Tips on learning another language

Amanda Angus

If there’s a particular country that you like to visit on a regular basis, learning the language could be a great way to enjoy it even more.

Learning a new language could open up a whole new world for you – allowing you to better understand new cultures and make new friends around the world.

It can even give you a reason for quality time with the grandchildren – helping with their language homework!

The hardest languages to learn

Many languages claim to be the toughest to learn. It depends what your native tongue is. But it’s widely agreed that five of the hardest languages to learn are Danish, Greek, Japanese, Arabic and Chinese.

The most common languages in the world

For every person who speaks English, two people speak Mandarin – that’s over a billion people.

But it’s notoriously difficult to learn – each word can be pronounced in four ways!

In fourth place is Spanish – arguably the most useful for a Brit because we holiday a lot in Spain, the Balearics and Canaries.

It also opens up most of South America to us; plus once you’ve mastered Spanish or any of the Latin-based languages like French or Italian, you’ll find a lot of the same rules apply, so many people find a third language easier to pick up.  

Six tips for learning another language

Converse with a native speaker

The best way to learn another language is by talking with a native speaker. Of course, you’ll make mistakes, but that’s just part of the fun, and hopefully they will gently correct you whenever you go wrong.

This way you’ll find yourself naturally picking up the accent without thinking too much about it, and picking up interesting idioms that will help you blend in when you inevitably start chatting away like a native-born.

Converse with a friend

If you can’t find a native speaker, then try to learn with a friend, and challenge yourselves to conduct entire conversations in the new language.

You don’t even have to go to the same classes; if you live far apart, try to call each other once a week for a chat in French, or email each other with tales of your week, written in German.

Learn the 100 most common words

Learning the words for ‘trousers’, ‘spatula’ and ‘living room’ will help you once you’re fluent, but learning them in the very early stages won’t get you very far.

Instead, pretend you’re back in the classroom: start with the 100 most common words and make sentences with them over and over again.

Carry a pocket dictionary or download an app

That way, if you need a word that isn’t in your first 100, it’s right there in your pocket, stopping you from slotting in English words where you don’t know what to say (a poorly pronounced word in the right language is better than an English replacement).

Duolingo is a particularly good app for learning a language; it breaks everything down into manageable chunks, and lets you decide how long you’d like to practice for each day.

Keep practising in your head

Challenge yourself to think in the new language.

Practise and construct sentences and fake conversations in your head. Perhaps try to write limericks or poems, or translate song lyrics as you sing along to the radio in the car.

Learn how to say “How do you say…?”

This is a very helpful phrase. Learn it and use it – it will hopefully stop you substituting English words and enable you to grow your vocabulary exponentially.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.