What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?
I am not here to recommend you a course. My purpose is to provide some insight into foreign language learning. And I expect to be helpful to anybody who needs a clear and satisfying answer to the question: “What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?”
It is indisputable that there are a lot of ads that could mislead you. The Internet is full of offers. These usually go like this, purchase this latest novelty to get the results you have always wanted. Another one is sign-up to this platform, and you will become fluent in no time.
However, most of us know that things do not work that way. Learning takes time and commitment. Besides, there are no shortcuts.
I understand your point when you ask for “the easiest way.” I also have been there. Sometimes it is pressure to learn a foreign language. On other occasions, it is years of trying to learn and not being able to see much progress.
The question about the “easiest way” is rather difficult to answer. But what is the main point underlying this question? You have to find a way to learn a language in which you can start seeing progress right away. These immediate results will motivate you to continue learning without slacking. So, your real goal is to find an approach that meets your expectations.
Why do I want to learn this language?
The most basic question you must address from the very beginning is why. You must identify your goals. It is also crucial to know how you will use this language. For example, some learn a second language to be able to read. Likewise, others learn to communicate orally. The goals can be diverse.
In this post, we will focus on the needs of learners that want to master a language to communicate through it. These learners want to understand and talk in the target language. If that is your case, you need to continue reading. Please do so!
I have tried to learn this language, but it is too difficult!
Consequently, the previous ways you have tried to learn your target language have not worked. Your approach is the one to blame. So, you do not need the easiest way. What you need is the most effective way! Finding a strategy that is a good fit for your specific needs may seem hard. But discovering our learning style is something anyone can do.
What is the easiest way to learn a foreign language?
The easiest way to learn a foreign language is by living and breathing that language.
A mistake some students make
Take a look at this common mistake. And please avoid falling into it.
A student sets apart two hours a week to learn a language. And that is commendable. During the two hours, the student strives to learn. But once those two hours have ended, what happens? Yeah, you guessed it! The guy closes the platform and puts away his books. Then leaves his notes at the studio and forgets all about it. “What is wrong with that? I will be back next week!” he could say. “Is not it supposed to be that way?”
Accordingly, the next week the cycle begins again. That is not the way to learn a foreign language! Let us predict what will happen. Two years later, that student will state he sees very little progress despite all his effort.
What should I do to learn a foreign language?
Use every opportunity to get exposed to the new language. As we stated above, the problem with many students is that they take the wrong approach.
A person lays on the beach all day and will inevitably get sunburned. Somebody continuously and purposefully exposes himself to appropriate content to learn a language. What will the results be? You guessed it!
So we have hit two key points here. Did you recognize them?
Exposure and Good Content!
There is content carefully crafted to meet the need of students. For example, platforms such as BBC have worked in this direction. Have you seen their material for students learning Italian? Check it out by clicking here.
But, not everything in the new language is suitable for learning purposes. You could apply filters to determine if the content is appropriate or not. Here are the criteria you will find helpful.
What type of content would help me learn a new language?
We have considered two main points here. They are:
1. Content must be in harmony with your current understanding of the new language. If you choose content that is way too advanced, you will only hear sounds. When you are absorbing this new vocabulary, you need to make associations. And you can when the words are simple and repeated often. You need to choose uncomplicated content in your target language. During the first days, you will still hear mainly sounds. But because it is repetitive, you will be able to recognize those sounds in time.
You could choose complex content in the language you are trying to learn. But time will go by, and you will continue without grasping much despite listening to it daily. Please do not make this mistake.
2. You must find the content interesting. There is nothing more boring than going through topics you find tedious. It will be harder for you to pay attention. Besides, when you enjoy the time you spend with the material you choose, you have already won half the battle.
What can I do to get exposed to a new language?
Here are some ideas. You could pick up those that work for you. Additionally, we encourage you to come up with your suggestions. Here is a brief list:
1. Take time to place Post-It stickers on every object in your house using the language you want to learn. It is an effective technique for learning new words in any foreign language.
Learning and memorizing vocabulary is tough if you don’t have much time to practice.
It is a quick method that requires little time but allows even the busiest person to learn with minimal effort.
All you need is a pen and some colored Post-Its. Next, write the names of objects in the house and stick them on top of them.
Stick them everywhere: in the closet, in the bathroom, inside the refrigerator, etc.
People trying to learn new words simply by hearing them can learn faster if they associate them with visual objects.
Post-Its, therefore, are a productive strategy for learning new words quickly and effectively.
2. Listen to audio content like podcasts and audiobooks in the new language. I will never overemphasize how important it is to apply your ear to others talking in the language you want to learn.
3. Read books for children. Learn through other types of materials created for kids in the target language. Books for children are simple and, in most cases, they can even be fun!
