Your progress when learning a new language depends a lot on your outside practice. Try actively employing these longer-term strategies to become more comfortable with all facets of a new language.
1. Immerse Yourself Regularly
… or at least get your feet wet. If visiting a foreign country or studying abroad aren’t realistic options, find opportunities for immersion around you, right where you are.
Do you have friends or coworkers who speak the language you’re learning? Make it a point to speak with them!
For more sustained practice, try joining a local language group. Look up awesome resources like Meetup.com, or take initiative if a group doesn’t already exist.
The key to learning a language is sustained, regular speaking opportunities. Working one-on-one with a private tutor provides you with a perfect opportunity to practice while receiving personalized feedback and guidance. After all, if you’re practicing the wrong pronunciation, you’re not getting the most out of your practice!
But don’t forget that immersion isn’t just verbal. Keep up with news online to gain more technical vocabulary. Try reading the news from other countries, or even just skimming headlines as practice. As you advance, start reading short stories. Keep a notebook to write down words, expressions, and constructions you don’t know yet. Then, use them in your own writing.
2. Speak Slowly But Correctly
Don’t hesitate to speak in your new language just because you’re worried about making mistakes. That said, summon your greatest concentration and make a conscientious effort to choose the right verbs and tenses and make adjectives and nouns match every time. Carelessness leads to bad habits, and it’s easy to avoid.
You can’t improve your performance by just going with the flow
Don’t underestimate the power of visualization and overall mental preparation. When getting ready to speak, take a moment to mentally get in position, much like an athlete would. You can’t expect to improve by just going with the flow and staying in your comfort zone.
Setting goals, sticking to a language learning schedule or lesson plan, and making yourself accountable for your progress all lead to a deeper practice.
3. Build a Large Vocabulary
This includes colloquial speech, expressions, and idioms. A lot of times, it’s hard to follow a conversation because of unfamiliar cultural references, colloquial expressions and idioms.
Once again, write them down!
Speaking in a new foreign language improves vastly if you can speak “naturally” and not like a textbook (even if you speak slowly). How is a beginner supposed to know what’s “natural” in a given country or language? Use high-quality resources like wordreference.com or tomísimo.org (a good example for Spanish). These can tell you how to say “xyz” in a colloquial way. Even better, someone has probably already asked the same question.
4. Imitate Sound and Writing
Work on your pronunciation by imitating a native speaker as closely as possible, over and over. Everyone has their preference, and no accent is better than another. Go on YouTube, repeat clips from interviews, movies, whatever, so long as you can develop an ear for the cadences and sounds.
Learn the ABC’s and their pronunciation in your new language. Don’t read Spanish like you read English, for example. The confidence you gradually build about how you sound will boost overall speaking skills.
5. Keep Repeating
Learning a language is a lot of things: exciting, eye-opening, inspiring…but it’s not easy, so don’t be discouraged. Talking on the phone is challenging. So is catching what the radio announcer or soccer commentator is saying.
Just keep repeating. Train yourself to understand pronouncing and identifying words and phrases.
As time goes on, you can find out about different countries’ histories, geography, politics, and famous people. You can also “prepare” for future conversations by building up your vocabulary on topics you like talking about.
More about language learning
Think about how you felt and sounded when you first began learning your new language.
Now think about today. How has your skill level, and your comfort, changed?
Are you a better speaker now? Odds are good that you are.
What has helped you to speak in your new language better and with greater confidence? Pay attention to the ways you learn best – these can be key to deepening your mastery of a second (or third, or fourth!) language. Schedule a session with a Spanish tutor for quick improvements and suggestions on how to reach the next level. And remember: practice, practice, practice!