Question: Could you share some tips with how you learned a new language? I want to learn a language but can’t figure out where to start and how to make sure I speak it properly
Well, I’m certainly no expert. There are websites and subreddits dedicated to language learning with people who are far more methodical and better at self-teaching than I am, but I’ll talk a bit on what I’m up to because I did manage to achieve Spanish fluency and am so far competent in basic German.
Putting a cut in because I’m obnoxiously wordy, but the tl;dr of it is that it’s about consistent exposure. Go find an interactive resource to get the basics, then go find the side of the internet that exists in your target language. Consume.
The best way to learn is through immersion, but of course we can’t all just go drop into a foreign country for a year.
I learned one language with formal instruction. I assume that’s not going to be your situation but hang with me—It’s definitely not necessary, and I found some shortcomings in it.
I learned Spanish in school from 7th to 12th grade, which was good for foundations but tbh only foundations. I could travel with it but not much more. But the AP Spanish exam let me skip straight into higher-level courses in college, so for a few semesters I spent ~15 hours each week without a word of English. Even though I needed the foundation to make it happen, I definitely improved my Spanish more in 1 semester than in several years of my pre-university work. I ended up doing a minor for shits n gigs.
But all of that amounted to being extremely capable in academic discussions, and not so much in casual conversations. I could go talk to someone about their dissertation and still need a dictionary on a menu.
Learning a language in a classroom gives you a lopsided functionality.
To combat that and to maintain my fluency post-college, I make a point to keep consuming Spanish media. I read books and fanfics, follow meme pages, listen to podcasts, watch TV…those have all been a big help and are accessible to you without needing formal courses. They expose you to how people are actually using the language.
I’m doing German entirely on my own. I have Duolingo for the barebones grammar and vocab, but it falls short in actually explaining certain things so I have a textbook downloaded for specific questions (like what the hell is going on with their grammatical genders. We just don’t know! Here are a few rules, think fast or memorize, go throw a dart and see what you hit! Terrible system.)
Anyway. Duolingo set me up for a decent understanding of sentence structure, though not everyone likes the way it’s set up. Probably depends on your learning style. I often see Memrise cited as an alternative but I haven’t checked it out yet.
For proper advancement, again, I’m consuming media. I follow a few meme pages and artists and look up words I don’t know (just Google “German to English” and it’ll give you a translator immediately. I also use the Microsoft Translator app. Sometimes actual googling is necessary if it’s slang.) I listen to learning podcasts, I have a few German singers I’m into. I don’t try to understand every word when listening, just pick up what I can and get used to the cadence of the language. Love subtitles (preferably in German). When I’m bored or cooking or shopping, I make a game of how many objects in the room I can name/describe. At this point I can read a newspaper with some competency—that kind of basic communication. Zero classroom time.
(Of note, my priority is reading/listening more than speaking. If you want to speak properly, short of actually finding a buddy to practice with, you can read things aloud and verbally respond to them. Write back to other speakers online. Make a point of listening to audio.)
It has been 2 years of pretty low-effort work—literally 20 minutes a day—but it is every day. 690 day streak on Duolingo and counting. I guarantee that 20 minutes a day is doing more for me than 2 hours once a week. I could definitely accelerate faster if I bothered to really dig into it, but I’m just doing it as a side hobby. Figure out what time you’re willing to commit to the basics with as much regularity as possible, then go dip your toes into media.
Anyway hopefully there was something in there remotely helpful lmao