The easiest ways to learn the basics of a new language

Do you want to navigate the streets of Madrid with the ability to ask for directions in Spanish? How about being able to bond over a beer in perfect German with a local? Perhaps you want to impress your friends by ordering a petit croissant with a flawless French accent?

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn a new language, it can be a rewarding and fun experience. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Act like a child
When learning a new language for the first time, it’s easy to imagine yourself as a child learning to talk. Children don’t understand the basics of grammar, and they certainly don’t use perfect tenses first time around. 

When learning a new language, it’s important to try and forget what you already know about English. That knowledge won’t come in useful here as every language has its own grammatical structure that is often different from your own. 

Act like a child and start from the beginning with the basics. And, like when talking to a child, speakers of other languages won’t get upset or angry if you make mistakes: they’ll be pleased that you are making an effort!

Do your homework regularly
Studies show that learning a new language for ten minutes every day is more effective than going to a class once a week. This does not mean that your language class isn’t valuable, it simply means that you have to do your homework and put in the extra work.

Language learning online
There are a number of apps available for you to use when studying. Duolingo is a fun, free app that treats language learning like a game. You can set up reminders every day at a certain time, and you can even set how many minutes a day you’d like to practice.

If you want lessons over the internet where you talk one-on-one with a native speaker, try italki. Lessons there start from around US$10-20 (around £7-15) per hour.

You can also use Google Translate, a free website which also has a free mobile app, to translate phrases and hear them spoken by a computer voice. It’s not perfect, but it can help to get you started or help you if you are struggling.

Keep it fun!
Staying motivated to learn a language is difficult when you’re not excited about it. Learning a new skill doesn’t always have to mean textbooks and memorising vocab words all the time. One way to stay engaged is to keep it fun. Watch foreign films and TV programmes with English subtitles; you’ll be amazed at how many are available on streaming services such as Netflix. 

Buy foreign magazines at your local airport and see how many words you recognise. If you love cooking, you could attempt following a recipe in another language by searching for one online. Why not start listening to music in the language you’re learning? There are so many creative ways you could incorporate your new language into your everyday life, ready for your trip to your chosen country.

Never give up!
Sometimes learning a language can become overwhelming. If you find the process boring, change your methods and make it fun again. If you find it too difficult, give yourself a break and go back to the basics. 

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, remember why you embarked on this journey to begin with. The important thing to remember when learning a new language is never to give up. You’ll get there eventually if you stick with it, and once you do, an entirely new world of conversation will be open to you.