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How To Learn A Language Without Sacrificing Your Studies

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The very nature of life is busy. Whether it be busy with school, university or work, you likely don’t have too much time you can spare without the sinking feeling that you’re avoiding your responsibilities.

But what if you want (or need) to learn a language?

If you’re good at time management, and/or mentally healthy, it may be very easy for you to make time to learn another language. But, if it isn’t, this is advice is for you.

1. Find Your Medium

The first step is to find out the way you learn best.

There are a plentitude of resources for languages out there – particularly if you are learning one from Western Europe.

By far the most popular would be the website and app DuoLingo. This helps you learn a language by giving you translation exercises (sometimes as short as a single word) based on themes like “adjectives”, “nouns”, “sport” etc. Similarly is the website Memrise, which has many individual exercises on over 30 languages.

YouTube is another popular place to learn. Many people have had the idea to share their native language with the world, and you can even ask for advice in the comments section.

Textbooks vary on availability and price depending on the language you are learning. Try to have a look at your local library before purchasing a book which might not get used.

Getting to know your learning style takes a bit of practice, but the internet provides a lot of free resources so you’re not being drained financially.

2. Learn The Basics

A good starting point for a languages vocabulary is learning to say key phrases such as:

  • ‘Hello’
  • ‘Goodbye’
  • ‘Yes’
  • ‘No’
  • ‘Sorry’
  • ‘Please’
  • ‘Thank you’
  • Numbers 1-10
  • Telling the time

You may also need to learn a new alphabet, but this is easier than it seems!

A good way to learn a new alphabet, particularly for phonetic languages (languages where the letters of the alphabet always make the same sound), is to write words or names you already know in a different alphabet. This is called transliteration.

3. Broaden Your Knowledge

Once you have got the hang of the basics and have a fair understanding of the alphabet, you can then start building up on your knowledge.

I find it most useful to learn sentences related to myself, such as:

  • My name is…
  • I am from…
  • I have X amount of sisters/ X amount of brothers
  • I live in…
  • I study at…

Another helpful tip is to learn words or sentences that you use in your every day life, just in another language.

For example, if you have a lot of kitchen appliances, you could place sticky labels on them with the name of the item, if it helps you learn.

You could even try writing your next shopping list in another language!

Saying occasional words in other languages, even while the majority of your sentence is are in your native language, can really help your memory.

By learning and repeating little things everyday,  you can gradually build up your vocabulary.

4. Reinforce Your Knowledge

After increasing your vocabulary, you then need to maintain and build it further.

Once you have enough nouns, adjectives (like ‘green’ or ‘big’) and verbs (like ‘to go’) and their conjugations, you can start forming sentences.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen instantly, or if you’re not correct all of the time, this is just about you learning. And without getting anything wrong, you’d never learn.

Verb conjugations can be tricky, but I recommend you learn some key phrases and set sentences before you go into the complexities of the grammar – a lot of people see the grammar of a language and get a bit down! It seems complicated at first but after a while you really do get the hang of it.

If you have friends who are also interested in speaking languages, you can try talking with them about what you’re learning. Teaching others often helps us reinforce what we have learned.

When you’re ready, you can start trying to have full conversations in the language you have learned – gradually building up from simple greetings to describing your day, what you’re doing tomorrow and what you were doing yesterday.

If you’re planning to visit somewhere which speaks the language you’re learning, don’t forget to learn helpful things such as directions and how to describe what, where, how, with whom, and when.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

One of the key aspects of learning a language is being confident. The worst case scenario when learning a language is almost always somebody asking you to repeat what you said or define what you wrote.

Every mistake is an opportunity for you to learn more about the language you have chosen, so make sure you understand where you’ve slipped up.

It takes commitment to learn a language, but if you have a medium which you enjoy and keep learning and reinforcing your knowledge bit by bit, you can gradually work up your fluency level without sacrificing your regular studies and routine.

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Young, mixed-race student living in Scotland. Ready to talk about racism, sex education and feminism!

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