9 Tips to Get Started Learning a Foreign Language

4 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

Our world is full of all kinds of distinct cultures and peoples with their own ideologies, traditions, and histories. Learning a foreign language allows you to immerse yourself into the culture that uses it, all while being an incredible skill to have if you wish to explore the world or work professionally. As a matter of fact, many of us may have already had exposure to different languages when we were growing up, like in a foreign language class or festival at school.

However, while things might have seemed simpler when we were kids, learning a new language takes a serious amount of effort, commitment, and practice. Some people reading this might be struggling with it right now, or they might not be sure about trying due to all the work. Though, there is so much to enjoy and discover when learning languages, and I want to give some tips to help people that are starting out.

1. Understand Your Goals and Why You Want to Learn

Motivation is a major factor when it comes to picking up a foreign language, and it’s important to know what motivates or inspires you to learn so you can commit yourself to it. There can be a lot of reasons why you want to start learning – traveling to other countries, connecting to other people in their native language, and so on – but if you don’t have something pushing you forward, it’ll be easy to lose interest down the line.

In general, it’s best to think a lot about why a particular language interests you and what you really want to do with it. In the end, the key to learning any language is commitment, and it can be hard to maintain that if you’re not really interested in what you’re doing.

2. Get Someone Who Can Learn the Language With You

While getting support from other people is always good, having someone learning a language along with you can give you even more of a push to keep going. Not only will you have someone to talk to and ask questions as you’re learning, but you have motivation from them to get better at the language.

This person could be anyone, from siblings to parents to friends – what matters is that you find someone who can encourage you to do your best as you learn.

3. Have Conversations with Yourself

For some of us, it might be difficult to do the previous tip due to the current pandemic. Not to worry, if all else fails you can have imaginary conversations with yourself in the language you’re trying to learn. You might think it seems odd – and others might think the same – but having those conversations can be a strong practice method if you have trouble finding time to learn with a partner.

Not only that, but it can a great way to remember certain expressions and vocabulary that you’re picking up, since you can come up with your own imaginary conversations or scenarios that use them. Plus, if you’re worried about trying to do it in person (or in a call) with someone else, you can use this method to practice as much as you need before you do it for real.

4. Focus on Conversations – Don’t Limit Yourself

It can get easy to hit a roadblock if you narrow your learning down to textbook vocabulary and expressions. When it comes to foreign languages, conversation is the best way to learn, as you’re able to expose yourself to all kinds of different scenarios and make active use of the new language you’re trying to learn.

At the same time, you’ll be more engaged in the learning process – what you’re discovering will be relevant to your everyday life, and you get to practice that every time you talk to someone.

5. Get Creative

Thinking outside of the box for ways to help you learn can keep things fresh and get you interested in learning more. This could be in the form of making music, comics, poetry, or even just having conversations with people you know. If you’re able to enjoy yourself while you learn, you’ll have a better time pushing yourself to grow while exploring your creative side.

At the end of the day, don’t hold yourself back. You may surprise yourself with what you end up discovering!

6. Push Yourself Outside Your Comfort Zone

If you want to learn a foreign language, you have to be ready to make mistakes along the way. The thought of messing up and saying something stupid can be discouraging, but you have to be able to learn from your mistakes if you want to get better. At the same time, you have to push yourself out there and to talk to other people in order to develop your skills – sometimes things might go wrong.

Don’t worry though, it gets easier with time. While you might struggle at first with certain fundamentals or conversations, you’ll become more comfortable with them as you continue to practice. The mistakes you make, although potentially embarrassing at first, will feel better as you start to see their value as a learning tool.

7. Learn to Listen

Before you can even start learning how to talk in a new language, it’s crucial that you know how to listen and understand said language. This might sound easy enough, but it is vital if you want to be able to comprehend and speak to others in the language you want to learn.

It can feel weird the first time you hear something spoken in another language, but it will start to make more sense as you explore it further. Exposing yourself to the language as much as you can will help you understand it more and more, and soon you can get started speaking it yourself.

There are plenty of ways you can do this, too. If you’re having trouble getting started, an easy and fun thing to try is watching shows dubbed in the language you’re trying to learn. You can also do the same with movies, and you could even try listening to foreign music using that language.

8. Observe How Others Speak

An important thing to note when looking at different languages is how the pronunciation changes with each one. Learning how to make the right sounds when pronouncing words or phrases is a core component of speaking in a new language. As such, a helpful tool to developing this skill is watching closely as others speak and make those sounds.

An easy way to practice this is by watching foreign shows or movies and looking closely at the character’s mouths. Though, if you’re able to find a native speaker you can learn from, I strongly suggest reaching out to them.

9. Stay Committed

While you might find many ways or methods out there for learning a foreign language, there are two key components to learning and growing: constantly expose yourself to the language and practice it as often as possible. In fact, if you’re able to, I would recommend practicing every day, even if it’s only for a little bit.

The only thing standing in your way to speaking a foreign language is your ability to commit. By actively making it a part of your life, you’ll make much more progress and get more invested in learning than you would from learning it on and off. Immerse yourself into the language and culture as much as you can, and challenge yourself as you practice the things you learn.

In the end, it’s in your hands. Regardless of why you want to learn a foreign language, the only way you can ever reach your goals is by pushing yourself to learn and never giving up.


As you plan out your learning journey to speak a new language, it’s best to remember that one of the best parts of speaking a foreign language is being able to talk to other people with it. While you might struggle at first, the joy you’ll feel with each milestone you reach will motivate you to keep learning. Even handling basic conversation will feel incredible – and that’s just the beginning.

Not only that, but don’t be afraid to reach out to other people and let them know that you’re trying to learn. No matter how poor you think your skills are at first, you’ll find that there are people out there that are happy and ready to help you on your learning journey.

Published by Gerardo Lucena

Gerardo Lucena is a Junior at the University of Michigan pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. He has programming experience in C++, and he has worked with Michigan Hyperloop and MRover during his first two years at the University.

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