Step 1. Pick a Language
Chances are that you already know what language you’re going to learn. If you’re looking for a list of languages by number of native speakers head over to the Wikipedia page which lists languages by speakers. A 1997 report by George Weber on the The World’s 10 most influential Languages lists the top ten languages as English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, German, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian) and Hindi. Pick a language that you really want to learn not simply by the amount of speakers or estimated influence.
Step 2. Plan, Plan, Plan!
Now that you’ve picked your language it’s time to plan. Here are a few essential questions before you start learning:
- Are you going to be learning your language with a friend?
- Will you hire a teacher, go for a university course or use a book/CD?
- When can you make commitments in your schedule to learn the language?
Try to pick a time in which you can concentrate on learning! A block of two 1/2 hour blocks is perfect (if possible).
Step 3. Go Get Those Resources
Once you’ve answered those questions in step two, I recommend you spend some time looking for learning resources. Here are some places to look:
Library + Bookshops
It’s time to visit your local library or bookshop. Visit the language section and find a few books or CD’s related to your topics. You may be able to find a lot of publishers such as Teach Yourself, The Complete Idiot’s Guide, For Dummies, Living Languages and a whole host of other books. I recommended that you try looking up the book on Amazon or borrowing the book before purchasing it. Purchasing a book is often not necessary, sometimes you just want to know you have access to these books as reference. When first learning a language with a book, a dictionary is normally not required as the book you chose to use usually has useful vocabulary/verb lists.
There are many websites dedicated to learning languages. For example, BBC Languages – if you want a ‘beginner package’ of a selection of languages you want to learn. There is a wealth of non-text content too such as videos and podcasts try searching on YouTube and iTunes for your language.
Teachers and Friends
Often the best way to learn is with a human interaction. Try finding a teacher at your local university, which may offer a short course or a night course. These courses are often in a group and you’ll have an opportunity to get access to a speaker of the language (the teacher). Friends who also speak the language that you want to learn are also a great resources. You can ask them for help, maybe about the syntax of a language or pronunciation of words.
Step 4. Immersion
Try to immerse yourself in the language to get used to the sounds of the language. Here are some popular methods you could use:
- Native speakers of the language and other learners
Step 5. Have Fun and Practice
Now that you know how you’re going to learn your language start lesson one and enjoy learning your new language. You would have heard this a million times: have fun! Do try to immerse yourself in the language and find new resources as you go learn a new language. Good luck.