Learn 10 Things You Need to Know about Learning a New Language

Are you considering studying a foreign language? Our multilingual experts provide their advice on everything from disregarding your age to avoiding the F-word.


1. Set attainable, detailed goals.

You’ve decided to study another language. So, what now? Our panelists’ first bit of advice during our recent live chat was to ask yourself: “What do you want to achieve and by when?” “Language learning is best when broken down into small goals that are doable over a few months,” says Donavan Whyte, vice president of enterprise and education at Rosetta Stone. This is significantly more inspiring and achievable.”

You may feel overly enthusiastic when you first begin, but attempting to be fluent is not always the greatest choice. Phil McGowan, director of Verbmaps, suggests making these objectives concrete and specific: “Why not give oneself the goal of being able to read a newspaper item in the target language without consulting a dictionary?”

2. Remind yourself why you’re studying.

It may seem apparent, but understanding why you want to learn a language is critical. “Motivation is frequently the first thing to fade, especially among pupils who are teaching themselves,” says Alex Rawlings, a language teacher who is now learning his 13th language. To keep the momentum continuing, he proposes jotting down ten reasons why you’re learning a language and pasting them at the top of the file you’re using: “In times of self-doubt, I turn to these.”

3. Concentrate on exactly what you want to learn.

Often, the issue of learning a language devolves into a controversy about so-called conventional vs. technological ways. This discussion, according to Aaron Ralby, director of Linguisticator, misses the point: “The question is not so much about online vs. offline or app vs. book.” Instead, the question should be, “How can we gather the required pieces of language for a certain aim, present them in a user-friendly manner, and provide a means for students to understand those elements?”


Consider the content behind the style or technology before committing to a specific strategy or approach. “Ultimately,” he argues, “learning occurs inside you rather than outside you, regardless of whether you have a computer, a book, or an instructor in front of you.”

4. Read for enjoyment

Reading was not only beneficial to advancement for several of our panelists, but it was also one of the most enjoyable components of their learning experience. Reading for enjoyment, according to Alex Rawlings, “exposes you to all kinds of language that you won’t find in day-to-day living, and normalizes otherwise puzzling and intricate grammatical structures.” The first book you finish in a foreign language is a noteworthy accomplishment that you will remember for a long time.”

5. Acquire vocabulary through context

Memorizing vocabulary lists can be difficult, not to mention tedious. “A smart method to expand vocabulary is to make sure the lists you’re learning come from situations or books that you have experienced yourself so that the content is constantly relevant and links to background experience,” says Ed Cooke, co-founder, and CEO of Memrise.