Off on holiday next week? There’s still time to get up to scratch on the local lingo…
Learning a new language can feel like a mammoth task, especially when you think back to your school days and all the hours you spent trying to remember your French verbs – and you can still only just about order two croissants in a boulangerie. The good news, though, is that you don’t need to learn a lot to be able to have a basic conversation. In French, for example, only 600 words account for 90% of words found in common text (newspapers, blogs etc.). Most languages are the same.
Don’t feel burdened by this task, try and make it as enjoyable as possible. Learning from textbooks, like you did at school, is not the only way to learn a language. Consider some of the options below, try a couple of them out on your first lunch break and push ahead with the most accessible one for the rest of the week.
- Audio guide or podcast: If the thought of getting a notebook out and writing everything down fills you with dread, audio guides and podcasts feel a lot less cumbersome, because all you need is a pair of headphones. There are so many different ones out there – some free and some not. Although not free, Michel Thomas is one of the easiest, most effective and empowering audio guides around. Available to download worldwide, you can begin with his Foundation course, which doesn’t cost too much and only requires 1.5 hours of listening. You’ll be surprised by how much you can say after just 15 minutes (and it’s not just, “Hello. How are you? What’s your favourite colour?”).
- Apps: If you prefer to be more interactive in the way you learn a language, and enjoy point-scoring and rewards, apps are probably the most engaging option. Type the language that you’d like to learn into the search bar of your app store and have a look through the results – there will be lots of different formats and levels to suit your style of learning. Duolingo is a particularly engaging and popular one. Even if you decide to learn primarily via headphones or textbook, apps can also be a great supplementary learning tool, to test your knowledge or vocabulary at the end of the day.
- Textbooks: If you prefer to see everything laid out on a page, so that you can jump back and forwards between what you’re learning, the traditional, paper-based route might be the one for you. As the most visual way of communicating information, the formatting of a textbook can either make or break your learning. With this in mind, try to spend your first lunch break browsing through the various textbook options in your nearest bookshop, or if you aren’t near a bookshop and need to order online, make sure you read the reviews of each book you’re considering.
- Conversation: If you learn more from hearing other people speak, and being regularly corrected, you might be better off seeking out some company and learning with another person – or a group of people. For the first option, you could ask a foreign colleague if they wouldn’t mind meeting you for lunch every other day and teaching you. Alternatively, search online for any ads from people offering conversation time. It doesn’t even have to include meeting up – a lot of people offer phone or video-call conversation classes. If you’re more of a group learner, search online for language conversation groups near your office. Community-based websites are always good for these and if you don’t find anything, you could always create a group of your own and see if anyone else nearby has the same idea.
While learning a language isn’t a form of exercise, it is listed as an ‘active’ challenge because, if you choose to use an audio guide or podcast to learn from, there’s a good chance you’ll want to repeat what you’re listening to out loud. With this in mind, you might not want to be sitting in a café saying “I want it, you want it” in Italian for everyone to hear – especially not the Italians.
If this is the way you choose to learn, go for a walk while talking to yourself. There’s also something quite satisfying about setting out for a stroll and coming back with a new language under your belt. That being said, if you decide to learn from a book or via an app, you might need to be a little bit more stationary.