4. Watch subtitled TED. Also, watch TEDx talks about topics that are interesting to you. You should already have a general idea about the content in your native language. That way, your brain may be able to do the associations.
5. Live-narrate parts of your day. Speak as if a foreign friend who only speaks the target language were right beside you.
Give this approach a try. You will discover that learning a new language is something of everyday life. You will even come up with your ideas. You will create self-assignments that you will insert into your routine. These will add exposure to the language you are learning.
Above all, it is necessary to have fun learning the language. You can do this by incorporating it into activities that you enjoy. Make the time you spend with the language enjoyable, so you stop considering dropping out. And it will also make you feel excited to share with others your great discovery. The discovery of: “The easiest way to learn a foreign language!”
The principles stated in this post are valid for learning any language. Reading this post, you have realized how important it is to surround yourself with the language you are learning. Please click here to read a post with valuable and practical advice on how to immerse yourself in the language.
I just like many people have always wanted to learn a new language. For me though it was German. Family history and stuff.
I think that you are right that many people fall short and give up because they didn’t take the right approach. I love your tips about putting post it on everything in your house. I also love the children’s book idea. Let’s be honest that is how we learned when we were young.
Very informative and helpful post.
Hi Coralie. I wish you the best learning German. And these simple tips can really make a difference. Please keep us updated with your progress.
Very useful pointers about learning a foreign language.
The one that really resounded with me is to surround ourselves with audio in the language we want to learn. I enjoy listening and we can do it all day long (even while we’re doing other activities).
I have bookmarked your site to keep on coming for more tips. Thank you very much!
Hi Geri. I’m glad you liked this post and I agree with you. Listening to our new language is very effective. Please check this post that deals with this topic about listening to the language we want to learn by clicking here.
Hmm, this is interesting. While I do think that there is validity that there needs to be a natural way to listen and practice a new language, it seems like there is also room for a course or a way to actively learn another language too. I’ve found that there are some audio courses that include ways to practice the language without “studying” and trying to memorize vocabulary and language rules.
Would you recommend any of these audio course?
Hi Aly. Yes, these audio courses are useful, specially when you have more time commuting to work or doing other activities than being able to actually sit in front of a PC to do lessons.
Please click here to check out this post. You’ll find it useful!
Hi Jonathan, nice looking article, loved the pictures, and you have some good ideas.
I taught English as a foreign language in Japan for 8 years, and English as a second language in Australia for 9 years.
My learning of Japanese was rather slow because I didn’t have a teacher, and since I had to speak English all day when working I wasn’t that motivated. Basically got by using a dictionary and knowing simple grammar.
Your right about using a variety of input, and your also correct in saying that the input needs to be at least a little understandable.
One bizarre experience I had was watching a Chinese movie with Japanese subtitles, and I was keeping up, kind of.
After 4 years of teaching in Japan, I was a gun at taking students from zero to sentences in a very quick time. Introductions, it is/they are, adjectives, this/that/over there with questions, etc. etc.
Watching TED talks is a good idea. Movies with subtitles was another thing I found useful. It was difficult though with Japanese because the grammar structures are kind of the reverse of English.
Hi Garry. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. All these years as a teacher and also learning Japanese give us insights to how important it’s to have variety when it comes to inputs. You’re right, films and videos with subtitles are also useful and I should write a post exclusively on them.
Please continue visiting us. I greatly appreciate your comment and all readers here benefit from your experience.
I would love to create a website like yours as the template used is really nice, simple and brings about clarity of the write ups, but then you wrote a brilliant article on the easiest way to learn a foreign language. i do not know if this method will work for me because it seems very difficult for me to learn another language.
Thank you very much for your comment.
Learning a language requires effort. We must consistently expose ourselves and have our sense ready to absorb as much as we can each day.
I started learning Italian a long time ago (about 7 years ago) and had very little progress because I treated it, as you said, as a subject that was only on my mind 2 hours every week. Once the class was ended, I closed my books and also closed my mind to Italian until the next week.
Hi! I’m glad you have realized that that approach is not effective. Yes, daily exposure and conscious effort to absorb the language are key. I see you’re on the right track!
I know that in order to learn Italian fast I need to be surrounded by people that speak the language. It’s impossible for me to have real people talking the language but I can try to get audios and like you said, listening daily to them. Yeah, it will be of immense help. Thank you for this reminder.
Hi! You’re welcome. The more you actively listen the more you’ll learn. All the best as you learn Italian.
Hello! Thank you for sharing this post. With the Coronavirus pandemic going on, I have actually been trying to learn a new language to keep busy. You provide some really great insight on why many students fail to make any progress. Personally, I have been practicing a little bit each day and I have realized how important it’s to be exposed to the language.
