that you need to find the way to learn a language that works best for you.

Although the guidelines we mentioned today are relevant for everyone, you need to pay attention to your learning habits as well.

For example, are you a visual learner or do you prefer studying by listening?

You should find an app or a language course that suits your learning style. That’s how you’ll be more productive.

If you like immersive programs, you can try a language program based on stories. If you’re fond of innovative apps, why not try to learn a virtual reality language program?

There are so many amazing options on the Internet.

Learning languages online

Also, it’s important to learn how to learn.

You should know how to learn faster and more efficiently while retaining information for longer – in other words, study smart.

And that’s useful for acquiring any skill.

If you have a tight schedule or you want to master the basics as quickly as possible, it’s crucial to make the most of your lessons.

But that will also help you learn the language in a proper way. If you build a solid foundation, everything will be easier later on.

And you might eventually become a fluent speaker.

7. Practice, practice, practice…

If you’re still wondering what is the best method to learn a new language, we have a suggestion: practice.

When it comes to learning a foreign language, you need to use it. Well, that’s why you’re learning that language in the first place, right?

So, even if you’re a beginner, you need to use the language as much as you can.

If you’re having a chance to talk to a native speaker, do it. If you’re traveling, start the conversation with the locals. That’s how you’ll learn the slang and also work on your conversational skills.

Learning languages and traveling

And don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

If you’re just starting out, it’s normal to make mistakes. Don’t let that discourage you. It might be intimidating to talk to a native person, and you might be afraid to embarrass yourself, but if you don’t try it, you won’t be able to overcome those fears.

And if you’re having a friend who speaks the language you’re studying, tell them to correct you or give you suggestions.

But the practice also entails your self-study sessions.

Try to establish a study routine. If you find that difficult or you still lack self-discipline, you can try it with a language app first.

Language apps can add structure to your learning process. They can provide you with bite-sized daily lessons, remind you when you need to study, and keep you motivated.

It’s normal to feel discouraged from time to time. Sometimes you might feel like you’re not moving forward or that things are too hard. But maybe you’ve set unrealistic goals for yourself.

For example, some language programs and apps promise to take you to an intermediate level in a couple of weeks. But acquiring a new language is usually a slow process.

Although you’ll probably learn how to have a basic conversation in less than a month, you shouldn’t feel frustrated if it’s not what you’ve expected it to be.

Therefore, it would be better to set small goals.

Best way to learn a new language

Also, try not to rush. It’s better to take short lessons every day. Unless there’s a reason why you want to learn the language as soon as possible.

Many language apps and classes are based on bite-sized lessons. This will also give you the opportunity to memorize and internalize what you’ve learned.

Speaking of memorizing new words, the best language learning apps use spaced repetition. It’s a popular learning technique based on reviewing and recalling information at specific time intervals. It’s usually performed with flashcards.

As you can see, there are many ways to practice the language efficiently. You just need to find a method that works for you and keep at it.

8. And make it interesting!

When it comes to staying on track and practicing regularly, it’s easier said than done.

But there’s one thing you can do to make sure you don’t give up – make your learning process interesting and fun.

You can combine different learning apps or study tools. Try playing games, solving quizzes, and doing interactive exercises.

You can even find a conversational buddy. Whether you find your language partner online or in real life, that can only bring you benefits.

Learning languages

There are also online forums and conversations you can join. You can share your doubts and problems, and you’ll soon realize you’re not alone.

You can also read in the language you’re learning, watch movies, and so on. As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s all about immersion. And immersion can be fun.

Also, you can learn a new language with a friend. You can study together and keep motivating each other. Or play competitive games if that’s your thing.

Either way, learning languages doesn’t have to be just sitting down with your textbook or smartphone and studying. Try new methods and tools and connect with other learners and native speakers.

Self-discipline and hard work are important in acquiring new skills. But all of that will have better results if you add fun to the mix.

Final Thoughts

Well, one thing is for sure: learning languages can and should be a fun and enjoyable experience.

If you find a good learning resource and develop learning habits, you will undoubtedly achieve your goals.

You should also make simple, short-term goals, and opt for engaging and effective lessons.

And you should surround yourself with the language. Consume foreign-language media, watch movies without subtitles, listen to music…

Finally, talk with native speakers! That will help you build confidence and enhance your communication skills.

And if you’re on a trip, meeting the locals will also remind you how amazing it feels to speak a foreign language.