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The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language

Hello, it’s Yutaro. As you may know that I am Japanese and I started learning English as my second language when I was 22. So, I have been learning English well over 7 years.

I have been living in Australia for about 2 years and working as a Front Desk in a hotel in Brisbane and therefore, I have gained a certain level of confidence about my English proficiency. But, I still struggle from time to time to understand Australian English, especially, when people speak their slang very fast. So, I never stop learning English.

Back in high school, I was terrible at English subjects and I failed English so many times that I had to attend remedial classes every summer and winter vacation. Also, when I went to America all by myself when I was 21, I could not even say “Could you take a picture of me?”.

What I want to tell you is that my English was really bad before, but as being consistent with the English learning, I have been improving slowly but non-stop.

Throughout my English learning journey, I have tried so many methods, and yet the only way to improve English is to be consistent. And in order to be consistent with your learning is to have fun and enjoy the process of it.

Some people are lucky that they never get bored with the traditional way of studying such as learning from textbooks and dictionaries. On the other hand, people like me cannot stay focused in front of textbooks longer than 10 minutes.

So, in today’s post, I would like to introduce you to a top 8 list of my favorite ways of studying language without getting bored. (8 being the worst and 1 being the best for me)

 

 

Top 8 List of Effective Language Learning Methods

 

8. The Traditional Way of Remembering Grammar and Words

The worst method (for me) is just trying to remember every recommended vocabulary and grammar using textbooks and flashcards.

I am not saying this method is bad, I’m saying it’s boring.

If you are the type of person who can do this, you should consider yourself lucky because it is, indeed, effective. No wonder, most schools have implemented this way of studying languages.

For example, Japanese is a very complex language due to its three different writing systems.

However, if you only look at the conversational part of Japanese, I think it’s relatively easy compared to other languages such as Rosian and Chinese. As a matter of fact, I have met many people who can speak Japanese well but cannot read Japanese because of the writing system.

Therefore, if you want to learn Japanese and be able to just have a casual conversation with native Japanese, you may be wasting your time spending so much time on learning grammar and vocabulary which you may not use in your daily life.

However, if your goal is to work and live in Japan, you must learn how to read at least Hiragana and Katakana.

I explained how to learn Hiragana in this post. Tips for Beginners – How to Study Japanese and the reason why you don’t need to learn Kanji in this post. Learning Kanji is a Waste of Time? – I Will Explain Why (You may have to learn Kanji if you work in a Japanese company)

 

7. Watching Language Learning YouTube Channels

When I just started learning English, I was watching a lot of YouTube videos that provided good information on learning English such as Bilingirl Chika. Bilingirl Chika is a very successful Japanese YouTuber who was born and raised in the USA. Therefore, she is fluent in both English and Japanese as she grew up in the USA and lived with her Japanese parents.

I learned a lot of expressions that are commonly used by native English speakers and American cultures since Bilingirl Chika is a native English speaker as well as a native Japanese speaker. For that reason, watching those videos created by bilingual YouTubers is a fun way to continue learning the language, especially, for beginners.

However, I am a big believer in understanding the language you’re learning in the same language. If you study Japanese, it’s better for you to understand Japanese in Japanese.

If you remember one sentence in Japanese every day from YouTube channels, that is great. So that you can use it when the situation is right for it.

For example, 「明日は雨になりそうだ」”It looks like rain tomorrow”. You can use it if the clouds are getting darker and thicker. I mean you can only use it in the right situation because you just remember the sentence as one of the useful phrases. However, if you understand the gist of this sentence, you will be able to make sentences in any similar situations relative to the weather.

Of course, if you just want to enjoy visiting the country or have a meal in a restaurant, remembering only sentences will be more than enough.

 

6. Developing the Habit of Keeping a Diary and Journal in a Foreign Language

In order to improve a language you’re learning, you need to engage yourself in both input and output activities. However, you may not have enough opportunities to practice the output activities such as speaking and writing if you live in a different country.

