As you begin your international teaching placements, you may be headed off to a new country with no knowledge of how to speak the native language. In some cases, you’ll be exposed to a completely different alphabet. Don’t fret—use these simple tips that won’t take much time or trouble to get started learning a new language. The more you can learn, the more comfortable you’ll feel in your new city.
We know this seems counterintuitive, but there have been studies that show that simply reading textbooks and filling out workbooks when learning a language aren’t as effective as getting out into the world and activating that language. Full immersion is your friend! Don’t be shy to make mistakes, people will just appreciate the fact that you’re trying to learn their language. Take as many opportunities as you can to use your target language to communicate with the people around you—even picking up a local newspaper and committing to read one article a day is more effective than studying a textbook and will help you advance more quickly.
Stock up on sticky notes
One problem many people report when learning a new language is that they constantly forget common, everyday words that they imagined would be the easiest for them to remember. Using sticky notes to label everything around your apartment in your target language will give you constant little reminders to help you learn these words and work them into your vocabulary.
Switch up your music playlist
Listening to music in a target language can be surprisingly helpful, even though you might feel like you’re doing no studying at all. Music stimulates memory recall—just think about what it’s like when you hear a song you haven’t heard in years: you remember all the words. If you want to take it one step further, a lot of research even suggests that singing songs aloud in the target language may help you learn a language twice as quickly. Not to mention, your pronunciation will improve!
Make new friends
This might seem like it goes without saying, but if you’d like to make language learning one of your focuses, you should really look to make some friends outside of your teaching circle. Try local meetups, a conversation exchange, or a sports team. This way you’ll be exposed more regularly to your new country’s culture in an authentic way and you’ll learn some new language as well. You might even pick up on slang and colloquial language a bit more easily if you have a friend to show you the ropes.
Reset your electronics and social networks
If you’re a frequent Facebook user, you’ve likely memorized the functionality in your mother tongue. Why not switch the default language to the native language of your new country to learn some computing vocabulary and common words? You can do this in your Account Settings.
You don’t have to stop there though—try your cellphone and laptop as well. These will begin to get you thinking about daily tasks in another language.
If you’ve found resources or tips of your own that have helped your advance your language learning, share them with us!