You’re sitting in front of the computer, unsure of how to spend your time most efficiently. You’re an intellect with a budding sense of humor. You like reading books and articles. You educate yourself to be hyper-critical of the world around you.
You’ve spent many hours online, typing and working away. You craft spreadsheets and data reports, to pursue a greater and grander goal, whether it is more profit, more productivity, or more power. You’re often tired, especially after a long day.
When you’re done with your work and your intellectual pursuits, you relax and enjoy time with the family or people that you live with. Life is bliss—but the life that you’ve had is confined to the four walls of your house.
However, there’s a greater, and wider world out there, a world that is filled with many rich cultures, cuisines, languages, and norms. If you’re a business partner or even an executive, you need to know a great deal about interpersonal relations.
The art of securing a great business deal requires a deep understanding of the people you are selling your product to. All it takes is one major snafu, and your partner has backed out of their business dealings.
It seems that learning a new language can show the other party that you’re willing to learn a bit about their culture, and in turn, they’re willing to learn more about yours. Sometimes, we need to learn a new language because it’s a helpful and creative way of viewing the overall world.
With the various language apps that permeate the internet, there are millions of people in the world who can speak more than one language, which encompasses about 43% of the world.
However, to gain the self-discipline needed to learn a proper language in the first place, there are many things to consider, such as its utility, one’s ability to set aside the actual time needed to actually learn a language, your ability to retain knowledge for a sufficient amount of time, and many more.
Thus, I’d like to highlight 3 major tips for learning a new language, especially for a working professional, like yourself.
1. Learn in Gradual and Flexible Increments but Don’t Memorize
Instead of trying to memorize a series of statements over and over again in a single day, it might be easier to learn small doses of language learning across multiple days. Plus, it will stick around in your memory for a longer period of time.
Whether it’s for a quick 5 minutes to a tantalizing few hours, a person could set aside small amounts of time for language learning that correspond to their ever-changing schedules. If you’re working around the clock, there’s little opportunity to study, so perhaps a quick perusal of new words is definitely okay.
If that means just learning a handful of words during your break and in between two major tasks, that’s perfectly okay. You don’t necessarily have to memorize the words just for the sake of memorizing them. Instead, through repeated visual exposure to various terms and pictures, your brain will eventually internalize it and store it in a long-term memory reserve.
The next thing you know, you’ll be consciously aware of new terms and it will roll off the tongue quite nicely.
If you force yourself to engage in hurried and forced memorization, our memories are more likely to be temporarily housed under a short-term memory reserve and you may end up forgetting things very quickly, especially after several days. The key here is to just learn a little each day and allow the information to be absorbed every other day until it is internalized.
2. Understand the Cultural Context of Your Desired Language
When you’re learning a new language, you are also indirectly learning about the cultural norms associated with said language. For example, if you’re learning languages like Italian and French, you might end up learning about new cuisines and the dinner etiquette that usually accompanies it.
In a sense, culture can help inform why words are used in a specific way, especially if a word in one language is similar to a word in another language. Perhaps a long time ago, these two separate languages were one mega language, and this single common term stems from a shared cultural tradition or ritual that still exists today.
Let’s take a look at English by itself. As we all know, there are many versions of English. We’ve got good old American English, Canadian English, Australian English, British English and many more. When an Australian business partner interacts with an American business partner, the nuances and unwritten rules of each language might be exposed, and you walk out of the situation feeling smarter.
The same cultural exchange can be applied in local contexts, where your best friend speaks much more casually than your physician who uses medical terminology. Even if you don’t realize it, you’ve developed an understanding of the different forms of English that varies depending on the situation. The same can be said about international languages and business.
Basically, it becomes easier to attain language learning if you have some idea of the local culture itself. If you wanted to learn a new and cool language for lucrative job opportunities, then formal language training is the way to go. In reality, knowing a language could be the secret card in your arsenal that allows you to get hired over many other candidates.
However, if you wanted to learn a new language just to speak with an extended family member who lives in another part of the world, perhaps casual socialization is the way to do it.
Plus, culture gives you an excuse to learn more about the world, expanding your worldview in a very fun way. If that means talking to others online, sharing jokes about languages, reading new books, and watching some amazing movies, it can be a great stepping stool towards language learning.
3. Apply What You Learned and Actually Use it Somewhere
Sometimes when we learn a new language, there’s no opportunity for us to actually try out our language learning abilities. We watch videos of other people talking to each other and listen to various modules where an automated voice speaks to us. However, we don’t live in a community where anyone speaks the language, so we don’t get to really practice.
It’s quite understandable to be feeling anxious when we start to learn the words of a language and want to try it out somewhere. Fears of embarrassment may permeate our minds, especially since there are few real-life opportunities to flex those language learning skills. However, everyone has to start somewhere, in one way or another.
If that means ordering take-out from a local restaurant and saying another language equivalent of “thank you” to the restaurant owner, they might be kinder than usual around you, just because you took the initiative to be kind in the first place. Plus, you’ll feel proud and more motivated to learn more about this other language.
You can also sign up for remote sessions with other novice language learners, especially if you look hard and long enough across different social media outlets and websites. With other fellow learners, you can practice off of one other, under the careful supervision of a native speaker.
Plus, with the proliferation of online meetings, such as on websites like Zoom and Skype, the host of the session can reinforce turn-taking, providing out many visual aids, and can speak slower until you feel comfortable talking to other people quickly, especially during time-sensitive and tense business situations.