Here are five easy ways that have helped me learn new languages.
1. Talk to kids. It’s one of the best ways to practice as you won’t feel self-conscious with them. If you don’t make sense, they won’t get bored or frustrated with you. In fact, it won’t matter to them at all because half the time they don’t make much sense either. You’ll fit right in.
2. Listen to music you like in your target language. As you start learning the songs and the new words that come along with it, you will augment your vocabulary. Plus it’s such an easy way to learn new words—a lot less painful than memorization—especially if you love a particular song. I have Shakira’s Dónde Están los Ladrones? to thank for helping my Spanish along.
3. Have pretend conversations with yourself in your target language. I know this sounds kind of nutty but I actually do this a lot when learning a language (really, I’m not insane). I pick something I want to explain and then I describe it in my head or out loud (if I am alone that is) in the language I am learning. If a particular phrase or word is giving me a lot of trouble, I practice using it in a variety of different contexts, as if I am having a conversation.
4. If you’re single, you need a boyfriend or girlfriend that is a native speaker of your target language. It’s how I revived my high school French!
5. Watch TV, especially the popular shows (start with sub-titled movies if you are only a beginner and can’t understand anything yet). At first you may register a word every third sentence, which can be frustrating. But before you know it, you’ll see you can understand a sentence and then two. Also, don’t be too picky about what you watch. I ordinarily don’t watch soap operas but got into the popular Brazilian soaps when I lived briefly in Brazil.
None of these ideas alone will bring total mastery of a new language, but taken together, they can all be helpful tools to bolster language learning.