How to Learn a Language in Two Weeks

First of all, know that it's impossible. The above is is the literal definition of clickbait.

Second, this is a little different than the articles I usually write for this website. But what if I were to ask you a simple question: What does language have to do with writing? Your answer would probably be that it has everything to do with writing. And that is why we're here to discuss the process of learning one.

There are a few steps to follow when you first begin a new language.

1. Have a plan in mind. 

When I was 13, I decided to learn Russian. (Why not?) I had a plan of action: learn the alphabet. Once this was done, after about a day and a half, I wasn't sure where to go next. What website should I use? Should I go in order? Should I watch videos or read articles? I ended up progressing slowly until I decided to enroll in an official class. Since then, learning has been much easier (at least, as easy as learning Russian can be). I didn't have to spend half my time thinking about what to do: I knew what to do and I spent every minute immersing myself into Russian language and culture through the resources I was given.

A plan to learn a language doesn't have to involve enrolling in a class. Duolingo, the famously persistent language app, is a great place to start. You won't become fluent through Duolingo alone, but you will get valuable exposure to the language and grammar rules that will serve you well if you decide to take classes in the future.

2. Immerse yourself in the language, but don't throw out the rules.

How did you learn your native language? You listened to adults and older children talk, of course. Gradually you learned to imitate them, figuring out slowly through context clues exactly what each word meant and where to put it in a sentence.

Once your mind leaves the critical language-learning stage of a toddler, the process changes slightly and it becomes important to study the language. If you watched television all day in French, you'd eventually pick up on parts of the language, but chances are that even if you could understand it, you wouldn't be able to speak it very well and you definitely wouldn't be able to spell. That's where the grammar rules come in. It's important to learn them so well that you barely have to think about them when you want to use them, but when you do need to think about them, they are readily available.

3. Find similarities between your native language and the target language.

Russian and English are surprisingly similar in some ways - their alphabets share letters and their vocabularies share words. Cognates are words that sound similar in different languages and have the same meaning. These words can be extremely helpful when you first begin a language, as you can use them to decipher the meaning of an otherwise unfamiliar phrase.

4. Don't throw out the idea of learning your own language.

This final point is applicable in many ways. First of all, you can use the same (or similar, as mentioned above) techniques that you used to learn your native language to learn the target language. You can draw similarities between your language and the target language. But most importantly, don't forget that you will never know a foreign language better than you know your own. Therefore, the better you learn your native language, the better you can learn a second, third, or fourth language. Becoming a grammar connoisseur in your native language will make it easier to understand and use the rules of another language. Knowing higher vocabulary will help with cognates, because there are some words commonly used in other languages that are obsolete in English.

Learning a language will always be a long, tedious process. Is it worth it? As a writer, my answer is yes. Learning multiple foreign languages has helped me gain a greater appreciation for the flexibility and power of words and their related sounds, and I wouldn't trade a single minute of all the hours I've spent studying or conversing with native speakers. It's also a great way to make friends from other countries, explore the world, and experience a completely different culture.

If you need help with your language studies, try some online classes with a personalized tutor! I highly recommend Sabine Lerus-Watson, a wonderful online French tutor who has helped me stay current in my language skills. Find out more information here, and let her know who sent you!

Comment below about your language learning experience!