Top 6 Tips To Become Bilingual

Top 6 Tips to Become BilingualLearning a new language and subsequently becoming bilingual and being fluent in it can be a lengthy and arduous task. But, to equip yourself with a new language is a great way to broaden your horizons- not just to learn the actual language itself, but be fully bilingual, know more about where it’s spoken, the history and culture of the people who speak it, and any subtle nuances it may possess. 

 

So, how do you learn a new language? How do you become bilingual? Well, here are the top 6 tips to become bilingual.

A person who has the ability to speak two languages is termed as a bilingual, although you can also call a multilingual (someone who can speak more than two languages) the same. 

Being bilingual isn’t unusual. Many people in the world who belong to countries where English is not native or indigenous are often raised bilingual. They speak their native tongue, and usually even one or two more dialects or sub-dialects of their native land, apart from being taught English.  

The key is to start learning young. Not only do you have more time to hone your fluency in that language n your formative years, but children are also known to pick up skills much faster in their early years, unconsciously and effortlessly, and most importantly, retain what they learn.

Child reading and talking to a t
Photo by Andy Kuzma from Pexels

Related: How long does it take to learn Spanish

Children also have fewer inhibitions and will not feel shy or hesitate to test their language skills and converse with new people, unlike adults, who might feel conscious.

So, if you are teaching a child to become bilingual, it would be wise to :

  1. Have one parent speak only one language and the other the second parent to speak the other language.
  2. Speak only your native language at home, as your child will probably learn English in school.
  3. Allow your child to hear and practice both languages.

This is perhaps the most important of the top 6 tips to become bilingual that you should keep in mind. It is always easier to learn a new language when you are younger, which is why most schools offer second languages as a part of their curriculum, to instill in children the skill and knowledge of another language. 

Related: More US schools teach in English and Spanish, but not enough to help Latino kids

That being said, it is never too late to learn a new language and equip yourself with that particular skill. All you need is oodles of perseverance because the road to becoming bilingual is a long one. So, patience, grasshopper.

Start with the Alphabets and Vocabulary

Learning to say the alphabet
Photo by Maria Tyutina from Pexels

It is essential to remember to expand your vocabulary in whichever language you decide to learn. Learning new words will improve your articulation. It can be intimidating to start learning a new language from scratch. So, start learning a few words every day. These words can be objects, animals, food, places, numbers…anything.

So, here’s número dos on the 6 tips to become bilingual. Just start small and add a dozen words to your vocabulary every day, writing it down with the meaning and pronunciation. As you make some headway, try forming simple, single clause sentences using that word, and remember to maintain a book to note down what you learn.

Most European languages like Spanish and French— scusi, Español and Français— have the same scripts-Latin or Roman alphabet. But other languages from other continents- like Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, and Mandarin have different scripts. In such cases, you will need to start learning the alphabets of that language before learning the vocabulary.

Once you’ve learned the alphabet’s and a goodly number of words, you can start trying to string them together using…. grammar!

This is perhaps the trickiest part of learning a new language. Each language has a different set of grammar rules, and it can be quite challenging to pick up the subtle nuances. 

There are rules in place for verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, articles, tenses, and some languages, and all these rules are extremely sensitive. Again, maintaining a written record of what you learn is vital, and going back to review what you learn, even more so.

Read, watch movies, listen to movies

The easiest and perhaps most effective of the top 6 tips to become bilingual is to watch TV shows, movies, or even the news in that language with the subtitles on to pick up the language.

Related: 5 smart ways to learn a language by watching TV and films

This is a great way to pick up new words in their specific context, and not in an isolated situation where you search for a random new word to learn. When you learn a new word in context, you are much more likely to use that word again.

Try jotting down the words you find particularly difficult to understand so you can get back to it later and review them.

This is also a great way to pick up on the pronunciation of the words. You might not understand every word being spoken, but this is a great way to instinctively know what that particular word means, just by understanding the context in which it is being used.

You can start with shows meant for children, but there are some fabulous and lengthy telenovelas to keep you hooked for a long time, long enough, perhaps, for you to learn the language just by watching the show,

Reading comics or subscribing to a newspaper in the language you’re learning for snippets of news, is also a great way to learn.

