New year – new language? 8 tips to make it happen
If you need inspiration for the perfect resolution to make 2016 the best year yet, you’ve come to the right place: learning a new language should be your goal for the new year. Why? It will basically give you superpowers: you will become more confident, your memory will go through the roof, traveling will become exponentially more fun, and, last but not least, you will become more employable and might even make more money. It pretty much sounds like the jackpot of New Year’s resolutions, doesn’t it? To make sure everything goes smoothly, here are some tips for the time after you’ve enthusiastically picked a language.
1. Keep it real
I don’t want to be a party pooper, but you will probably not become fluent in Spanish in a week or even a month – but you can learn to count to 100 in a week or memorize how to conjugate 10 irregular verbs in 10 days. The more achievable your goals are, the easier you will reach them, which will make the whole experience much more satisfying. If you break your language goals into smaller steps, they will become part of your everyday routine in a jiffy, and after a few weeks, you’ll pick up your Chinese homework during your commute or workout without even thinking about it.
2. Be specific
Saying that you want to learn English is a great resolution, but it will be more effective to come up with a specific goal: Maybe you want to watch an American movie without subtitles by the end of the year, read a book without using a dictionary, or travel to London and order fish and chips like a true Brit? Good (and rewarding) resolutions have tangible results, so make sure your language learning plan has a specific target and can be broken down into small steps.
3. Pick your method
There is a plethora of language learning tools out there – audio files, podcast, apps, study abroad trips, tandem learning and, of course, online and offline classes. Make sure you pick the method that works best for you: If you don’t like to learn alone, podcasts might not be the best way to go – instead, find a tandem buddy or join a class. It might take a while to find the perfect method or the combination of methods, but that’s part of the learning experience and will help you achieve your goal.
4. Plan for bumps in the road
There will be days or even weeks when nothing is fun, and you’re super busy with school or work – Italian grammar is the last thing on your mind, not matter how desperately you want to go to Rome and eat gelato while admiring the Colosseum. If you don’t have the time or energy to worry about adjectives and adverbs for a week or two, that’s perfectly ok. Do not get discouraged by setbacks and give up on your plan – instead, dust yourself off and pick up from where you left off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
5. Monitor your progress
Even though tests are not that much fun, it’s crucial to keep track of your achievements. A lot of apps and classes have integrated exams that you need to pass before you move on, but there are also various free tests online that will help you assess your language level along the way. If you don’t want to be tested, but you’re still determined to successfully watch a movie without subtitles, try watching shorter clips (like movie trailers, for example) or cartoons to check how much you already understand.
6. Tell people about your goals
If you study with a tandem buddy or in a class, you’ll automatically have a little bit of peer pressure to get your homework done, but if you prefer studying on your own, make sure you tell your friends, family, or the Internet about your plans, so you can be held accountable – and they can check in and monitor your progress. Having to share regular updates about your German vocabulary will be a great motivational tool and the kick in the behind we sometimes need.
7. Treat yourself and have fun
When you break up your goals into smaller steps, it will be easier to see results – and measure what you’ve achieved. Each time you reach a benchmark, treat yourself – be it a cupcake (or three) or a fashionable new shirt for your upcoming vacation abroad. Of course, you could also celebrate all those new Japanese phrases by going to a sushi restaurant and practicing them in real life?
Ok, there’s actually another reason why you should learn a new language in the new year: it’s one of the few resolutions with a really cool shortcut that actually works.
8. Take the direct (yet scenic) route and go abroad
If you want to get ahead faster and experience all of the above mentioned superpowers almost immediately, studying the language of your choice abroad might be the perfect plan for the new year. Learning new words and figuring out grammar is just way more fun while traveling the world and filling your passport with new stamps. We’re biased, but let’s face it, resolutions don’t get much better than that.