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How to Learn a Language

Picking up another tongue can be exciting and empowering. And these days there are more ways than ever to help you do it.


  • Step 1: Find a program Choose a program. Options include instructional CDs or software, online courses, adult-education classes, language-immersion courses, and private tutors.
  • Step 2: Put in the time Put in the time. You need to devote at least one hour a day to study.
  • TIP: Language students retain more if they study in short but frequent spurts rather than infrequent, extended periods.
  • Step 3: Immerse yourself If possible, spend at least a few months living where the language you're learning is the native tongue; being totally immersed is the best way to pick it up.
  • Step 4: Use social networking If a sabbatical abroad is out of the question, use online social networking to hone your skills. There are entire web sites devoted to matching up people who want to practice a language with native speakers.
  • Step 5: Watch foreign films Watch foreign films in the language you're studying. It's an entertaining way to get in some extra lessons and learn correct pronunciation.
  • TIP: Watch the movie once without subtitles, and a second time with to see what you missed.
  • Step 6: Get a dictionary Get a foreign dictionary and memorize the nouns and verbs you'll most likely use -- they're often different from the ones taught in audio recordings and textbooks.
  • TIP: Pick up some slang. It will help you sound like a native.
  • Step 7: Be brave Don't be afraid to make mistakes while you're learning. Most people will just be impressed that you're making the effort.
  • FACT: In one study, people who grew up in bilingual households were able to learn twice as many words from a new language as people who grew up in one-language homes.

You Will Need

  • A lesson plan
  • Commitment
  • Immersion
  • Social networking
  • Foreign films
  • A foreign dictionary
  • Bravery
  • Slang (optional)

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