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How to start learning a new language in 9 easy steps

A lot of the questions I get are something along the lines of “how can I start learning X language?”. Usually the language in question is Japanese or Korean, but starting any new language can be daunting and raises a whole load of questions. So, I hope this post will give you a good starting point for your new language adventure.



How to learn a new language in 9 easy steps:

  1. Choose a language

  2. Do some research

  3. Find some resources

  4. Make a study schedule 

  5. Learn the writing system

  6. Learn some basic words

  7. Start learning grammar

  8. Use the language

  9. Keep going!


1. Choose a language

This could be a blog post in itself (if you want to see that, let me know). I imagine that if you’re reading this, you already have a language in mind. But some things to consider include your motivations, the time you have available, resources available to you, languages you already know etc etc. Once your target language is decided, you’re good to go!


2. Do some research

If you want to start learning a language that’s completely new to you, you should probably take some time to learn about that language before even thinking about delving into grammar and vocab. Where is it spoken? How many speakers are there around the world? What writing system does it use? What does it sound like? These are all great things to know about your target language before even starting to learn the language itself. 





3. Find some resources

You may have come across some recommendations in forums and things while you were doing your initial research, but there’s loads of lists and videos online of people sharing their resources for different languages. Decide whether you want to use textbooks or video courses, apps or language exchanges, and if you can afford to spend some money or are looking for something for free. Of course you can use more than one resource, in fact I’d recommend it, but don’t go too crazy. 2 or 3 main resources will be more than enough to get you started. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by everything that’s available to you when you’re first starting out, heck I had about 11 Japanese books when I first started, but try to keep things simple. A good textbook and some video lessons is a great place to start!



4. Make a study schedule 

What other commitments do you have going on? How much time can you study each day and when? What goals are you trying to achieve and how long do you have to achieve them? It’s important to ask yourself these questions so you can structure your studies to keep yourself going and hold yourself accountable. Even just “study one chapter a week” will be enough to keep you going, so it doesn’t need to be anything complicated. If you’re aiming for an exam, work out how long it will take you to cover the content and allow yourself time to review and do some practice tests. If your goal is to speak to natives, decide how many words and grammar points you think you need for daily conversations. Breaking things down will make them much easier to achieve and giving yourself plenty of time will make them much more realistic and attainable. 



5. Learn the writing system (if it’s different to your native language)

Trust me, just do it. Learning the writing system at the start will save you such a headache later on. Most textbooks/courses will cover the writing system in the first chapters, or if you’re learning Japanese or Chinese I’d recommend finding a textbook or workbook of some kind for kanji/hanzi specifically. It might seem tedious at first, but learning the characters and pronunciations will give you a serious boost. Even if you only know simple grammar and vocab, being able to read, write and pronounce it all well will be seriously impressive! Remember, flashcards are your friends. If you’re learning Japanese or Korean, you can download my printable hiragana, katakana and hangul workbooks (flashcards included!) 


6. Learn some basic words

Whether they’re in your textbook chapters or frequency lists online, learning vocab first (and actually learning it, don’t just skim through!) will really help when it comes to grammar. It’s all very well learning new grammar points, but if you don’t know the words to put into the sentence what good is it really? Frequency lists are a great place to start since the words are organized based on how often they are used in the language, so you can easily learn 100 or so words that you’ll be able to use day to day. Also, when working through your textbook (or whatever resource you’re using) I’d recommend taking the time to learn the vocab in the lists given before moving on to the rest of the chapter. It will save you having to constantly flip back to check when you come across the new words!


7. Start learning grammar

Once you’ve got a solid vocabulary under your belt, it’s time for some grammar study. Most beginner resources tend to cover the same things so this shouldn’t be a problem regardless of your chosen resources. Make sure you read through the examples and make a note (mentally or in writing) of any rules or exceptions for the different grammar points. If there are any practice questions, make sure you work through them to solidify in your mind what you’ve been studying. 



8. Use the language as much as you can from the start

Obviously you won’t be having full blown conversations with natives in your first week of study, but you could easily write down some random sentences about your day or watch shows in your target language. Using and exposing yourself to the language as much as possible from the get go will really help things stick and even make you more familiar with things you haven’t studied yet as you learn more about how the language works. 


9. Keep going!

Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no quick fix for language learning (trust me, if there was I’d be fluent in about 50 languages by now!) Taking it slow and steady and doing a little bit every day, even just 15 minutes, is a much better strategy than trying to cram as much information into your brain in 3 hours every other Tuesday. If you learn a language you’re in it for the long haul, so make it enjoyable and don’t stress yourself out!



And there we have it! 9 steps to start learning your new target language. What language do you want to learn next? Let me know in the comments!



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