New country, new language… Whenever you move to another country, the first thing that will make interesting your new location is the language. If you are lucky, you have already studied it and your arrival will be smooth. Otherwise, you have no options: you have to learn the basics as soon as possible.
Learning a new language is a privilege, a chance to open your mind and understand new cultures. It makes fun and it will help you to meet many new friends. If you move to Italy, it doesn’t mean that you have to manage perfectly Italian, but some basics give you the opportunity to speak with locals and to widen your horizons.
Imagine living in a shared flat in Florence with some Italians and people from other countries. How interesting could be talking with them in a common language, so that everyone can understand? Of course you can use the English language, but… well… you are in Italy! Grab the chance and learn the local language!
The best way to learn a language and practice it? There is not a right method to learn Spanish, English, Italian or any other language. Nonetheless, several tricks will make this linguistic adventure easier. How do we now that they work? We are mostly internationals and we had to learn many languages during our academic careers. Therefore, every single tip is simply something that we did to learn a foreign language and it worked (at least for us).
- Practice regularly
This is the first and most important rule when you have to learn and practice a new language. It doesn’t have to be something boring, nor a full immersion of one day per week. Half an hour each day is more than enough (unless you want to get a certificate). What can you do?
- Some grammar exercises to have some basics to speak properly. It doesn’t have to be the focus of your “study session”, but a couple of exercise to understand the use of the past or the future are essential.
- Use some apps, they will allow you to study a bit wherever you are. Do you have to spend 30 minutes on the bus? You can take your phone, log in and start a new lesson on Duolingo, for example.
- Create your personal flashcards. This is a great method to learn nouns, adjectives and verbs. You write the word on a side and the translation on the other one. How does it work? You choose a random card in the deck and make an effort to translate it or to remember what it means. You learn by playing!
- Read a lot
The second trick to learn quickly a language is the reading. Read always, read a lot. When you begin a new language, far away from yours, it is impossible to read novels or the newspaper. What you can do, though, is to read advertisements, simplified books, comics and children’s books. Once you’re ready, you can start with internet, with newspapers and novels. You are free to read whatever you want; the only thing is to keep reading everything (even the menu in a restaurant is a great source of new words and phrases!).
- Listen to the radio
This exercise works only if you find a channel with talks! You won’t understand a lot initially, but after a while you will get familiar with the accent, you will start to recognize the words, you will listen to them several times and… magic! You understand something, you understand sentences, and you understand everything. This is an exercise you can do everywhere: when you run (our favourite), when you clean your room, when you chill on the sofa…
- Watch movies or TV series
We are aware that when you want to watch a movie is to relax, but the movies in original language are better than the dubbed ones. Don’t you agree? If you are afraid that your level is too low, subtitles are always a good idea and if you miss something, you can just go back and watch the scene again. TV series are a valuable solution, too. They are shorter than the films and you may have already seen all the seasons in your language.
- Use post-it notes
No, we are not suggesting you to put post-its in every single object of the flat, so that you can remember how to say them in the language you are learning. How can you use the notes cleverly? They work perfectly with idioms or collocations and with those words that you cannot remember. All you have to do is to put them in place you look at many times each day and read them every time you can. After a while that you see and read them, they will be part of your lexicon.
- Look for a tandem partner
You must have heard about the tandem partner several times. A person offers you its language and you offer him/her yours. You can meet in a bar or eat something together, go for a walk, have a coffee at home, etc. It’s not a lesson, it’s a friendship: you meet and know a person and you learn a language. The rules? Rule number one: you speak half a language and half the other. Rule number two: the level has to be the same (more or less).
- Live in a shared flat
This is an unforgettable experience, a way to grow up, open your mind and widen your horizons. Your flat mates will be your best friends, your sisters and brothers. Shared flats are usually the most common housing solutions for students and young workers who decide to move far from home or abroad. Why should you choose this accommodation instead of another one? Because you share expenses and rent and you can meet new friends from all over the world. This international environment is the perfect one to practice a language: if they want to learn, for example, Spanish, you can “impose” to communicate only in Spanish. Your language skills will improve day by day. Imagine a rainy evening during the week, no discos or cinemas opened… you can play with flashcards or Dixit (amazing to know each other better and to make an effort to improve a language you have in common).
We’ve been assuming that you are already abroad, but, in order to start a new language, you can be in your home country, too. In that case, the tips are valid, too. We have just to add a new one: move abroad! Several programs will give you the chance to move abroad for a period, such as Erasmus, Au-pair, work holidays… Furthermore, several institutions can help you with your accommodation by offering you rooms in shared flats.
Are you ready to learn a new language?