Keep in mind, though, that while watching movies and reading comics will undoubtedly help you pick up the language, you will need to be at a certain level of learning that language to be able to understand what you’re reading or watching. This tip is more for advanced beginners, or for those of you on the cusp of becoming intermediaries, to advance their skill, rather than start learning it.

Who knows, your experience may be a lot like “Emily in Paris”, the good parts though!

Find a language buddy

This is perhaps my favorite of the top 6 tips to become bilingual.

It is all well and good to practice by yourself at home, but actually having someone to talk to other than mirror-mirror-on-the-wall and converse within the new language you are learning is the absolute best.

Why? 

1.When you speak to someone else, especially someone more skilled at that language than you are, you will be able to learn from them. You will have the opportunity to improve your pronunciation by listening to them speak and even pick up conversational phrases and idioms instead of reading and learning them from a textbook.

Related: How to find a language exchange partner

2.Having a language buddy encourages healthy conversations, debates, and discussions. You don’t just pick-up vocabulary and grammar, you also pick up facts, information, knowledge about cultures, and customs. Ideally, having a native or already fluent speaker to practice on, rather than practice with, increases your scope of learning, and you will have someone to correct and guide you.

3.That being said, having a fellow beginner is also excellent. You will both have the opportunity to make plans and set goals together and have someone to practice with. Unlike speaking with a fluent speaker, in this case, both of you will not feel conscious or hesitant and will be more confident, and less inhibited about making mistakes and learning from them.

Take a class or join a course

The most popular of the top 6 tips to become bilingual is to take a class or enroll in an online course.

The best way to learn and the best place to learn is in a classroom environment with others in the same boat.

Classmates are a source of competition who motivate you to do your best. Participation in interactive debates and discussions with one language buddy is excellent. Now imagine how much you can learn from an entire class full of people.

There are many courses and classes down at the local university or language training centers for you to enroll in that offer various languages for you to choose from. There are many online courses: language learning resources and websites like Babbel and Rosetta Stone to help you on your quest to become bilingual. Also, I highly recommend Rocket Languages, as they have some very easy to follow step by step online courses for learning a wide variety of languages, smaller than the other 2 services mentioned, but more nimble in their offerings, definitely give them a go if you like the look of them.

Babbel has come up with a method designed for beginners and experts alike, not just to learn a new language but also to focus on topics like culture, travel, and business.

Alternatively, since we are on the topic of online learning, you can use apps on your phone, iPad, and other devices, play interactive games, and make use of other technology to help you along your journey to becoming fluent in a second language.

Practice

Right, so the last of the top 6 tips to become bilingual is practice.

You can do everything right, learn how to read, write and speak a whole new language, become bilingual…but it won’t matter at all if you don’t practice and keep practicing, because technically, you are never finished with learning a language.

Related: 12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

Fluency is the key to mastering a language, and the only way to become fluent is to make sure you don’t get rusty. You can use reading material, movies, TV shows, and music to keep yourself from losing touch with the language. Talk to people in that language as often as you can, do everything to keep practicing until one day, it will become second nature to you. 

Final Thoughts

So that was a lot.

Learning a new language is not an easy feat, but something you should definitely attempt and in some cases can be somewhat achieved in 24 hoours. Having the ability to speak 2 languages opens so many opportunities from a travel and career perspective and can transform you’re your life in so many ways.

If you are trying to learn English in your bilingual journey, remember to try and use free tools such as TOEFL preparation resources, as they are some of the best out there, especially with organizations like Magoosh

Make sure to keep pushing though and progressing, the more you speak the language, the more you will get the hang of the dialects and accent differences.

Remember though, you will fail multiple times before you feel comfortable. Go at your own pace, but from time to time go out of your comfort zone. This will allow you to fail with people you know, and when you get something wrong in public, it does not matter, you just dust yourself off, laugh about it and continue.

We all know the US is a hugely diverse country and learning new languages can provide you with new potential relationships, being able to converse with people on their level and open new doors and experiences.  

Let’s work together to break free of our English-speaking bubble and expand our linguistic expertise.

Happy learning, language lovers.

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