Take your language skills for a spin - use them to shop or order food.
It's considered common wisdom that the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it, by spending time in a location where that language is widely spoken. But if you're getting ready to move to a country where your first language is not the primary language, you may find yourself wondering just what that really means? In practical terms, how are you going to learn a new language when most of the people around you don't speak your language? Following are some concrete tips that can help you learn your new language.
Learn With a Partner
Having someone to work with you as you learn the language can help keep you motivated and on track, for the same reason that it can help to have an exercise partner or a diet partner. You and your partner will both be inspired to keep working on it so that you can keep up with the other and not let each other down.
If you're moving with your family, it should be easy to find someone to work with -- all of you can work together to learn the new language. If you're on your own, you may be able to find a coworker or another local expat. Just take care not to limit yourself to speaking only to others who speak the same first language -- you may become less vigilant about trying to learn if you aren't also communicating with native speakers.
Another option is to find a native speaker who wants to learn your first language. This is a win-win situation, as you can share your own knowledge while you're learning. Plus, if you're learning from a native speaker, you'll be picking up local dialect and slang that you may not be able to find in textbooks or handbooks.
Learn With Your Eyes as Well as Your Ears
When you talk to native or fluent speakers of the language that you're learning, it's important to watch what they're saying, as well as listen. Pronunciation is a matter of making the right movements with your lips, throat, and tongue. In other words, it's a physical process. That means that in order to do it correctly, it helps to know what it looks like.
When you practice saying words and phrases in the language you're learning, try doing it in front of a mirror so that you can be sure that you're imitating the physical movements correctly. Once you have a sense of what the correct pronunciation looks like and feels like, as well as what it sounds like, it will come more easily to you.
Jump In With Both Feet
You perfect your command of a new language the same way that you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. And practicing with an audience is the best way to get instant feedback and make changes. That means using the language at every opportunity.
Don't try to wait until you hit a certain level of proficiency before ordering at a restaurant or speaking to a shopkeeper in the language you're learning. Start right away. You're going to make mistakes, but that's okay. People will respect you for trying, and the more you use the language for ordinary, everyday conversation, the more comfortable and fluent you'll become.
Wanting to learn to converse comfortably in your new home country is great motivation for learning a new language, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice. Moving to a country where you don't speak the language really will help you become bilingual. For more tips that will help you adjust to life in a new country, follow us on Twitter.