Learning a foreign language at home – is that possible?
We’re not gonna lie – learning a language alone is hard. But there’s also good news. A language course can’t necessarily teach you any better.
Let’s start from the beginning. You’ve set a specific goal for yourself. You want to learn a new foreign language. For various reasons, you intend to do it on your own. Perhaps you don’t have time to commute to the language school. Perhaps a course or a private tutor are too expensive for you. The reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is the goal.
Think before you start
If your goal is getting a specific certificate, for instance, one required by your employer, consider your learning options carefully.
Exams of this kind mostly focus on perfect grammar skills and vocabulary which is in fact rarely used in everyday situations.
Can one understand English without perfect grammar skills? Of course! Being able to communicate in a given language doesn’t indicate you’re ready to get your sheepskin.
Neither does having a certificate in a language mean you’d be able to flawlessly converse with a native speaker. So consider your goal well before picking a learning method. Do you want simply to be able to communicate in the given language, or do you need documented new skills on your résumé?
We know it’s a cliché, but… try to have fun learning
Scientists have proven that repeating pleasurable activities causes parts of the brain such as the limbic system and prefrontal cortex to be strongly affected by endorphins.
We become almost addicted to enjoyable activities such as jogging, drinking coffee at our favourite café, or hanging out with friends.
Wake your inner child and treat learning not as another task, but as play. Don’t fret that Italian karaoke with your friends might be “inferior” to cramming a bunch of material for an hour.
Even watching Friends all night might be a form of learning. In fact, watching shows in your target language is enthusiastically recommended by most linguists.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Remember that you are trying to learn enough of the language to at least carry a basic conversation. So don’t worry if you make mistakes.
Start off with popular words and phrases. Cut yourself a lot of slack, look for shortcuts, use mnemonics. There will be time for polishing grammar later. If you have your own tips for learning languages at home, share them in the comments.