Even if you are living in Japan, chances are, you are not speaking Japanese enough if you spend more time with people from the same country you were born in. Therefore, developing a habit of keeping a diary and journal in Japanese allows you to get a good output practice, which in turn, improves your Japanese speaking.

Having Japanese friends and frequently chatting with them in Messenger or Line is also a great way to get more output practice. However, most people ordinarily shorten their messages since you have to type responsively in order to keep up the fast pace of a chat conversation. Hence, room for growth in your speaking ability is quite limited.

Contrarily, keeping a Japanese diary and journal enables you to take as much time as you need and write whatever you want since no one checks your writing skills. As well as creating a group chat on SNS with yourself is effective.

If you are not good at speaking with people or simply do not have chances to speak, writing down or typing in your own group chat in a foreign language is as good as speaking practice. However, writing practice and speaking practice are similar, yet different things, and therefore, you will need to mix them up as you progress.

 

5. Listening to Music

Who doesn’t like to listen to good music, right!?

Although, I don’t think listening to music is the best way to improve your foreign language skills, it is, indeed, the easiest and most fun way to commit to language learning. The more you like the language you’re learning, the easier it is for you to keep learning it. Remember? The key to success is consistency.

Without a doubt, you will develop strong listening skills by exposing yourself a lot to a foreign language and memorizing some phrases from lyrics. However, the lyrics are sometimes inappropriate and less common to use in everyday conversations.

For example, one of my favorite Japanese songs 「マリーゴールド」(Marigold) is a great song to learn Japanese.

In its lyric, there are expressions 「雲のような優しさでそっとギュッと」(kumo no youna yasashisa de sotto gyutto) which means “you hold me gently like clouds but tightly”. These そっと (sotto) and ギュッと (gyutto) are onomatopoeia that is richly expressive words that describe the nuances of many different situations.

On the other hand,「雲がまだ2人の影を残すから」(kumo ga mada futari no kage wo nokosu kara) which means “The clouds still leave our shadows behind”. It is a beautiful expressive way to say “The sun is still out there, so we have more time to be together”. However, it is not commonly used, in fact, it is very rare that I had ever heard this phrase until I met this song.

Finding your favorite song in your foreign language and remembering its lyrics is more fun than any of the traditional language learning methods. So that you can be consistently immersing yourself in the learning process.

 

4. Reading Books

One of the most important things in learning a foreign language is to know as many words as possible.

If you don’t know any words in Japanese, you can neither make a sentence nor understand anything that native Japanese speakers say to you. So, it is very important that you spend enough time remembering vocabulary.

As mentioned above, you can study Japanese from textbooks at the beginning, but it is not best if you translate it into your first language to understand the meaning. Because, for example, a Japanese word 「」(mizu) which means ‘water’ has only one meaning which is water as a noun. But in English, the word ‘water’ can be used as a noun and a verb such as “I will water the plant tomorrow”. It will just confuse you unless you comprehend Japanese as another language.

Reading books in a foreign language allows you to leave an image of a word in your head since you learn it in a sentence, not just a word itself.

Of course, it may be difficult if you are a beginner, but you can start with books that are made for children or even for infants. These books are great for beginners because these books are made easy for even babies to be able to understand and learn new words.

 

3. Have a Foreign Boyfriend/Girlfriend or Best Friends

As I have explained so far that implementing both input and out practices is extremely important for language learning. The easiest way to do both at the same time is to spend as much time as possible with people who speak the language you’re learning.

Having a good balance between input practice and output practice is the key to becoming more fluent. Thanks to modern technology, we have so many ways to get input activities such as watching YouTube, listening to music, reading books, and even scrolling social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc…). However, we don’t have many opportunities to get more output practices, mainly, speaking.

If you are learning Japanese, get a Japanese partner. Unless you are living in Japan, you may think it is difficult to have a Japanese boyfriend/girlfriend, but in reality, Japanese people are everywhere. You can use a dating app such as Tinder or Bumble to meet anyone. If Japanese people are living in your country, that means they are interested in your language and culture. That makes it easier to get along with them.

