When we think about learning a new language (other than the one we first learned as babies), we turn our minds to scenes of classrooms, textbooks, maybe one-on-one tutor sessions. And all the work! We’re supposed put in lots of work in to learn the words and the grammar, to then finally be able to speak in that new language.
Does that sound familiar?
Well, actually, stuffing our brains with painfully hard to understand grammar without the context of real-world language use actually slows down the learning process. Think about it. As babies, all we had to do was absorb the world around us. Pay attention. That’s key. Exposing yourself to as much natural language content as possible should be the main part of your learning journey.
As adults, we can naturally get to grips with the ins and outs of another language by immersing ourselves in it. That doesn’t mean packing your bags and going to live wherever it’s spoken (although maybe you do, lucky you!). You can immerse yourself in the language by watching videos, listening to podcasts, switching your phone’s language, reading, playing video games, the list goes on!
The important thing is this: to move from knowing some words and phrases to making sense of a language and understanding it, you need to immerse yourself in enough content that you kind of understand, mixed with bits that you haven’t yet learned. And you also need to be interested in it, pay attention, be curious. Over time, your mind will join the dots. You’ll have the ability to understand and, with practice, your ability to speak will naturally follow.