How I Learn Languages
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of studying. In school, I would treat my subjects more like a liability than a responsibility and postpone my work as much as possible. Deadlines were my biggest motivation and last-minute anxiety kicked me into action better than a cup of the strongest coffee. But as I grew older, I took up second and third languages as subjects, and to my surprise I loved studying them.
Fast forward a couple of years later, and my passion for languages helped me learn a total of 3 languages (Hindi, French, and Korean) other than English and my mother tongue (Telugu). When I enrolled in a Korean class in college, I was shocked at how far my own learning got me after talking to the Korean professor in charge of the department, who said I was so advanced that I could skip to the highest course level without taking a placement test. This is when I realized that whatever I was doing must be working, and so I’ve decided to create a quick list of the things that helped me learn languages without an instructor.
Learn on Your Own
Languages require a lot more work than other subjects if you truly want to grasp the hang of speaking them. They require continuous attention and the best way you can do this is by discovering resources that work for your level. They may be websites, Youtube videos, or textbooks, as long as they provide additional supplements to whatever you’re already doing in class. I’ve compiled some the best resources I discovered for each language below.
Coursera: First Step Korean from Yonsei University (I personally recommend this one; it gave me a solid foundation to build more complex concepts of the language on!)
Learn Korean with KoreanClass 101 (Youtube)
Kstyleyo- Learn Korean (Instagram)
This is the fun part. The more you listen to a language, the more accustomed you grow to recognizing and understanding it. This was the biggest and most useful part of my learning experience. Some options to get you started on listening to native speakers are music, movies, and TV shows in that language. Songs have so much grammar (good stuff, I know) in them that you can pick up by reading the lyrics and movies with subtitles are a fun way to challenge your knowledge. Once again, I’ve compiled Spotify playlists of songs I discovered while learning each of the languages so you jump straight into learning them.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Can’t afford a plane ticket to France? No problem! Movies of every language can be found online if one searches for it hard enough. And frankly, you don’t even have to try that hard because they’re available right on Netflix. I remember feverishly watching a French TV channel called TV5Monde at home that covered everything from news to movies. This helped me get used to the fast pace of the language and decipher the accent just enough to understand the dialogues. Similarly, watching Hindi and Korean movies helped me grasp the language way faster than any class could have (PS: if you want my top K-drama recommendations, click here).
Practice with a Native Speaker
This adds the cherry on top of all your efforts. If you have friends who are native speakers of the language you’re trying to learn, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and ask them for help. If you don’t, that’s perfectly fine as well, because you can always find tutoring services online or even find a pen pal with whom you can practice.
I can’t tell you what exactly made me fall in love with the process of learning a language. Maybe it was when I realized that words that sounded like gibberish now made total sense to me. Maybe it was when my eyes didn’t continuously flick to the bottom of the screen while watching a non-English movie. Or maybe it was when suddenly I could understand so much more of a country’s culture just by learning its language.
Either way, my love for languages has turned into an incredible asset. A lot of career paths require you to be bilingual, and knowing a language can empower you and unlock many new places of the world that you can travel to without worrying about translators and language barriers. So even if it takes a little effort, dive right into a language– and who knows, maybe one day you won’t stumble over the pronunciation of a fancy international dish the next time you go out!