How to Learn a Language

Three Methods:Joining a ClassLearning With a Private TutorLearning at Home

Ever wish you could be proficient in a second, or third or even fourth language? It won't be easy, but it is possible and extremely rewarding to know and be fluent in many languages. There are several aspects to learning a language: listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills and reading skills. All are equally important, so try not to lag behind in any one category. You can join a class, hire a private tutor, or try to learn at home. The more work you put in, the more you will improve.

Method 1
Joining a Class

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    Investigate your local options. If you are keen to learn another language, one of the best ways to go about it is to join a class near you. Joining a language class will give you opportunities to practice all the elements of the language. A class will also provide you with a ready-made group of fellow learners to work with.
    • The teacher will often be a native speaker, and will be able to address any questions you have immediately and face-to-face.
    • One of the advantages of learning with a teacher is to ability to ask questions, and seek clarification for tricky areas of grammar or pronunciation.
    • Search online for language schools near you. Often local schools and colleges will run adult education evening courses in foreign languages.
    • You can access contact information for a number of professional organisations through the website of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages:
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    Contact the school. Once you have found a class that you would like to join, contact them directly and ask about the options. It is likely that the centre will hold a number of classes for those with different levels of fluency and ability. If you are an absolute beginner it will be easy to decide which class to join.
    • If you have some knowledge, and have learnt some of the language before, it’s best to talk to the people at the centre to determine what level class is best for you.
    • The classes will often run according to the academic year, so if you want to join a class look in advance of September and January.
    • There may be special more intensive summer school programmes available.
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    Attend regularly. When you have signed up for a class, it’s vital that you stick with it and make the effort to attend every week. Learning a language is all about practice, so if you find yourself missing classes it will be much harder to learn. You need to maximise the amount of time you spend using the foreign language.[1]
    • The lesson will primarily give you opportunities to ask questions and to practice speaking and listening to your classmates.
    • The conversational skills you will learn in the classes will be especially important if you planning on going to the country of the language you are learning, and you want to be able to express yourself.
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    Ask for tips for further study. If you have one lesson a week of an hour or two, you should understand that this will not be enough time to really learn the language. Your success will depend to a large extent on the amount of practice and revision you do outside of the class. Be sure to talk to your teacher about what extra work you can, and what resources she recommends you use.
    • If you have trouble with a difficult grammar rule, ask your teacher to explain it in class and then assign you some tasks to practice at home.
    • Your teacher will be able to signpost you to freely available online resources that can help you practice.
    • Watching films and TV programmes in the language you are learning can help you get used to the sound of the language, so ask your teacher for some recommendations.[2]
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    Arrange conversation groups with fellow students. One of the great advantages of learning with a class of people rather than on your own, is that you get a group of people to practice with. Make friends with some of your fellow language students, and suggest meeting up a coffee every now and then so you can practice speaking the language.[3]
    • Try to only speak in the foreign language for ten minutes, and increase up gradually up to an hour as you get more proficient.

