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The 4 Most Fun Ways of Learning a New Language as an Adult

Edited By: Natalia Jones

 There are two types of people: those who love and welcome the challenge of learning new languages, and those who dread it and think it’s a hassle. No matter what camp you’re in, you should keep in mind that learning a new language is so beneficial that it’s definitely worth a try, and here’s why.

These are the main benefits of learning a foreign language:

Learning a new language is so much more than just an extra point on your resume, or a way to a communicate when you’re abroad, it is a proven preventative method of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as an overall booster of your intelligence and brain power.

language learning woman holding a conversation sign and a man working on a laptop
And if you think that language-learning is not for you because you’re an adult, think again. Scientists disproved the myth that languages can be acquired on a fluent level only by children in a revolutionary 2018 study that was conducted on nearly a million people. Adults can learn a language fast and communicate fluently at any age, it’s just that adults have to spend more time memorizing words than kids.
We at BabaMail want to encourage our readers to learn new languages and we’re ready to make it fun for everyone. Here are 4 effective and fun techniques that will help you learn new words in a new language fast and forever.

1. Learn new words in your sleep

Are you always looking for new ways to maximize your time, even in your sleep? In that case, we’ve got good news for you, as it turns out you can learn new words in a foreign language by listening to them in your sleep.

A 2019 study in the journal Biology showed that humans can encode new information during a specific stage of the sleep cycle. In the study, participants were listening to new words in a foreign language through headphones while taking a nap.

Crucially, the participants memorized new information only during deep sleep, as it is during this stage in the sleep cycle that your hippocampus, the brain area associated with the formation of long-term memories, is most active.

language learning man taking a nap in headphones

An interesting finding was that participants that were learning new foreign words in their sleep also activated their mid-temporal gyrus, a language are known to be responsible for word understanding.

Knowing all this scientific data, you can actually put it to good use, but make sure to follow these tips:

  • Only play audio of foreign words you’ve already heard. You have to subconsciously recognize the word you’re trying to remember, so make sure to read and understand the meaning of the word before playing it in your sleep.
     
  • Set the audio to run for the first two to three hours of sleep. As we’ve mentioned, memorizing only happens during deep sleep, which is usually during the first few hours of the sleep cycle, before you actually see dreams.

Do this a few weeks before going on an overseas vacation, and you may end up communicating with the locals more fluently than you anticipated.

2. Comparative Reading

Do you like reading? If so, you’re in luck, as we actually memorize words in a new language the best while reading in that language. A pleasant side effect is that you can read a great book at the same time as learning a new language. 

For this technique, you will need the same book written in the same language. Sidenote: bilingual books are also sometimes available for purchase, so if you find one, great, but 2 different books will do just as well.

From then on everything is pretty straightforward: start reading both books and if you don’t understand something in the new language, look it up in the other book. 

language learning woman reading a book while drinking coffee

Do, however, make use of the following tips:

  • Jot down any interesting or potentially useful words and phrases in a notebook. This will not only make a greatly personalized vocabulary list for you, but you actually learn better as you’re writing the information down, thereby processing it better.
     
  • A few notes on book choice. Don’t start learning a language from a very complex and old book because you need to learn simple current spoken language and not the literary style of authors 200 years ago.
     
  • Watch out for this misconception! I see this tip from time to time, but I think it isn’t very useful. I don’t recommend reading children's books for adult language learners because your goal is to learn useful everyday words and phrases and not about fairies, gnomes, and imaginary lands.

3. Start from Cognates

What if I told you that you already know a lot of words in a language you know nothing about? I’m talking about cognates or mutually-intelligible words in different languages.

This means that you will practically never have to learn a language from scratch, as you already know a lot of useful words in the foreign language without ever learning them.

In fact, native speakers of English are one of the luckiest, as English borrows heaps of words from Romance languages, and also shared English terms with half of the world. 

language learning words on a page

So, for example, if you’re about to start learning a Romance language, like French, you will already understand all words ending in -tion, such as nation, solution, tradition, communication, and thousands of others, so all you’ll have to do is to adjust the French pronunciation.

Now change that -tion ending into -ción, and you already learned the same words in Spanish. Similarly, many other languages borrowed the same English or Romance words and simply adjusted the spelling to their own alphabet.

The Russian words for communication and tradition will be pronounced as “communica-tsia” and “tradi-tsia”, for example. And there is a vast amount of such words in most languages.

Tip: to search for cognates in the language you’re about to learn, simply search for “[language name] cognates” or “[language name] English loan words]" in Google or whatever search engine you prefer.

4. Learn by Talking to Native Speakers Online

Teachers and linguists alike agree that the most effective way to learn a language is through immersion into that language. Luckily, nowadays you don’t have to travel to do so, and heaps of data in every possible foreign language are just one click away from you.

You can do several things to immerse yourself in the foreign language:

  • Listen to the radio in a foreign language. Tunein.com is an online radio app where you can select the country and language of the radio station you want to listen.
language learning woman near a laptop videochatting someone
  • You can watch free videos in your target language on YouTube.com simply by replacing “.com” by the extension of the country of the language you want to learn, so it will be “YouTube.fr” for French or “YouTube.kr” for Korean, for example.
     
  • Finally, if reading, watching and listening is not enough for you, another thing you can do is communicate with native speakers for free online. There are several tools you can use that. One such tool is this free language exchange website called The Mixxer, which allows you to live chat with a native speaker or to write them. 
     
  • Interpals is another service that will let you find a native speaker pen pal in the language of your choice.

We could continue this list of useful tools and techniques for hours, but we believe that these were the most useful and accessible tools. We wish you happy language-learning!

H/T: medicalnewstoday,com, forbes.com, fluentin3months.com, medium.com

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