“I dream of one day…” We’ve all said those words before. We’ve also all probably said the words, “I just don’t have time,” before. But what if you actually did, you just weren’t thinking outside the box? Learning a language doesn’t require you to sit in language classes five days a week. It requires practice. And practice, you can do anywhere.
So, are you ready to start learning a language from home? Self studying a foreign language can be difficult, but also fun, efficient, and cuts an extreme amount of time. You can go at your own pace, not the pace of your teacher. So, here are some top tips on how to learn a language by yourself. Any language, for that matter.
1. Know what type of learner you are.
If you’ve been around my blog for a while now, you’ll definitely know this is not the first time I’ve promoted this idea. Before even starting to seriously study a language, study yourself. Take a few moments to examine how you learn best and what methods might help things stick more. This will save you a lot of time, make learning easier, make learning more effective, and make it more fun.
If you don’t know what I mean by ‘type of learner,’ here’s a short summary: there are visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and reading/writing preference learners.
To complete this step in little time, visit our Free Downloads library to download a printable PDF worksheet titled ‘Self Assessment PDF.’
2. Set some long term goals.
If you’ve already filled out the self assessment worksheet, you would have a pretty good idea of what your goals are. However, now it’s time to spell them out. Think about what you want your life to be like when you ‘finish’ learning a language. Are you going to be fluent? Will you be living in a native-speaking country? Will you be moving on to another task?
After thinking about how you’d like your life to be afterwards, begin setting an overall goal that would help you achieve that. If you want to see yourself speaking fluently in the language, then obviously, your long term goal would be fluency.
Don’t worry about being specific, now is the time to be broad. We’ll look into specifics in the next step.
3. Set some short term goals.
Examples of short term goals are like, “I want to be able to order my food at the local bistro in Chinese this weekend,” or “I want to have at least two meetings with my language tutor this week,” or “I want to complete this textbook by next month.” Setting short term goals helps you advance, and make extreme progress, towards your long term goal.
4. Find your resources.
An amazing thing about learning a language from home is that you get to pick what you’re going to use. If you like the traditional textbook-style learning, look into some language textbooks to order online or at your local bookstore. Also, most textbooks have accompanying workbooks or instructor manuals to help you along the way. If don’t like learning things in a ‘traditional’ way that makes studying feel more like…well, studying…to you, and would prefer a more modernized way of learning, online courses are probably your best options.
Also, depending on your budget, there are is a wide range of sources to choose from, so set your budget. You don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to become fluent in a language. In fact, I learned Spanish to near fluency for absolutely free. To see how I did it and how you can do the same for any language, check out my post here.
Another tip is to use multiple resources. Don’t just use one textbook or one online course. You don’t have to pay for multiple ones, but make sure to broaden your usage of study tools.
5. Hit it hard in the beginning.
If you’re a beginner in a language, now is the time to make your first big move. Knock out the most important vocabulary, get your basic grammar down, and really start learning a lot. The beginner phase is the easiest phase to do this in.
Focus on building your foundation from the very beginning. And if you’ve been learning a language for a while now, focus on making sure you have that foundation and if you do, strengthen it consistently.
6. Make time work with you, not against you.
No, you can’t control time, but you can definitely control how you use it. You don’t have to set aside a certain time for hours each day to learn a language. Instead, use all hours of the day to your advantage.
For example, in my post I linked to above about how I learned Spanish, I listen to podcasts in the morning when I wake up and am still laying in bed and at night as I’m falling asleep. Additionally, I listen to Spanish music on my runs, and when I’m going about my day, try to name everything in front of me in Spanish or simply describe how my day has been to myself.
When you’re taking a shower, have a conversation with yourself.
When you’re on the way to work or school, listen to an audio.
When your bored in class or have nothing to do in the office, take out your phone and go through flashcards.
7. Focus on all four aspects of the language.
When I learn a new language, I always start by listing out the four major aspects of ALL languages: vocabulary (including grammar), reading/writing, listening comprehension, and speaking.
You don’t have to focus on all of these with an equal amount of effort, as during different stages of learning you have different strengths and weaknesses. Instead, list them out, and designate how much of your efforts you want to put forth in each one. But, none of them should have zero percent written beside it.
Make sure the materials you have picked satisfy all four of these aspects. If not, or if some focus more on one than the others, choose some more. This will broaden the tools you use, your brain’s ability to perform certain and all tasks in the language, and help you become fluent and reach your goals faster.
8. Get help and practice from native speakers.
I try to have Skype calls with my Chinese teachers at least once a week. We have lessons that last an hour long and the teachers really push me to use only Chinese throughout the entire lesson. And if I don’t want formal lessons and instead would simply like to practice speaking and having conversations, they love to have free talks with me in Chinese about any topics we want.
Get yourself someone who is a native speaker of the language and practice, practice, practice with them. On days I don’t have Skype lessons, I try to text my teachers in Chinese or my language exchange friends.
9. Read success stories.
I cannot tell you how much motivation this can give. I’ve been pushed to get off my butt and start learning even harder after watching or reading even one success story. I normally read stories off of blogs such as Benny Lewis’s Fluent in 3 Months, watching TED talks of people who have used and developed new methods of learning a language, and watching YouTubers who have learned multiple languages give their tips and even just watching them speak in all of them. When I hear how someone else has been so successful or see how far they’ve come, it makes me think: “wow, I want to be able to speak Chinese/Korean/Spanish that good.” It can, and will, do that to you too if learning a language really is a dream of yours.
10. Know what you’re going to do each day.
Make a plan, and try your best to stick to it. No one learns a language by saying, “I’m going to learn today.” People learn languages by saying, “I’m going to practice my Spanish today, I’m going to do a chapter in this book, listen to some music while on my way to work, and remind myself of how much I love doing this and why I wanted to in the first place.”
Write down what you’re going to do to give yourself a sense of guidance and direction. You really get from Point A to Point B a lot faster when you have a map that shows you exactly how to get there.
11. Use Audiobooks and magazines to your advantage.
Subscribe to a foreign magazine, download an iBook in your target language, or even buy a physical hard copy in the language. As you’re reading, circle or highlight words you don’t know, look them up, and practice using them in sentences.
Using Audiobooks really helps with your listening comprehension and with your motivation. When you’re listening to a fun and exciting book that keeps your interest, you’ll be much more motivated to learn the language. What I do is listen to the Audibook while reading along with the iBook the first time, then I go back and only listen to that same chapter.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Self studying a language can be beautiful, fun, and exciting, but also hard and challenging.
To see exactly how I’m learning Mandarin Chinese from home, check out my post, Chinese Learning Strategies.
To find out how you can learn any language in record time, how I myself did it, and for absolutely no cost, check out my post How To Learn Spanish For Free.
If you’re not only learning a language from home or don’t consider yourself to be ‘self studying,’ or are taking a language class in school, see my recent post, 10 Best Tips for Learning a Language in School.
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