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20 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language (Part 2)


Last week, we shared with you 10 tips for learning a foreign language. As promised, we are back with 10 additional tips to interact with the language that you are learning on a regular basis. From scheduling routines to playing games, these 10 tips will help you integrate a foreign language into your everyday life!

11. Try to think in ideas rather than words when speaking

The end goal is to think in the language you’re learning. Of course, this is easier said than done. One way to achieve this is by forcing yourself to provide answers or explanations using phrases rather than individual words like “Yes” or “No”.

A good trick is reusing some of the words in that were used to formulate the questions. Once you can put together a verb with a noun or a subject, you should be trying to create phrases in your mind.

12. Identify key sounds that are strange to your ears, then isolate them and practice them

tips-for-learning-foreign-language-myngle-soundWe are all taught a database of sounds and structures. Because languages often have overlapping sounds, this can help to accelerate learning. However, unfamiliar sounds can create mental blocks. Anticipating these mental blocks will help you overcome them when they are heard.

Take a strange sound and find words which rhyme. This will help you to practice the sound, thus preparing you for the next time you hear that sound. Poetry or songs can be very useful in this regard. You may even recreate the pronunciation of this sound by using your mother tongue, so that the sound is more natural to you.

13. Identify pronunciation patterns

Pronunciation is one of the most difficult things for learners of a foreign language. Especially, in the case of languages in which the sounds may not always appear in the same way as they are written, for example English. An effective strategy can be isolating patterns in the language so that they are easier to remember.

For instance, in English, the terminations ‘-tion’ ‘-ment’ and ‘-ing’ have a consistent sound. Ask your teacher to help you identify those patterns and try to become familiar with those that are used often. Understand too that the sound may not always appear as they are written, especially in English.

14. Strive for 15 minutes of exposure to the language each day

tips-for-learning-foreign-language-myngle-timeOne of the most effective things that you can do is to practice your new language every single day. Nowadays, thanks to the use of technology, there are multiple ways in which you can expose yourself to the target language you are studying. For example:

  • writing an email
  • reading/watching the news in the target language
  • listening to a podcast/radio in the language
  • switching the language of your phone or web browser

You can also try to establish a conversation with someone who doesn´t speak your native language. This way, the other person might be more willing to listen to you with more patience and attention. This is way better than practicing a scripted conversation that does not fit your everyday life and that you may never use.

Eventually, as you gain confidence, you will see as those 15 minutes of practice go farther. Being able to maintain a simple conversation is a huge reward in and of itself, making it easier to keep you motivated!

15. Choose a certain time of the day/week to only speak in the language you are learning

tips-for-learning-foreign-language-myngle-scheduleThis may create a routine that helps your brain to switch between languages. When you don’t know of anyone who is learning the same language as you, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself. This may make you look a bit crazy if you´re walking on the street, but speaking to yourself throughout the day is a great way to practice.

Especially, if you also practice possible responses to your conversation. Little by little, you can try to incorporate new words and phrases, so that they are fresh in your mind for the next time you speak with someone.

16. Play games

Of course, this idea works best within a group of learners. However, you can also play by yourself in order to spark creativity and put your neurons to work!

  • Charades, for instance, allows you to act out a word, so that others have to guess it in the relevant language.
  • 20 Questions, similar to Charades, where someone thinks of a word or name in a language and the other persons ask Yes/No questions.
  • Hangman and Scrabble are classic spelling games that can help you to remember how a word is properly spelled.


Playing games is the perfect way to exercise your language skills in a more interactive and entertaining way.

17. Try to engage multiple senses while speaking

Language learning should be about stimulating the mind. Sitting in a classroom doesn’t usually accomplish this. Instead, having bursts of activity to review what is being learned is the way to go. This can be done by engaging multiple senses at the same time. For example, speaking while walking, walking while talking, throwing or bouncing a ball while reviewing words, etc. This will stimulate your mind more deeply than simply reviewing words with index cards.

18. Understand that the 1,000 most commonly used words

For instance, in English, the 1,000 most commonly used words cover about 85% of daily speech. 1,000 words may seem like a lot, but many can be learned through cognates or even absorbed by use (like articles and simple prepositions). Just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. So you do not need to know all the words of a language to speak it (and in fact, chances are that you don’t know all the words in your mother tongue either).

19. Write down your mistakestips-for-learning-foreign-language-myngle-mistakes

Are you able to identify any patterns by looking at the common mistakes you make in the language you are learning? When we track our mistakes (either by asking others or thinking back on what we have said) we can try to understand why we make those same mistakes all the time. Acknowledging them may help you ensure that you don’t repeat them again, so that you can move on to make new mistakes!

20. Study basic grammar just once a month

tips-for-learning-foreign-language-myngle-grammarGrammar shouldn’t be the focal point of the learning process. Grammar was (arguably) one of the last things you learned as a child for your native language, so don’t stress too much about it. See, grammar is a bit like butter: it is used in many recipes, but it is not the focal point of the recipe. So, it is better to learn some words, and then start using them with people — only afterwards should start slowly picking up some grammar.

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2 Comments on “20 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language (Part 2)”

  1. Translator Says:

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing your experience in learning new languages. I will definitely use your tips to learn languages much more productive. It will be nice to see Part 3. I hope that you will continue doing this type of content.

  2. Robert P Says:

    this is by far the best list of its type i have seen. these work!