Nonetheless, I find it less difficult if you find someone who has the same goal as yours since you relate to each other more by sharing the same mistakes you make and growing together. For example, instead of finding a Japanese boyfriend, finding a French boyfriend who is also learning Japanese could be better for Italian due to their similarities. Additionally, finding a really close friend with who you can spend a lot of time is effective as well.

Of course, do not date anyone because of your language learning. That is not good and your relationship won’t last anyway. The key is consistency.

 

2. Think in Your Foreign Language

This method is very effective that I came across when I lived in Japan in order to keep and improve my English skills. You can literally do this right now with no one that it doesn’t require anything.

It is as simple as it sounds that you think or say everything in your foreign language. For example, if you wake up in the morning, instead of saying “Oh, I overslept. I’m late for work” you can say 「やばい、寝坊した。会社に送れる」(yabai nebo shita kaisya ni okureru).

It is hard at first but as you keep using the same phrases over and over and over, it will become yours, and even without thinking, you can say it whenever you are late for work. *I hope you don’t say this phrase often though*

If you go to the kitchen, try to think about everything you see in Japanese.

what is the appliance that keeps food and drinks cold?

That is 「冷蔵庫」(reizouko).

What is the small oven that heats food very quickly?

That is 「電子レンジ」(denshi renji).

 

It’s not so hard, is it!?

You keep doing that for 3 months, you will be saying 冷蔵庫 like million times, right!? How many times a day do you go to 冷蔵庫? Maybe, 5 times? If you love eating, 20 times or even more?

The words you say every day will stick to your head whenever you see them. So, you can start saying or thinking things around you in a foreign language.

 

1. Learn a Language with Tv Shows and Movies (Anime, If Japanese)

This is my story of English learning, but I learned almost all useful English phrases by watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I am not exaggerating this fact at all. I literally have watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S more than thousands of times. F.R.I.E.N.D.S is great for English learning because the plot is very simple to follow and each episode is packed with wit and humor. As well as you get to gain knowledge of common speech patterns and sentence structures.

If you study Japanese, Obviously, you must watch Japanese tv shows, movies, and anime. By the way, my top 7 list of Japanese movies is here if you’re interested.

➡ 7 Best Japanese Movies To Learn About Japanese Culture

I also have made posts where you can learn everyday-use Japanese expressions by using Japanese anime「あたしンち」. If you haven’t checked them out, please go ahead and learn some Japanese!

I explained how to learn Japanese with anime in this post, Let’s Study Japanese with Anime – あたしンち (EP 292).

A different version is here.

Let’s Study Japanese with Anime – あたしンち(Shopping )

➡ Let’s Learn Japanese With Anime (あたしンち EP 37 New Year’s Day)

 

The basic rule of this method has 4 steps.

Step1. Watch it without subtitles.

Step2. Watch it with subtitles (try not to use your first language).

Step3. Learn new words and phrases.

Step4. Watch it again without subtitles

 

Just try to make it your habit by watching at least 1 episode of any tv show or cartoon (anime). It is hard at first like I understood less than 1% of F.R.I.E.N.D.S season S1 E1 the first time I watched without subtitles. But after I watched the same episode 100 times, I was able to understand almost everything. No magic, just consistency.

 

Conclusion

Did you like my post!?

This list I introduced today was based on how I could keep learning English and thus, some may not be appropriate for your purpose of learning a new language. As well as, I am Japanese, so if you are learning Spanish, Italian, or any other language, these methods may not suit you.

However, no matter what language you learn, the most important thing is always the same ‘consistency‘. So, I hope you will find your way to be consistent with your language learning. Try some of my methods and let me know if it helps you.

Also, I am interested to know that what is your way to keep up your motivation to learn a new language?  Please, leave a comment below or send me a message via my Twitter. https://twitter.com/learn_japanmore

「The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language」への2件のフィードバック

  1. love that part about having a japanese girl friend. yes, that one is a guaranteed success. suddenly it seems that my interest to learn nippongo is revived. cheers, my friend.

    1. Hi! Thank you for leaving a comment. Sorry somehow some of your comments were in spam😅
      Haha my first motivation to learn English was to date someone with blond hair 😂

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