How to Learn a Foreign Language

Instructor: Bill Sands
No matter your age, it's never too late to master another language. Read on to get more information about learning another language, as well as a few tips on where to find instruction.

Learning a Foreign Language

If you didn't learn a second language while you were growing up, you might be thinking that it's too late. This, however, is simply not the case. Today's students have a plethora of options and learning tools to help them make up for lost time. So whether you're looking to learn a more 'common' language, such as French, or are interested in something a little more esoteric, such as Bulgarian or Ancient Greek, chances are it's much easier than you might think!

Pick a Language

First and foremost, you'll need to decide which language you'd like to master. With hundreds of options, it might seem daunting, so think about why you want to learn another language in the first place. Are you simply curious, or are you looking to further your career?

For Employment

Learning a second language can be an excellent tool for bolstering your resume, as many employers need bilingual workers. Speaking a second language is a huge benefit in jobs that require communication with the public, such as loan officer or customer service representative, where customers might not know English. If you're interested in learning a foreign language for professional reasons, you'll most likely want to choose Spanish, which is the most commonly used non-English language in America (over 37 million speakers). If that language doesn't interest you, you might also consider working as a translator or interpreter, a line of work that needs employees who speak just about every type of language.

For Self-Enrichment

If you're leaning a language for pleasure, you have almost unlimited freedom of choice. Maybe your favorite author is Italian and you want to read her works as they were originally written, or maybe your ancestors were German and you'd like to reconnect with your heritage by learning the language. If you're having trouble deciding, do some research on the languages you're considering and learn more about them. Find out about the culture of the people who speak them, or look up some famous authors and musicians whose works are composed in those languages.

Once you've picked your language, you're ready to begin learning!

Stay Local

Fortunately, there is no real hidden secret to learning a foreign language. Anyone can do it, provided they invest the necessary time and effort, and you won't even need to leave your town! It's very likely that there are plenty of learning opportunities located near you. Community colleges often offer language courses for beginners and experts alike. These courses can be taken by students of all ages and provide an excellent foundation of basic skills.

Get Creative

In addition to standard instruction, seek out some less-traditional means of studying a language. Go to your library and look for books written in the language of your choice. Libraries and schools also frequently host foreign culture events that double as learning opportunities. Foreign film festivals are fairly common and provide both entertainment and education. Watching movies (with or without subtitles) is an excellent way to learn new vocabulary and become familiar with the rhythm of a given language.

Immerse Yourself

Once you've picked up some basic skills, it might be time to test your knowledge by going abroad. Whether you travel alone or with an immersion program, surrounding yourself with the language on a daily basis is guaranteed to improve your skills. You'll also have the chance to visit some fascinating cities, such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona, or Prague. Be advised that you should probably wait to take a trip until you've at least mastered the basics. Entering a foreign country with no knowledge of the local language can be frustrating, difficult, and even dangerous.

Go Online

The internet is a global space and is teeming with tools and resources for individuals looking to learn a new language. Several institutions offer online language courses. These courses, for instance, are but a handful of examples of online learning opportunities for students of all ages:

The internet offers plenty of other ways to hone your language skills. It provides access to foreign newspapers, videos, and blogs, all of which can provide valuable learning experiences.

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