Foreign Language Fuel

It’s that time of the year when resolutions abound, and new hobbies are picked up quicker than hotcakes. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn a new language, or to boost your current learning, then look no further for fuel to fire up your language study. I’ve compiled my top tips to make sure that boring textbooks don't leave your linguistic resolutions resigned to the ‘try again next year’ pile.

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The first tip is true for any resolution – set realistic goals. A vague statement such as ‘learn Spanish’, while great, does not give you a clear target to aim for, so instead try creating a few small goals for the year. Some examples of these could be ‘learn how to order a meal in a French restaurant’ or ‘be able to introduce myself and my family in Spanish’, which are quantifiable and achievable. On top of these stepping-stones, give yourself a timeframe within which to complete each goal, so you can hold yourself accountable.

Once your goals have been decided upon, you can begin to think about how you’ll achieve them. There are many great resources out there, such as language-learning apps, or courses such as Rosetta Stone, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the face-to-face help of an actual tutor or teacher. There are a number of great tutoring websites, with tutors that teach both online in person. Once you’ve found a teacher near you, try an introductory lesson to see if you’re compatible with each other, and then (if possible) block book your lessons to ensure consistent progress with your learning.

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Once you’ve begun your MFL mission, or if the New Year has seen a continuation of an existing one, explore ways to keep your learning interesting and engaging. Although we as humans are creatures of habit, we are also prone to boredom, so keeping your studies varied will ensure that you’re not kicking your resolutions by the first of February. Some of the best ways to do this are to use resources such as podcasts, blogs and YouTube channels with pep up your language learning. Not only will they give you a break from grammar, they’ll also help to develop skills such as listening and reading in your target language.

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If possible, one of the best (and most exciting ways) to accelerate your language learning is to spend time abroad in a country that speaks said tongue. Whilst textbooks and apps are great, there is no better way to develop all aspects of your target language than being surrounded by native speakers, and the culture behind the language. You could also take a language course whilst abroad to truly boost your brainpower, whilst meeting like-minded language learners.

Overall, the biggest key to linguistic success in the New Year is to enjoy the learning process. The most prosperous goals are the ones that we don’t even realise we’re working to achieve, because we’re having so much fun doing so. Try different methods to see which works best for you as a learner: if you’re more visual, foreign language YouTube videos could be for you, whereas auditory learners will enjoy podcasts etc. Set manageable goals, and don’t panic if you have times when life gets in the way and you can’t learn – it happens to all of us! Connect with like-minded learners through forums or social media, and enjoy the doors that languages will open for you. Happy New Year!

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