Unless you’re from another planet, you probably had to take at least one foreign language class in either high school or college. And like many students, you may have phoned in your effort in those classes. After all, who has the time to learn Spanish when you have three research papers and midterms to finish next week? But these classes shouldn’t be overlooked because they give you a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the world and find new ways to communicate with and relate to people.
Knowing a foreign language can also open up a bevy of career opportunities that you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Unfortunately, learning a new language isn’t easy. It takes time, patience, dedication, and the courage to be okay with being wrong. But the good news is that there are ways you can learn a language effectively, while also juggling all of your other classes.
- Pay attention in class. This recommendation really goes without saying. The exercises you do in class and the homework you’re assigned are there for a reason — they introduce new words and phrases that are very useful in learning the basics of a language. Each class gives you the opportunity to listen to the language spoken by your professor and classmates, and by being attentive, you’ll start recognizing what others are saying in the language you’re studying.
- Immerse yourself in the language daily. This is possibly the most important piece of advice in our list. All of the words and phrases you learn in class will mean nothing if you don’t find a way to apply it, so add a bit of immersion into your daily routine. That could mean listening to the radio, reading the news, or even changing the language on your computer or video game console to the language you’re studying. Even if you spend less than an hour a day interacting with the language outside of the classroom, you’ll find that all of the basic knowledge you’ve been acquiring will have actual meaning. It’s one of the best things you can do to simulate actually being abroad, where you’re forced to use the language all the time just to do basic day-to-day things.
- Join a foreign language club. Once you’ve spent some time reading and listening to the language, you’ll need to learn how to converse in it. Depending on what you’re studying, it may be difficult to find other people who speak, or are trying to speak, your chosen language. For example, in the United States, it may be easier to find someone who speaks Spanish to practice with, while finding a German speaker may be a little more difficult. Fortunately, many schools have foreign language speaking clubs that exist for this very purpose. If you look around on the Web, you may even find one what isn’t affiliated with a university, but instead is just a group of like-minded individuals who want to practice as much as you do.
- Have fun! Yes, this may seem obvious, but it is important because learning a new language isn’t easy. You’re going to make plenty of mistakes along the way, but the tradeoff is that a whole new part of the world will open up to you once you’ve mastered a language. You’ll be able to travel to new places, communicate with people from a completely different background, and best of all, you’ll probably get to try all of their great food in the process.
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