Method 2
Learning With a Private Tutor

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    Look up private tutors in your area. An alternative, or perhaps supplementary, method for learning a language, is to work with a private tutor. These one-to-one classes can help you to focus in on your study, and are much more intensive than studying with a group. If you think this could be a good approach for you, start by searching online for tutors advertising themselves.
    • As with any online transaction, try to find out as much as you can about the tutor online.
    • Use trusted websites that allow private tutors to advertise, an always look for online reviews.
    • Look at the qualifications and experience the tutor has, as well as the price of lessons.
    • When you find a tutor you like, ask for a trial lesson before committing to a longer programme.
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    Consider lessons over skype. More and more language teachers are working online, delivering lessons over skype to their students. This can be a good option if you have a busy schedule, and will struggle to have time to travel to classes. You may have to endure difficulties with the connection, and you may find it harder to develop as good a rapport as you could if you were having the lessons in a room together, but skype lessons are often cheaper.[4]
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    Book in regular lessons. As with any method for learning a language, it’s crucial that you commit as much time as you can to studying and practising. A lesson with a private tutor will give you more direct time with the teacher than if you were in a group. A lesson with a group may last two hours or more, but one with a private tutor is unlikely to be longer than an hour.
    • Be sure to explain what exactly you want to achieve and why you are learning the language.
    • Try to have a lesson every week, and be well-prepared to ask questions and practice your speaking.
    • Although the cost of the lessons per hour will generally be higher than a group lesson, you are effectively getting more contact time and attention in each lesson.
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    Take advantage of the one-to-one situation. The main advantage of working with a private tutor rather than a class, is the amount of one-to-one time you have with the teacher. This can be intimidating, especially if you are just beginning to learn, but is also gives you plenty of opportunity to get clarity on things you are struggling with.[5]
    • If you are having one-to-one lesson you will be spending almost the entire time in conversation with your tutor, hopefully in the foreign language.
    • This can really help you work on your speaking and listening. Expect the teacher to quickly pick up quickly on any mistakes in your pronunciation that might get overlooked in a larger group.
    • Once you and your teacher get to know each other a little better, she will be able to tailor the classes a bit more closely to your needs.
    • If you are trying to learn a language for business, a good teacher will be able to modify the lessons to teach you relevant vocabulary.
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    Look for group conversation opportunities. Although having one-to-one lessons will give you plenty of time to practice speaking and listening, you may like to find opportunities to practice with other people. If you are only working with the teacher, you could investigate a conversation group with people who are closer to your level.
    • It can be isolating to learn just with one-to-one lessons, so look for opportunities locally to meet other people learning the same language.
    • Adding a social element can help you keep up the motivation to study and practice.
    • It’s important to have fun while you learn and practice the language.[6]

Method 3
Learning at Home

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    Access free online resources and websites. If you are unable to commit to regular lessons, there is a vast amount of online resources and websites that you access for free to help you learn. Many of these websites are very well developed and have a lot of information about grammar, as well as plenty of exercises to help you practice.
    • There is huge choice, so try a few different websites and see which one you find the easiest to use.[7]
    • Often countries will have official websites as bases for people to learn their mother tongue.
    • The government backed websites are generally very reliable and accurate.
    • Look for websites with addresses that end with .gov or .edu, or are from well-known institutions, such as the BBC or the Goethe Institute.
    • The American Foreign Services Institute has high-quality materials prepared by linguists, and covers a wide-range of languages:
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    Learn with bought learning packages. Learning languages is a big business, and there are lots of different packages you can buy that will guide you through lessons that cover reading, writing, speaking and listening. These packages can have hundreds of hours of material, and be very expensive to buy. Look up online reviews to get an idea of the packages available for the language you want to learn.[8] An advantage of using one of the packages is that you can learn at your own speed, and fit your lessons in around your daily life.
    • There are also very popular apps that you can get on a smartphone, which enable you to learn anywhere.[9]
    • Without regular face-to-face lessons you may find it harder to develop confidence in your ability to actually speak the language to other people.
    • If you struggle with motivation, you might benefit more from having the face-to-face contact, where there is more pressure on you to study and contribute.
    • Most of the major companies will offer a free trial of their software, so be sure to try it out before you pay hundreds of dollars.
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    Use textbooks to learn at home. A more low-tech way to learn at home, is to buy some textbooks, grammar guides, and verb tables and start working through them. This approach requires some dedication and commitment, because learning at home with a book can get boring and frustrating. Using books can be a good way to learn technical aspects of the language, such as grammar, sentence structure, and verb conjugation.
    • Old textbooks can be bought cheaply second-hand online, but try to get one that is fairly recent.
    • Languages change, so you need to be learning from an up-to-date text.
    • If you just rely on books, you are unlikely to spend much time on listening, and even less on speaking.
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    Try to combine different methods. When you are trying to learn a language, it’s important not to neglect any of the key areas. If you are learning alone, you are likely to spend more time on reading and writing, and if you learn in a group you will probably spend more time speaking and listening. Try to get a good balance of the four different aspects, and vary your learning techniques.[10]
    • You are not just learning the technical aspects of a language, but also developing the confidence to speak to people.
    • Take any opportunity to practice, and spend as much time on the language as you possibly can.


  • You don't have to get fluent in a language to enjoy and use it!
  • Making a detailed plan and detailed goals will help you achieve your language proficiency.
  • Always try to stay motivated. Being motivated is an important part of being successful in learning foreign languages. It's actually the main key which drives you to the goal.
  • Try using a language learning app or website, like Duolingo.


  • Learning a language can and will be hard, but it is definitely possible.

Article Info

Categories: World Languages