Hi! I’m glad to hear you have been using these days to learn a new language. Yeah, exposure is very important and you’re doing well by listening to this new language every day. Keep up the good work!
Most people don’t really see the need to learn foreign languages until they come in need of it. I enjoy learning languages, and these days I’ve been staying at home have been a blessing in that sense.
Listening is so important. You get suck into the language. You make it your environment. Learning becomes so natural when we’re constantly listening.
I’ve found there are some audio courses that include ways to practice the language without “studying” and trying to memorize vocabulary nor language rules. Those are the ones I like most!
It’s always good to view the positive aspect of things and I’m glad you have been progressing learning languages while you’re at home.
I completely agree with you! Listening to the language is key! When it doesn’t feel like “studying” and instead if feels more like “having fun” it means you’ve found the right way of being exposed to that language.
As you have stated at the end of this post, these tips are valid for learning any language. And I see you’re not pushing your readers to learn Italian. But by providing this article so well illustrated with the flag of Italy, you are indirectly suggesting we choose Italian. In my case, I had made the decision long before reading your post.
The eyes of the world are on Italy because of Covid-19. It’s so sad to hear about the deaths each day. I would like to learn Italian to connect with those who suffer.
I really liked your article especially its illustrations which really make you want to read on!
Your advice from your own experience is relevant.
Hi! I commend you for identifying with our people in these difficult circumstances. And learning our language means a lot to us.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela.
I thought I knew Spanish until I traveled to Spain and natives started talking to me. You go through that moment in which you realize that learning a language is a journey and that there is no finish line. And if you’re not comfortable learning, you’ll quickly get discouraged.
I liked the way you approached this topic. Thanks for this rich input.
Hi Patricia, I completely agree with you that learning a language is a journey. You must enjoy it. That makes the difference, in most cases between somebody that commits to learning a foreign language and somebody that gives up.
Fantastic article, as if written for me! I admit I am one of those who tried but gave up. Many years ago I used to attend an Italian class once a week. I did so because I had an Italian boyfriend and was very motivated to speak his language. But the problem was that we always spoke English only, and when his friends came over, it was too advanced for me – exactly as you say. I should have labeled the whole house with words! And all the other great tips you’ve suggested. Maybe also watch an Italian movie with English subtitles or an English movie with Italian subtitles. And listen to Italian songs and translate the lyrics. Thanks for your great, motivating post!
Hi Lucie, I’m glad you found these suggestions useful.
Yes, building up considering your level in the language is very important. It takes time but it’s effective.
I want to use these day I have been staying at home to learn a new language. I have been searching for resources but up to this point I haven’t found anything appealing.
But you have given me several ideas. The most exciting one is to use audiobooks in the target language and at the same time learn things about topics I already enjoy.
Hi, yeah, that is a good way to get exposed to the language you’re learning. But you must be careful to choose audiobooks that have content that matches the level you’re in the language right now.
There are several things I like about this article. First of all, it has encouraged me. It has also given me several tips I had never considered before. And last, it has made me understand the correct mindset one should have when starting to learn a language. Thank you for this helpful post!
I’m glad you found this post helpful. Stay tuned for more useful content on this site.
I appreciate the insights. When we’re learning a new language there are several mistakes one commits. But usually we don’t have counseling around us to help us know better.
I like that your site deals with these issues and gives us practical recommendations. Thank you for this. You’ve gained a follower.
Hey there Jamie,
Thank you for following our site. We hope to continue delivering useful content every month.
I really enjoyed your introductory paragraphs and thank you for the concept of “inviting the foreign language into our daily lives.”
I love your 5 points on exposure especially living and talking as if you live with someone who is a native speaker. Reading children’s books also seems a good advice because they have simple content and they take us back to how we learnt our first language. Thank you for these tips. I always wanted to learn to speak and understand Spanish. Using my long commute to and from work is also another doable suggestion.
Hey Vincent, I’m glad you found these tips useful. Start implementing them and you’ll see results. All the best learning you new language.
Great post… love the images!
The tips you described in learning a foreign language are spot on… you need to use it daily for continual exposure not just during class time. I love the idea of labeling things and using kids’ books.
My 5 year old son is interested in learning Japanese thanks to a YouTube video he came across… He learned more Japanese watching kids speak than I could ever teach or learn. Every opportunity he gets, he uses the Japanese words he learned (please, thank you, excuse me, good morning, yes/no) instead of the English equivalent. So proud of him! I honestly think kids learn a foreign language better than adults.
I’m happy to hear that about your kid. He truly seems to be motivated. And that’s applicable for anybody that wants to learn a language: must try to get exposed to it and use it as much as possible.
