Looking for a new hobby? Have you considered learning a new language? It may not typically come to mind when one thinks of different kinds of hobbies, but it certainly can be one.
If you go about it differently than you would in an academic setting, language learning can not only be enjoyable, but can open you up to a whole new world. There’s never been a better time to start learning than right now. The world is more connected than ever before.
Language apps, language tutoring, advice on how to learn a new language, and classes may be available at your fingertips, but it can be hard to sort it all out on your own. That’s where this guide comes in.
1. There Are Tons of Benefits To Learning a Foreign Language
No matter where you’re from or how old you are, learning a foreign language has benefits. Since learning a new language uses your brain in a way that you otherwise would not, it strengthens brain functions like memory, problem solving, multi-tasking, and observation skills.
As a result, bilingual and polyglot students score higher in unrelated subjects than their monolingual counterparts. Learning about another culture in their own terms is not only a benefit for its own sake, but it can also help you consider other people’s perspectives in all kinds of situations.
2. Learning A New Language Isn’t As Hard As You Think
If you’ve never done it before, learning a new language can seem intimidating. Of course, some languages will be harder than others depending on how similar they are to your native language. Any English speaker will have an easier time with Spanish than Japanese. Similarly, some people simply have an easier time with languages than others.
However, no matter which language you learn or how naturally good you are at picking it up, it does not have to be the slog that you imagine. You can make learning a much more rewarding experience if you approach it with curiosity, make an effort to learn the logic behind it instead of focusing on rote memorization, choose your methods based on how you learn best, and work with the right people.
3. There Are Plenty Of Languages To Choose From
If you already know which language you want to learn, that’s great! If you have a list and can’t decide which one to commit to, ask yourself a few questions.
How interested are you in the culture that goes along with the language?
Where do you hope to travel in the future?
These answers should help you figure out what your priorities are. On the other hand, “I just think it’s cool” is also a valid reason to learn a language. Let go of any ideas that you have about some languages being inherently more useful than others or that you “should” learn one that you’re not particularly interested in.
A language is useful as long as you use it and learning one that you truly like will set you up to stay interested in it longer.
4. It’s Easy To Avoid Common Language Learning Mistakes
Let’s take a moment to discuss how not to learn a foreign language. Mistakes are certainly an important part of learning, but don’t let your mistakes become bad habits.
Some common bad habits include not setting goals, only working on your language when you feel like it, neglecting pronunciation, using methods that don’t match your learning style, focusing on the wrong vocabulary, and not asking for help. Here’s how to avoid falling into those traps.
5. Language Learning Is All About Setting Goals
Even when you are learning a language for fun, setting goals is important for staying on track. Instead of focusing on getting to a certain level, focus on what you want to do with the language once you get there.
Language hobbyists typically have goals like using it on a trip, reading a particularly challenging book, watching films without subtitles, or conversing with friends and family members who are native speakers. As you meet your goals, set new ones. There is always more to learn.
6. Languages Help You Stick to a Schedule
Learning a language on your own gives you freedom and flexibility that a class would not offer. However, that doesn’t mean you can still make progress if you only work on it when you feel like it.
Language educators often recommend spending seven hours a week on your target language. It does not necessarily have to be every day, but do spread it out as evenly as you can and stick to a routine. Study during a time of day when you feel alert and focused.
7. Getting Started Is Simple – Begin With Sounds
Some people go into languages that use the same alphabet as English assuming that letters will work the same way and then they’re shocked when they find the pronunciation hard.
Don’t be that person.
At the beginning of your language learning journey take time to learn what sound each letter and group of letters makes. This will sometimes involve training your mouth to make sounds that it’s never made before because they don’t exist in your native language.
Accent marks, guttural sounds, nasal vowels, or tones could make a difference between two completely unrelated words. For that reason, pronunciation is not something you should put off for later. You don’t have to speak in a perfect accent right away, but striving to be understood clearly is important. Otherwise, what would be the point?
Fortunately for you, most languages are more consistent than English when it comes to which letters make which sounds.
8. Learning A Language Lets You Match Methods with How You Learn Best
There are a variety of methods of learning a language. When you’re learning outside of a classroom, you have no obligation to mimic academic models. Choose your methods based on how you learn best.
Language learning apps are very popular now, but even the best app to learn a language won’t get you very far on its own.
If you learn best by reading, buy some grammar books. If you learn best by listening, look for podcasts and YouTube channels. If you’re the kind of person who dives into a new venture head first, find a conversation partner.
Since languages involve several moving parts that all need attention, a diversified approach is the best approach.
9. There’s Always New Vocabulary To Learn
When you don’t have tests to pass, which vocabulary you focus on is up to you. Though there are certain words and phrases that everyone needs to know to get by, your best bet is to learn words that are relevant to your life and the topics you talk about most.
If you learn all of the words required to talk about your job, family, and interests, you will be able to have normal conversations sooner.
Academic settings typically focus on standard, so-called proper use of the language. Though, yes, it is important to know the rules of a language and to communicate clearly, slang and expressions are important for using your new language in social settings. Similarly, most languages have non-standard dialects that are not wrong, just different.
10. Languages Help You Connect With Other People
Learning a new language does not have to be a solitary hobby. In fact, it shouldn’t be. The purpose of language is communicating with other people. Finding other speakers to work with is easier than you may think.
Though many hobbyists wouldn’t think of it, language tutoring is always a good idea. You can also make new friends who share the Do you remember things best by reading, listening, watching, or doing? How good are you at memorization? How much structure do you need to thrive? The answers to the questions can help you figure out an approach that suits your interest through social groups for language learners. Building a community of speakers, native and non-native alike, will give you varied opportunities to use your skills.
This is where you might have to spend money. Many people are focused on figuring out how to learn a new language for free, but paying for good quality instruction is a worthwhile investment. It is also more affordable than you may think it is.
11. Learning A New Language Is Just Fun
All languages can be fun languages to learn if you know how to make it fun. The cool thing is you can incorporate your target language into whatever you like to do anyway.
When you’re picking movies to watch, books to read, or music to listen to in your new language you don’t have to touch the classics if you don’t want to. Choose from the genres you like anyway. It all counts. If you like following DIY videos, find some of them with narration in your target language and follow along.