1. Find your favorite tools.
Learning a new language involves two critical skills—memorization and application. From classroom instruction to online platforms, all the conventional learning methods attempt to strike an optimal balance between these skills to take you from novice to conversationalist.
- Duolingo – A popular app that takes a gamification approach and is completely free. You can also pay $6.99 a month to remove ads, gain offline access, and track your progress.
- Busuu – A full-featured language learning system that offers practical, well-structured courses, plus feedback from native speakers. Busuu is geared to English speakers and offers free and premium options.
- Anki – A free flashcard program that uses a cognitive science technique called spaced repetition to achieve faster and longer-lasting memorization.
Hearing others speak another language is challenging initially. The words fly by so quickly! But that’s also because it’s unfamiliar and more practice is required.
To improve, try practicing different styles of listening. With deliberate listening, you take one sentence at a time, repeating as necessary, until you can dictate, translate, or mimic the sentence. (If you’re using audio files, try Music Speed Changer to slow them down or speed them up.)
Binge listening, on the other hand, is about hearing many words in one listening session. For example, try playing a podcast or an audiobook while you’re driving or doing chores around the house. Watching a film in a foreign language is another form of binge listening.
What about subtitles? It’s okay to display them—but not in your native language.
3. Practice with partners.
It’s good to practice on your own, but you’ll make much faster progress if you communicate with others. Before the pandemic, language clubs and meet-up groups were an excellent way to build social connections and language skills.
Fortunately, dozens of language exchange sites and apps can fill the void of in-person communications, offering free opportunities to practice with others.
A few examples include:
Speaky – Includes built-in tools to chat or make calls (audio or video) with language partners who share your interests from over 180 countries.
HelloTalk – A mobile app (iOS and Android) that helps you find and chat with over 20 million users in 200 countries.
Coeffee – Play language games with other students and native speakers.
Also, try practicing with the voice assistant on your phone or in your home. For example, while cooking dinner, you could say, “Hey Alexa, how do you say would you like to open a bottle of wine in Spanish?”
4. Immerse yourself.
Of course, the best and fastest way to learn is full immersion in another language and its culture. That isn’t easy now, but hopefully, it will become increasingly possible in 2021.
Include International Accent Marks and Other Symbols
Even if you aren’t fluent in your clients’ language, you want to respect their conventions as much as possible. For example, if your client’s name includes special characters like:
- acute á
- grave è
- tilde ñ
- cedilla ç
- umlaut ö
Take time to add these diacritics and take advantage of keyboard shortcuts to type these characters. Shortcut formulas vary for PC and Mac. This chart from the University of Oregon includes both platforms. A search for “keyboard shortcuts for diacritics” provides other recommendations.
It’s even easier to incorporate these characters on most touch-screen phones and tablets. Press and hold the letter until a list of character options appears, then slide your finger over to select.