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Learning a Language: The “Best” Way

What is the best way to learn a language, in your opinion? Have you seen more progress or success learning in a classroom? Maybe you prefer learning online or with a language application like Duolingo or Babbel. Perhaps you’ve joined an international chat group, or taken a huge leap and moved to another country to learn immersively. However you have decided to learn languages, you’ve probably noticed that, unless you have a natural knack for it, you don’t quite see the results as quickly as you’d like. Maybe you’ve considered changing your methods or just giving up entirely, as you just can’t find something that works for you.

Well, I’m here to tell you that, in reality, there is no “best” way to learn a language. Or, rather, no single best way to improve. In other words, each person is different and learns at a different rate or in a different way, so I encourage you not to fall for any advertisements for the “sure-fire way” to learn French or English, etc. Instead, I suggest the following…

1. Mix and Match Various Methods

As I mentioned above, not every method works for everyone. BUT several methods mixed together should work for most motivated individuals. It’s hard to stay motivated when we are learning for personal reasons or outside of a university or other traditional program. On the other side of that, it can get pricey hiring a private tutor and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended a three-month private tutoring program with a student who felt they didn’t improve.

Why, you ask? Well, for starters, there is no magic bullet to language learning, including hiring a private weekly or bi-weekly tutor. Working with a tutor four or even two times per month is better than nothing, but it certainly does not guarantee any immediate results. In fact, studies show that the best results happen by practicing for 30-minutes to an hour daily. This could mean taking hour-long classes one to two times per week, using an application for 30 minutes, three to four times per week and finding a group of native speakers to chat with once per week. It can be difficult to practice something on a daily basis and even intimidating to find a group a native speakers to chat with. With Franglish, I try to solve these issues by offering Franglish Phone sessions to businesses and individuals. These sessions are 30-minute calls where we just simply chat about work, life and anything else that comes to mind in English or French, depending on your needs.

…in reality, there is no “best” way to learn a language… each person is different and learns at a different rate or in a different way, so I encourage you not to fall for any advertisements for the “sure-fire way” to learn…

Make Yourself a Learning Plan

It’s as simple as it sounds! Once you’ve chosen some mixed and matched methods for your own best learning experience, according to your budget, what you like and what feel comfortable with, you just need to make a weekly learning plan. So grab your agendas, your notebooks or your online calendars and let’s go…

For example…

Monday – 30 minutes of Duolingo

Tuesday – 1 hour English class

Wednesday – 30 minutes of Duolingo

Thursday – 30 minutes Franglish Phone

Friday – 30 minutes of Duolingo

Saturday – 30 minutes of Duolingo or 45 minutes of online group chat with native speakers

Sunday – OFF

Set Tangible, Specific & Realistic Goals

Make sure you don’t set your goals too high! What do I mean by this? Well, for example, if your goal is to speak fluently for a trip you’re taking to France in 3 months without any prior experience in the language… You’re not very likely to reach the goal. A more realistic goal in this case would be to be able to understand simple directions and ask normal, daily questions when you go out, such as:

“Where is the best place to have coffee with a view?”

“What is the best way to get from Paris to Bordeaux?”

If you set tangible, specific and realistic goals, you will be able to see more real progress and you will be able to feel more accomplished about all the work you’ve been putting in. At the same time, if you have a very busy work and social schedule and can’t dedicate 5-6 days per week to learning a language, your goals or time frame for achieving them may be a bit different.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Holding yourself accountable is easier said than done. I’m sure you’re wondering… Yeah, but how can I hold myself accountable when it’s 100% up to me to practice a language? Well, from experience I can give you three ways I hold myself accountable when trying to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby or, simply, keep my life together.

  1. Physically write out your goals and leaning plan somewhere it won’t be forgotten or unseen. It will serve as a reminder to get to it when you’re not feeling as motivated.
  2. Sign up for weekly lessons, a language learning application or a group or club. The act of actually committing yourself to something, whether it be financially or morally, will motivate you to participate.
  3. Find a friend or group of people who are interested in the same language or who also plan on taking that trip to France. Whether you find them in person or online, chatting with other like-minded individuals from around the world will help you to stay excited about the language you’re learning so you won’t lose interest!

So, there you have it!

Like I said, there is no “best” way to learn a language. It’s up to you to choose your best methods, learning plan, goals and accountability strategies so that you can see real progress, stay motivated and become a bilingual citizen of the world!

And, with that, I say bonne chance à vous tous !

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