Learning a language: mission possible!

Mastering a foreign language can seem complex and time-consuming, but a little regular practice can reap big rewards. Jade Huffman, Lori Fenneken and Renee Paczkowski, of Global LT, share their tips.

Language learning

See more features about education in the Autumn 2016 issue of Relocate magazine on our Digital Issues page.


No one magically learns a new language just because they move to a country where they are surrounded by that language. Nor do they learn because a stellar language teacher sprinkles fairy dust to transform them overnight into a fluent target-language speaker.None of us really thinks either of those things, of course. Yet at times we see others who learn quickly, and it seems like magic. Those few unique people, or maybe children, who are ‘good’ at languages, appear to just ‘pick them up’. If you are not one of those people, learning a language can seem like mission impossible.Moreover, motivation to even try can be hard to maintain when life in a new place – and keeping up with your work and other responsibilities – takes most of your time.Where do you fit in learning a language? We’ll let you in on a secret. Most of those who learn a new language more quickly than you, or who learn seemingly effortlessly, are not of above-average intelligence or inherently better language learners. Not in most cases, anyway.They don’t just ‘pick up’ the language through listening passively to conversations around them or through frequent exposure to various media in the target language. Nor do they spend hours daily or weekly memorising vocabulary lists or completing grammar drills.In fact, most successful language learners do not see language as something they can learn mainly through traditional studying for a set period of the day.Successful language learners are those who have decided to take, or make, opportunities to incorporate regular practice into their daily routine. They treat language learning as something to be woven into their everyday lives. They also usually prioritise regular meetings with a teacher, and many have a textbook of some kind as a reference for standard questions.In other words, the most successful language learners do something that makes the seemingly impossible possible: they step out of their comfort zone, they practise speaking the language with a teacher on a regular basis and they incorporate practice at every opportunity they can throughout their normal day.Below are some tasks that successful language learners choose to do on a daily or near-daily basis. 

Learn through music: sing in the target language 

  • Expand vocabulary through practice in context
  • Sing along to improve rhythm and intonation
  • Sing as a fun pronunciation exercise
  • Sing along with native speakers to gain fluency
  • Sing karaoke to improve reading skills
  • Have fun, improve speaking and enjoy learning

Increase vocabulary with sticky notes

  • Start with one word, and label items around you
  • Read your notes every time you see them
  • Add adjectives. It’s not just a door, it’s a brown door. It’s not just a cat, it’s a black and white cat
  • Add new words as you learn. Expand to include sample sentences and examples. Gradually replace simple sentences with complex ones

Learn through reading: read a novel in the new language

  • Enjoy the book genres that you love in a different language
  • Continue expanding your vocabulary
  • Read your new vocabulary in context
  • Learn new grammar in context
  • Keep yourself active in the language
  • Understand the culture of the language on a deeper level

Think in the language

Think about everyday activities – driving, grocery shopping, ordering a takeaway – in the new language. This will help you to:
  • Recall basic vocabulary more quickly
  • Train your brain to see new words in authentic contexts
  • Improve your reading, speaking and listening skills

Learn through movies

  • Choose a movie and a character in that movie
  • Watch a segment of the movie on repeat
  • Stop the movie and say your character’s line before it is said on the film
  • Listen to your character speak, and compare yourself
  • Repeat and work your way through a whole scene until it becomes natural

Challenge yourself

Improve your reading comprehension by changing your smartphone to the new language a few days each week.

For further information, call Global LT on 1 (888) 645 5881, email , or visit Global-LT.com

For more news and features about language learning in the UK and across the globe, visit our Culture and Language section.

The following sections may also be of interest: International Assignments, Education and Schools

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