Every journey starts with a first step, and in this case your first step is working out why your traveling in the first place and recalling where you’ve been before.
1. What do you want your new language skills to allow you to do?… Order (or appreciate) food and drink and ask for the bill ?… Survive a week’s leisure trip abroad? … Get a holiday job in a different country?… Study abroad?… Live and work abroad? Or just get to know someone better whose first language isn’t yours? Knowing your goals will help focus your learning, even down to the vocabulary you’ll need and what to prioritise.
2. What language(s) have you studied before and what have you learned from the experience ? Languages like people have families to whom they’re related, and frankly it’s easier to learn a new language that has links to your first language or to another you’re at least familiar with. Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian all have shared roots in Latin, while German and Norwegian come from a Germanic family. English cuts across both families, Britain having historic associations with Saxons, Romans, Norsemen, Normans and others.
This can be seen as a linguistic advantage to an English speaker even if we don’t always recognise this! It’s also important to understand how you learn best (see my previous post) because different resources use different approaches and different methods that may or may not suit your learning style.
3. How much time do you have? Are you in a hurry because of an upcoming opportunity or deadline? Do you have leisure time to devote to taking up language learning? Understanding the time available will help work out whether you need an intensive course or a leisurely and less formal approach.
4. What motivates you? Are you competitive, sociable, do you want certificates and qualifications or just to communicate better, are you wanting to travel or earn money or both? Knowing what spurs you on will help you choose the resources that will help keep you motivated even when at times there’s hard work needed.
5. Finally write down:
what you want to do and why; what specifically you’d like to learn; when you will do this learning and when you’d like to see progress ; and list the sort of approaches and resources that have worked for you in the past.
Now go looking for resources and opportunities with an open mind. Along the way I’ll give you suggestions, all you need do is consider them and maybe try something new. It may just set you on the path to achieving your own language goals and the cultural adventures they will lead you on.