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Self-Taught Success: Learning a Foreign Language

Does learning a second language happen solely in a classroom? Or maybe on a 2 week mission trip? Or during a family vacation to a country that speaks the target language? It’s true, these are all helpful instances that challenge and build language understanding. However, becoming fluent and adept at a foreign language takes substantial work, time, and a personal investment. The concept of "self-education refers to learning in its purest form. It is taking on the task of gaining knowledge and insight for the sake of one’s own benefit.” Whether we become experts in a language depends on our own dedication to the messy --but rewarding-- labor required. With language learning, many people can come beside you and help you learn grammar, practice conversation, and memorize vocabulary, but in the end, it is up to you to put effort and brainpower into the rewiring of your brain that language learning requires.

Madeline Miller-- Spanish Tutor

Another aspect to consider in language learning is the definition of “success”. Everyone has different goals and ideas of how to achieve them. What is your motivation for learning a language? Is it to get a leg up professionally? Maybe to be able to converse better with those around you? Maybe learning a language is a personal challenge to work your brain. Or you set off on the journey of language learning to expand your worldview! Whatever the reason, language learning has no concrete “endpoint”. There is always a new word or expression to learn, a new accent to understand. Learning a language is one of the best ways to keep your mind healthy and active --with countless benefits professionally, health-wise, and socially!

Learning a language is a messy, involved, two steps forward, one step back kind of process. But time, effort, practice, persistence, and motivation create an equation for progress. Below are some practical steps that prove effective to self-teach a language:

  1. Be consistent! Set a realistic goal for yourself such as 15 minutes every night before bed.

  2. Incorporate the language into activities you enjoy:

    1. Shows in the target language, with subtitles

    2. Music

    3. Games/videogames

    4. Journaling

    5. Reading

    6. Changing your phone's interface into the target language

  3. Find resources that will provide instruction and direction.

    1. Apps such as Duolingo

    2. Us! If you are looking to learn a language, check out Language Matters' tutoring programs!

  4. Get friends and family on board.

    1. They can help hold you accountable.

    2. They can provide encouragement, and will celebrate your achievements with you.

    3. They can be on the lookout for further language learning opportunities

    4. Who knows? Maybe they’ll want to learn with you. :)

  5. Find what works for you and stick with it. Every small step counts!

Good luck! Buena suerte! Bonne chance! Viel Glück!

And don’t forget to have fun along the way, learning another language is a meaningful and satisfying venture with the right mentality and motivation!

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