Relocating to another country is daunting, but moving to a foreign country where the main language is not English ramps things up a notch – everyday tasks such as getting around and eating becomes slightly more difficult. Your enjoyment and experience of moving abroad are also limited to a foreigner or tourist’s perspective – which means you’ll miss out on a lot of the local gossip, delicious eats, and To make things easier, “do as the Romans do” and learn a new language!
At this point, as an expat, you scoff: “Easy enough for you to say, you’re not the one learning it”. According to Josh Kaufman, the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’ and ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything’, it only takes 20 hours for anyone to learn anything. See his video here:
So, now that you know it’s possible to learn a new language without having to devote some 5 years to it.
What does it take to learn a new language?
Before you start purchasing books and language apps, make sure you’re well prepared EMOTIONALLY AND MENTALLY first. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I prepared to do this?
As Josh Kaufman demonstrates, anyone can sit down and learn a new skill, but most of us eventually encounter barriers in the learning process, and without the right motivation, we’ll give up. Before you devote yourself to learning a new language, weigh out the pros and cons, draw up a rough schedule, and think about what you hope to achieve at the end.
Be specific – “I want to learn Mandarin because it’s cool” is different than “I want to learn Mandarin so that I can converse with my new friends and watch Mandarin movies without subtitles”. Only when you have clear outlines and end goals are you’re prepared to do this.
In short, it doesn’t matter how many resources you have, learning a new language depends on how determined and dedicated you are to the cause. The trick is to put yourself in the right frame of mind to ensure that you are constantly motivated. According to Matthew Youlden, the Language Ambassador for Babbel, he speaks over 20 languages, just by dedicating 15-20 everyday!
2. What kind of learner are you?
Some people are analytical learners, which means that they learn by taking everything apart then putting them back together – they learn what do individual words mean by themselves, how can they combine different words together to form sentences, why some words are used in certain contexts, etc. Others are conversational learners, who learn by putting theories into practice such as talking and singing. Some can only learn when they have a strict schedule to adhere to, others only when they are given free reign. You need to know what kind of learner you are so you can create the best learning plan for yourself.
5 ways to learn a new language today
1. Attend online classes
It goes without saying that the traditional way of learning a new language is by signing up for classes at language centres. However, in this era with the proliferation of online language classes, you may not have to leave your home to learn a new language. Listening to lectures and completing assignments may sound tedious, but compared to other ways of learning, you can be certain that you’re learning it the correct way as well as obtain professional certification.
2. Use language apps/services such as Duolingo and Babbel
There’s an app (or many) for everything these days, including one that teaches you new languages. Below are some of the more popular apps/services:
- Babbel – Beginner courses are free, but you can upgrade to a paid one if you like
- Open Culture – A portal with hundreds of language resources where you can download free courses and mp3s.
If you’re an expat who’s constantly busy or on the go, just download these apps to turn those long commute times into a productive learning session!
3. Watch foreign movies, listen to songs and/or play games
Some people believe that there’s no better way to swim than to throw someone into a pool right away. While it’s not highly advisable to do so in the case of swimming, when it comes to picking up a new language, this method rings true. Watching a foreign movie is a fun and engaging way to see how the language is spoken, and gives you a look into the culture (e.g. French movies tend to be very slow-paced and dialogue-laden). Plus, the plot will make a good conversation starter when talking to friends!
Other enjoyable ways to pick up a new language are listening to songs and playing games in the language that you want to learn. For example, memorising a Mandarin song gives you a memorable tune to retain the words in your mind, while breaking the pronunciation of each word down to you. On the other hand, playing games in Japanese requires you to quickly identify important key words and phrases in order to execute the right actions.
4. Install the Google Chrome extension, Language Immersion
Based on scientific findings that immersion is the best way to learn a new language, Google has created an extension called Language Immersion, which aims to simulate the experience of being immersed in a foreign language for users. Basically, you select one of the 64 languages available on Google Translate that you’d like to learn, as well as your preferred level of immersion, from “novice” to “fluent.” The extension then translates random words in an article for you into your chosen language, which helps you to understand them in context.
5. Find a local email buddy/befriend a local
This may seem old-fashioned, but you can find plenty of fellow expats or locals online who are looking to make friends, so why not have them teach you a thing or two about the language you’re keen on? Whether online or in the real world, spending time and making conversation with a local will help to shed some light on the common slang or lingo – such as adding la and lor to the end of sentences in Malaysia and bah and kiasu in Singapore – as well as the kopitiams they love to frequent!
Feeling a bit more confident in your language-learning skills now? We’d love to hear all about your learning experience – feel free to share or ask us a question below!