The Most Effective Ways to Get Better in Any LanguageDavid - About Travel - September 15, 2020
If you have ever been serious about learning a new language, you know what a plateau is. It is that specific moment in time where it feels like you can't make any further progress. In some way, you know that you're not perfectly fluent, but on the other hand you've got no idea how to become even better in that new language that you're learning.
Good news buddy. I've been there, many times. It is extremely frustrating, but luckily there are some effective solutions to get you out of this and make you more proficient in no time.
In this article, I'll give you the tools and tricks I used to become fluent in five languages. If you consider yourself an excellent speaker and would like, nonetheless, to reach an even higher level, you're in the right place.
Still a beginner? I got you covered.
My personal recommendations, tips, and tools to get better in any language
These are the tips and recommendations I gave to my brother in law who's
trying to get better in English.
Hope it helps.
Change the language of your smartphone interface: The effect is twofold. First, you let yourself no other choice but to fully embrace the language that you're trying to learn. Chances are that you spend more than two hours a day on your phone. If you change the language of the interface, that's already two hours of passive learning per day, which is insane if you ask me. Second, that will help you learn new words that are related to digital interactions (for instance, words like: "Click, Drag, Swipe, Link, Database, Accept, Consent, Back, Next, Loading, Download").
Tips: Do the same with your laptop if you have one, and try to surround yourself with anything that stimulates your brain and makes it think in that new language.
Write: There's a huge difference between talking and writing. The way a language is spoken and the way it is written are distinct and specific. When you write, you must pay attention to the order of words, the style and tone that you're using, the typos, the structure of your sentences and the way you deliver your message. Conversely, when you speak you'll be forgiven as long as people understand what you're saying. Obviously, speaking fluently is hard. But writing properly is probably even harder.
Tips: Write a book, write an essay, write a poem, write anything as long as it makes you think and dive deep in that new language to figure out the meaning of each and every word, and how they combine to form elegant sentences. Oh, and don't use a damn translator. The way sentences and words are arranged changes from a language to another. Search for human pieces of advice and explanations. A translator won't tell you why the words are put in a certain way, and it won't tell you how to come close to native fluency either.
Read specific forums and websites like Reddit: For instance, when learning English, I think that browsing Reddit daily is an excellent thing. Obviously, there are typos here and there, and bad uses of the English language as well. But you might quickly learn new words and idioms as you go through people's stories. Also, you'll get a hang of how people write using their mother tongue as opposed to how the language is spoken within books for learners.
Tips: Find a place like Reddit, or just some forums, where people talk in the language that you're trying to learn and get better in. Don't hesitate to sign up and interact with people so you also get better at writing and giving your opinion.
Watch videos and streams: First, I recommend watching videos where teenage people do weird stuff so you get an idea of how teenagers speak using their mother tongue. Some words will be skipped, shortened, or transformed. And that's something you'll certainly experience when you go abroad to master that new language. After that, when you feel that you're quite good already, search for videos where a teacher or a group of people goes through the tough parts of that new language, and see how you perform. Live streams are also a great way to see how good you are at listening to a foreign speaker without any editing or audio improvement made during the montage. All in all, this is what I call passive work.
Tips: In English, for instance, this Youtuber is absolutely wonderful, and you'll learn a lot from him. Search for an equivalent in the language that you're trying to learn. Beyond that, there are more and more reports and Youtube shows like this one to help people from all over the world learn a new language through locals. Feed yourself with such pieces of content, and you'll quickly improve and become both more fluent and more self-aware in your new language.
Read and watch different types of content: You may have read it already, but many bilinguals add a specific mention next to their level. They often write it that way: "English (mother tongue), Other language (bilingual, except specific jargon)". What it means is, these people can fully speak, write, and think in that language. But they may not know specific words that are related to specific industries and fields. For instance, they might have no idea how to say "vasectomy" in their second language. And there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to improve and take yourself to the next level, you could simply ingurgitate pieces of content that come from different places, fields, and spheres of knowledge. That will teach you how people form sentences, and which vocabulary they use when they talk about their specific field of interest.
Tips: Search for online scientific studies, technical reviews, justice reports, legal procedures, cooking videos, etc. These different types of content will enlarge your vocabulary and help you express yourself in a more diversified fashion.
Use online tools: I'm thinking about online tools such as Thesaurus for synonyms, Ludwig for usages, Linguistics Stack Exchange for help and human advice, etc. Here, once again, you'll learn in a better way, as opposed to when you're using a translator. There are many free online tools and games like the ones above to help you better understand how a language works and how people actually use it. Don't hesitate to use these.
Live abroad: That might not suit everyone, but it's undeniably one if not the best way to embrace a new language. There is a huge gap between what you learn, what's actually happening abroad. Talking with locals, reading menus at the restaurant, reading street signs, watching the news. This is like an express teaching process.
Tips: Stay longer than two months, and try to meet people and make friends quickly so you don't stay alone for too long. Ask people about their language and their culture, and they'll be glad to help you out.
Before You Go
At any moment in time, these tools and techniques will help you become a better speaker in a new language. But in my opinion, these will most likely help you go from (almost?) bilingual to native.
If you're more of a rookie, yet you're still interested in learning new languages, check these helpful resources for beginners: