How to Learn English
or any other language
Matthew Youlden’s second name should be Mr. Languages. This guy from Britain speaks nine languages fluently and understands more than twelve more. Can you imagine? The world would be yours!
If you have problems learning another language, check out Matthew’s recommended tips!
- REMEMBER YOUR REASON FOR DOING IT
You need to have a good reason to learn a new language, otherwise you won’t stay focused and you’ll find unnecessary excuses, which might put you off course.
“OK, I want to learn this and I’m therefore going to do as much as I can in this language, with this language and for this language.”
- DO IT WITH SOMEONE ELSE (FIND A PARTNER)
Mathew learned many languages, like their first foreign language Greek, with his twin brother Michael. Giving each other motivation and positive encouragement made learning possible.
“We were very motivated, and we still are. We push each other to really go for it. So if he realizes that I’m doing more than he is he’ll get a bit jealous and then try and outdo me (maybe because he’s my twin) – and the other way round.”
Don’t worry if you don’t have a sibling, it can be anyone as long as they keep pushing you.
“I think it’s a really great way of actually going about it. You have someone with whom you can speak, and that’s the idea behind learning a language.”
- TALK TO YOURSELF
You shouldn’t think you are weird while talking to yourself, Maria does it all the time 🙂 So don’t worry and go for it.
“It might sound really weird, but actually speaking to yourself in a language is a great way to practice if you’re not able to use it all the time.”
It helps you to remember new vocabulary and phrases and builds up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.
- MAKE IT RELEVANT TO YOUR LIFE
While it may help you to stay focused on textbooks as well, you should make conversation your goal and keep talking to people.
“You’re learning a language to be able to use it. You’re not going to speak it to yourself. The creative side is really being able to put the language that you’re learning into a more useful, general, everyday setting – be that through writing songs, generally wanting to speak to people, or using it when you go abroad. You don’t necessarily have to go abroad; you can go to the Greek restaurant down the road and order in Greek.”
- ENJOY IT
How about writing or recording songs? That’s the way how the “Super Polyglot Bros” practice their new languages. You are not following step 4 if you can’t find any fun games or ways to make it more interesting.
- BEHAVE LIKE A CHILD
Think back, how easy was it to learn something knew. You weren’t afraid of making mistakes or anything else. We learn by making mistakes. How many times have you heard an adult say “I can’t” instead of “I haven’t learned that yet”. If you wanted a piece of chocolate in your childhood, you tried as hard as possible and as many times as necessary to get it. Do the same!
- CHALLENGE YOURSELF
If you really want to learn a new language, get up and talk to people. For sure you can’t learn the right pronunciation from looking into your textbook or writing something 100 times in a row. You need to get up and talk to other people! I know it doesn’t feel good when someone has to ask you 3 times for one word but he had to go through the same at some stage in his life, and if he hadn’t, don’t worry at all because you speak more languages than him. Remember step six, you have to make mistakes to learn. You will get more confident day by day.
“At the beginning you’re going to encounter difficulties: maybe the pronunciation, maybe the grammar, the syntax, or you don’t really get the sayings. But I think the most important thing is to always develop this feel. Every native speaker has a feel for his or her own language, and that’s basically what makes a native-speaker – whether you can make the language your own.”
You must listen to conversations, songs, radio or anything else where you can hear the language and the right pronunciation. Every language sounds strange at the beginning but you will get used to it after a while.
“We’re able to pronounce anything, it’s just we’re not used to doing it. For example the rolled r doesn’t exist in my form of English. When I was learning Spanish there were words with the hard r in them like perro and reunión. For me, the best way to go about mastering that is actually to hear it constantly, to listen to it and to kind of visualize or imagine how that is supposed to be pronounced, because for every sound there is a specific part of the mouth or throat that we use in order to achieve that sound.”
- WATCH PEOPLE TALK
Your tongue, lips and throat are responsible for the right pronunciation. If you don’t have the chance to do so, watching movies or TV is a good option. Pronunciation is just as much physical as it is mental:
“One way – it might sound a bit strange – is to really look at someone while they’re saying words that use that sound, and then to try to imitate that sound as much as possible. Believe me, it might be difficult at the beginning, but you will. It’s something that is actually quite easily done; you just need to practice it.”
- GO FOR IT
So you have accepted the challenge? Matthew recommends the 360° maximalist approach: no matter which learning tools you use, it’s crucial to practice your new language every single day:
“I tend to want to absorb as much as possible right from the start. So if I learn something I really, really go for it and try to use it throughout the day. As the week progresses I try to think in it, try to write in it, try to speak to myself even in that language. For me it’s about actually putting what you’re learning into practice – be that writing an email, speaking to yourself, listening to music, listening to the radio. Surrounding yourself, submerging yourself in the new language culture is extremely important.”
You have already made a huge step when you are able to have normal conversations! This makes it easier for you and you will have more fun and motivation to continue. You won’t annoy people by not speaking their language perfectly. If you tell them that you’re practicing and learning a new language, most of them will look up to you and be delighted to help you.
“Sure, you can travel abroad speaking your own language, but you’ll get so much more out of it being able to actually feel at ease in the place you are – being able to communicate, to understand, to interact in every situation you could possibly imagine.”
Adapted by Tom Port (source: Babble)