This has been very helpful to read through! I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, especially Italian and French. I must say thank you Assassin’s Creed for that. I have recently discovered that what Ezio Auditore da Firenze says is “Requiescat de Pace…”
I have tried learning a few words here and there, through some app. But it never progressed further than just a few words as they were random and (not at all surprisingly) I never used them on a daily basis. I can say I never got serious about learning Italian.
But I have clicked with this you’re explaining here. I’d like to begin exploring a way that syncs with my interests.
It’s good you’ve wanted to learn Italian and French for some time now. Finding things that are interesting to you is key. I’m glad this post helped you realize that. All the best on your journey.
I think that it’s a cool thing if everyone could learn a foreign language. Now that I really think about it, maybe the world would be in better shape learning about the different cultures and understanding their language. It would be good, not only for those big international travelers, but for all of us too.
I like traveling to Thailand and the Dominican Republic. I enjoy meting great people when I travel. Up till this point, I have always been “too busy” to pursue this challenge of learning their languages. But how much more enriching would my experience be if I was capable of connection through their native language with these people.
Thank you for encouraging me to learn a second language. If it’s not now (during this pandemic) it will never be.
I am glad this post has encouraged you to learn a second language. Yes, please do.
I love your approached on how to learn a new language. I liked the idea of placing labels on things around the house and reading them every day. Here in my country our language is Spanish. But kids start speaking English when they start to talk because they watch cartoons on YouTube. It’s pretty amazing that they can learn so early! My friends and family members urge me to write and speak in English so I may become fluent because it is a requirement for working abroad. So this year I have been working hard at it.
Hi María Theresa,
You’re English is good. Keep on, you’re doing well!
Hello there! I myself have made efforts to learn a new language and it definitely has not been easy. I agree with you that spending only 2 hours a week on any language, although is possible, is actually really hard to learn. Finding ways to always expose oneself to the desired language will be one of the best ways to learn. I heard that the best method would be to live in that country for a couple years and pick up the language as you go. When I took classes, I too learned things that weren’t necessarily practical and I easily forgot all of that.
Hi Mike, yes exposure to the language is key. Anybody can get exposed to a language these days with the Internet. All we need is to realize how important this daily exposure is.
I agree 100% – the “easiest” way to learn really any new language is to be around others that only speak that language. Or move to a country where it’s the official language. “The easiest way is the most effective”, I liked that!
This is a great post, thank you!
Hey Colton, thank you for your input! Yeah, inmersion!
You are so right. For various reasons, during my working life, I had to learn several different languages. I struggled the most with formal courses because I was not actually exposed to the real language.
On the other hand, I learned a Native American language pretty quickly by hunting, fishing, and working with people who helped me. I got to be pretty fluent enough to understand a lot of the local expressions. That’s the way I think languages must be learned.
Hi, what a wonderful contrast. And I completely agree with you concerning the way you effectively learned this new language. And having the opportunity to become fluent in a Native American language is a very interesting achievement. I would like to hear more about it if you got the chance to continue sharing your story.
I love your article. Great tips! I thought keeping a dictionary next to me all the time was the only tip for language learning. It’s very hard in our busy lives to find time and space to translate words if no one else is around to help. But there are loads of other things we can try, like watching an Italian movie or listening to Italian songs.
I would recommend your blog to anybody wanting to learn a new language. The approach is good!
Yes, so many things can aid us in learning a language. Thank you for suggesting this humble blog to others.
I love learning foreign languages. I learned Japanese about five years ago and struggled a lot then.
However, your post has given some points to make the process easier. I am trying to learn another language. So, thanks for this valuable post. Keep posting like this. I will share this post with friends!
I am glad you found helpful the points mentioned here. And thanks for also sharing this content with others.
I wish you all the best in learning your new language!
As much exposure as possible to the foreign language is the best way to learn it. I moved to Italy from the UK several years ago. And although I had started learning Italian before the move, it came as a shock when I got there, only to realize that I knew so little.
In my case, complete immersion was the solution. You have to live and breathe the language. But it was helpful for me to have an Italian teacher. He was also fluent in English to point out comparisons and opposites between the languages to give me a better understanding and grasp of Italian.
Reading kids’ books in a foreign language is a great tip, especially if they are some of the classics where you already know the story. And always listen to audio and watch television in the language you are learning.
Hello! Thank you very much for sharing your experience learning Italian. It’s valuable. Nothing beats being in Italy and learning Italian surrounded by pasta and Italians!
I was wondering how to learn Italian before reading your post. Now that I have read it, my question has changed. What is the best way to learn Italian? We never finish learning, but we can waste a lot of time in the process. So, thank you for your points. I will adjust my approach.
I am glad to read this. Changing your approach makes a lot of difference when learning a language!