From Oprah Winfrey to Warren Buffett, the most successful people insist that continuing education throughout one's life is essential to one's earning potential and all-around happiness. This habit of lifelong learning can occur in a number of ways, from picking up new skills to immersing yourself in new subjects or listening to podcasts that challenge your way of thinking. One of the most exciting and rewarding ways to continue learning long after you've earned your degree is to learn a new language.
Whether it's because you desire to visit that part of the world, have friends or family who are native speakers, or you simply want to refine and build on skills that have become rusty since grade school, becoming fluent—or at least conversational—in a language is a gratifying exercise. To get you started, we've outlined some of the best ways to learn a language.
Hire a Tutor
As an adult, hiring a tutor may feel like a regression, but it's actually a terrific place to start for learning a new language. Not only will regular meetings with someone you've hired hold you accountable for consistently working on the language and practicing in your own time, but the one-on-one lessons will jump-start your learning. Your tutor will also be able to advise which books or other materials are worth investing in to supplement your lessons. Finally, the exposure to regularly hearing someone speak who is fluent will introduce you to the correct accent and intonations from the start—something you can't get from reading a language learning book on your own.
Download an App
If you don't have the budget or time for a tutor or if you simply want to supplement your sessions, a language learning app can be a terrific way to learn on your own. Apps like Duolingo provide engaging lessons for free, which can easily be done on public transit or during your lunch break.
Take in the Culture
Once you have the basics under your belt, immersing yourself as much as possible will help you pick up the language faster. Buy or stream movies in the language you're trying to learn. Even if you have to leave the subtitles on to understand what's happening, exposing your ears to the language will help to begin putting things together. Once you feel more comfortable, choose subtitles in the language you're learning and read along. Books are another terrific way to learn. You may opt for simpler reads at first, but you'll be benefitting no matter what the level is.
Keep a dictionary on hand during your reading sessions to look up words you don't know, but try to figure it out on your own using contextual cues first. You might even want to make notecards of the words you missed every time you read so you can commit them to memory later.
Make New Friends
If you're lucky enough to know individuals who speak the language, see if they'd be interested in meeting from time to time to chat and help you practice. Making friends with people who speak the language is one of the best ways to pick it up. The casual context and relaxed environment of hanging out is the perfect way to have exposure to the language, and they'll be happy to teach you common phrases so you don't end up speaking like you're reading from a textbook.
The absolute best way to pick up a language is to immerse yourself. Once you've made it to your destination, challenge yourself to commit to the language and rely on English as little as possible. Skip the touristy venues in favor of visiting local haunts to really expose yourself to the culture, customs, and language and increase your chances of making new connections and friends.