Khoollect tips: learning a new language

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Learning a language is simultaneously one of the most fun and most challenging things you can do. Before you reach your teens, picking up a whole new vocabulary and set of grammar rules can be a breeze (so suggests the Critical Age Hypothesis); while for those who’ve long left these years behind, fluency in a new language feels all too elusive.

Some adults do seem to have a natural knack for languages (ahem, Rachel Khoo), while for others it might take many years of study and living in a foreign country to reach a remotely comfortable level of fluency. As someone who fits into the latter category of (slower) language learners (having completed a bachelor’s degree in Japanese and lived in the country before being able to comfortably converse!), allow me to share my tips for learning a language:

  1. Find your motivation
    Determining what made you choose a particular language in the first place, and what types of key phrases you may need to use, plays a big part in learning your next tongue. For example, if you’re learning a language to conduct business in the country in which it’s spoken, or if you’re learning for travel purposes (or just for fun!), there are different approaches you may like to take. Many languages have formal and informal styles of speaking, so it’s great to decide which type you’ll want to focus on first. If you’re attending classes, or using a tutor, it’s helpful to let them know what your end goal is. Is your first goal to learn to order off a French menu? Or, do you need to introduce yourself to contacts in China? Keeping site of why you’re learning will help you through any tricky hurdles. Set yourself small goals first, and work your way up to fluent conversation! Remember to be patient, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
  2. Immerse yourself!
    One of the best ways to test your language skills (and pick up some more) is to immerse yourself in the country or countries where the language is spoken. But, if that’s not an option for you, the next best thing you can do is watch films in the language you’re learning; and, perhaps further down the track, read magazines and books from the countries you wish to visit.
  3. There’s an app for that
    A great way to get your brain training in, is to use an app. Whether you’re on public transport, lazing about at home, or taking a walk, it’s easy to open up an app on your phone and get some extra practice in. My favourite is Duolingo, because it encompasses all aspect of language learning: reading, writing, speaking and listening. And it’s a bit of a bully, which keeps the motivation high! If tech isn’t your thing, try creating flash cards or borrowing a book from the library.
  4. Meet and greet
    No matter where you are, there is likely someone in your city who speaks the language you’d like to learn, or someone who is also learning your language of choice. Finding a language partner to meet up with in your neck of the woods is an ideal way to learn not only the new language, but about a new culture too. There are plenty of language exchange websites to help you meet someone nearby, and you can also use Meetup to help you find your match.

What languages would you love to learn?

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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