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How to learn a language fast. Ten tips that will help you say Hola.

So many people have asked me before for tips and tricks to learn another language (especially Spanish) throughout the years, that I actually took the time to think about it.  For me, learning another language was a natural thing,  I learned Spanish and English since I was a kid.  I’m not going to deny that it took a little while to get good at it, but everything gets better with practice.  

Our fast growing society goes through changes every day.   If you must learn a new language due to necessity, travel or just simply because you want to expand your knowledge, there are a few simple steps that could help you engage in this task. NOTE: these tips will only work if you are willing to learn.  Just so you know, there is no magic formula that this muggle can provide.

  1. HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

The first thing you need to understand is that your attitude towards something has a great effect on the product.  You have to want to learn a new language in order to prepare your brain for the mission.  Motivation is a key element in initiating and keeping up with the desire of learning something new.  Try to change your state of mind from “I need to learn Spanish” to “I want to learn Spanish”.   Once you had convinced yourself that this is something that you want, it is time to search for a good course.  

2. TRY A CLASS

There are a variety of classes, books, DVD’s, CD’s, and a combination of all of the previous that will work just fine.  The price varies, as well as the technique.  You need to look for one that can accommodate your needs as far as how much time you are going to dedicate a day, or how many days a week you are willing to spend studying.  Once you have found the class, or book, or course that you feel comfortable with, is time to start.  

3. NOTHING IS THAT DIFFICULT

Never think that learning another language is difficult.  Saying this to yourself will undo your desire and motivation.  You already learned to speak a language once.  So you are living proof that language is part of our brain, you just need to find the right approach.

4. THINK LIKE A CHILD

Yes, as weird as it sounds, we all learn to communicate as children.  So, in order to learn a new language, think like a child.  Children learn word by word first, and then they learn to put phrases together.  Start with the objects around your house.  Tape little signs or label random objects around your home with the corresponding word in the language you want to learn.  If you tend to forget how to pronounce the word, make sure you also write down the phonetic spelling in a way to can understand it.  When you are at home, practice out loud by naming the object around you and try to incorporate them in sentences, even if the sentence is half in English and half in your targeted language.  Doing this exercise will familiarize your brain with the association of a certain word and an object.  

5. AVOID LITERAL TRANSLATIONS

Again, the same way children learn a new language.  Associate words with things you already know.  For example, if you want to learn the Spanish word for happy, “feliz” you should picture a smiley face in your mind, and not the actual word “happy”.  If you want to remember the word for “cold” then picture the feeling you have when you open the refrigerator.  Thinking about the feeling, emotion, or object will make it easier to remember than just trying to memorize the definition.  

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6. TV SAP FEATURE IS YOUR FRIEND.

Practice by watching television shows in the foreign language you are trying to learn, if possible or use the SAP (Secondary Audio Programming) when available.  OR  Watch videos, or listen to music in the foreign language online and try to pick up all the words you can.  Download lyrics to a slow song, and follow the lyrics while listening to the same song will help you practice your listening abilities, and will also help you with pronunciation.

7. START A CONVERSATION

Once you have a more extensive vocabulary, it is time to expand your conversational skills.  Follow the instructions on your chosen method of learning to engage in grammar and sentence structure.  This will be much easier if you already have the needed vocabulary.  This is perhaps the trickiest part of learning a new language.  It is very important not to get discouraged at this point.  The most important thing to remember is not to be afraid of making mistakes.  Practice as much as you can, even if you are not saying the word or phrase one hundred percent correctly.  If you have a friend that speaks the language you are trying to learn, ask them to help you by engaging in conversational exercises.  

8. YOUR BRAIN WILL DO THE WORK

Remember, once you had practiced and repeatedly listened to native speakers, whether in person or on video, your brain will create its own idea of how this new language is supposed to sound.  You will eventually know if something doesn’t sound grammatically correct when you say it.  Follow your instincts and use your resources.  

9. NETWORK WITH OTHERS TRYING TO LEARN

Networking is a good tool when you are trying to achieve anything.  It’s imperative to create good business relationships, and to further your social skills.  But it’s also a good way to meet and learn with others, like you, who are in the same situation.  There’s nothing better than to exchange anecdotes and tips with fellow language-mates.  They might have ways to learn that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.  

10.  MOVE TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY.

This is perhaps the more radical way to learn, but also the most efficient.  If you want to learn Spanish, consider moving to a Spanish speaking country for a little while and mingle with the natives.  When no one speaks English around you, you will be forced to learn the language and the survival instincts of your brain will kick in, allowing you to learn without even noticing it.

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Motivate yourself every day in the quest of learning a new language because you want to do it.  Don’t be embarrassed to say something wrong, as long as you correct yourself in the process.  Perseverance, dedication and practice will ensure your success in learning a new language fast.  And remember, you got this!