I’ve been studying Icelandic for the last few weeks and thought I would share what I’ve learned and give some advice to others who want to learn another language. Just like playing an instrument, learning a second language is fantastic but can be pretty challenging. Here are some ways to make it easier.
Pick Something Familiar
Learning a language that shares a vocabulary with your own can bridge the gap between your native tongue and the foreign words you need to remember. English speakers have a huge advantage with this; nearly a third of English is borrowed from French, making other languages like Spanish, Italian, and Latin a lot more familiar. Not to mention English shares a massive amount of its structure with languages like German, Danish, and Dutch. If you really want to give yourself the best chance of learning a language quickly, choose something from Europe.
Ignore Grammar (At First)
When learning a language shifts from simple stuff like remembering the words for “school” and “red” to studying verb tenses and word order is the time most people give up. For the first few weeks you’re learning a language you shouldn’t even be focused on the complex grammar, just the essentials. You don’t need to know how to say the number "759" in everyday conversation; learning 1-10 will hold you over just fine. Your brain will be able to fill in the rest naturally, right now it’s important that you fall in love with the language and stay committed.
I know everyone talks about programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, but I’ve used every one you can think of and none of them work nearly as well as Memrise does. They have a great app, offer hundreds of languages with tons of different courses for each, and it’s all totally free. Instead of a system like Rosetta Stone releasing one product for “Spanish Level 3,” Memrise lets anyone create a course meaning that out of 100 courses for learning Icelandic I’m using the one that I like best. A few weeks ago, I started working on a 16 hour course of “Icelandic in Easy Stages (With Sound)”. It’s really a great website, check them out HERE!
Immerse Yourself In It
This is the most common advice given, but there’s a good reason; it works. Without knowing a word of Italian I flew to Italy and stayed there for two months, by the end of my trip I could chat with the locals confidently. Even if you can’t afford to drop everything and fly across the globe, find a friend who speaks the language or a TV show with foreign subtitles. Try to experience the language outside of a classroom setting as much as you can; when you do, it will stop feeling like a burden and more like a hobby.
Have Fun With It
I taught a young French kid, Damien, how to speak English when I lived in France. For weeks, we talked about sports, his country, and music, and on the very last day all he wanted to know was how to curse in English. One after the other he would ask: “What is shit?” “What does ass mean?” It was hilarious and taught me a really valuable lesson; everybody learns things for different reasons. He was just a 14 year old kid who wanted to be able to curse with his friends in English; he didn’t really care that much about being fluent. Whether you want to learn a language to understand your favorite band's songs or to chat with your grandparent in their native tongue be proud of yourself for tackling something new. Learn what you want to learn and people will respect that.