How to Start Learning a Language

So you’ve chosen which language you’d like to learn.

Perhaps your sights are set on the more popular languages, like Spanish, French, or Mandarin Chinese. Perhaps you’ve gone the lesser-traveled route, and decided on a language like Danish, Swahili or Korean.

Whatever the case, you should pat yourself on the back. You’ve taken an important first step. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Now we have to answer the next question, one that may have been weighing on you ever since you decided to learn a language in the first place:

Where do I begin?

It’s an important question, and not one to be taken lightly.

An Uncommon Language Learning Approach

Common sense would dictate that to learn a language, you first need to decide which materials you’re going to learn from.

It sure would. But you and I aren’t here to be common language learners.

Common language learners give up. They’re a flash in the pan.

If you’re anything like us, you’re here to be uncommon. Downright rare.

You want to be part of the select few that starts learning a language and actually reaches fluency. And beyond.

And that requires a different approach.

Before you spend any time debating which resources you’ll use, you need to understand why learning that language is important to you.

We did a little bit of prep work in this area in the last article, when you tied your preferred languages to your passions.

Now we’re going to expand upon that a bit.

Write Your Reasons for Learning a Language

Take out a new piece of paper, and start writing down any and all reasons why you want to learn your chosen language. Write for a minimum of two minutes, and no longer than five.

If you’re stuck looking at a blank page, you can start by rewriting how the language you have selected ties into your primary interests, as you did in the last article.

Typical reasons to learn a language can include, but are not limited to:

  • You have friends who speak the language, or would like to make some.
  • You have an interest in the culture, or some major cultural tradition.
  • You have or desire an opportunity to live and work in a country, and need to learn the language to survive and thrive.

Ostensibly, any reasons to learn a language can be “good” reasons, but the goal here is to nail down a few reasons that are highly motivating for you in particular.

When you have your final list of reasons, take a few moments to highlight, circle, or underline those reasons that really get you going, and really spark a desire in you to learn your new language.

Ready Your Learning Routine

Once you’ve established your primary reasons for learning your chosen language, we need to check your calendar.

Why your calendar, you ask? Because the next key to your language learning success is a solid schedule. A daily routine.

Language learning needs to happen every day. It needs to become such an intrinsic part of your schedule that it fades out of your conscious awareness, like making your morning coffee, speaking, or breathing.

So you need to decide two things:

  • How much time am I willing to learn every day?
  • Where is this “learning time” going to fit into my daily schedule?

For the first question, we recommend starting with 30 minutes a day and building up from there. It’s just enough time to get into the “flow” of learning without putting too much stress on your schedule as-is.

For the second, that’s entirely up to you. Most people like to learn in the morning before work or in the evenings after work. Choose whatever works for you. The only recommendation we make is you pick a time when you usually have more energy, as that is when you’re better equipped to learn and memorize new information.

Take five minutes and think about your average day. See where you can fit in 30 minutes of uninterrupted learning every single day.

A Solid Language Learning Foundation

Now that you’ve followed the above steps, you’ve established your rock-solid reasons and readied a tentative daily routine.

In less than one-hour’s time, you’ve laid a foundation for language learning success that may fuel your fluency for years to come, if you let it.

Stay tuned for the next article, where we can finally talk about the bread-and-butter of language learning: resources!