Learning a new language is usually a long-term project, but there may be situations where you don't have the time to spend on gradual learning. Maybe you have a holiday planned and don't want to be "that person" who goes around asking "Does anyone here speak English?" Or maybe you've landed a job abroad, and you need to have a reasonable level of the local language by the time you leave. What are the best ways of leapfrogging long courses of study and getting yourself up to a good level quickly? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Set Yourself Goals
It's all very well to set a vague goal of "learning the language", but that may not be sufficient motivation to achieve what you need to. It's far better to set a series of very specific goals which will give you the impetus you need to reach each level. Perhaps you could promise yourself that, by a specific date, you'll hold a thirty-minute conversation solely in the target language, or that you'll watch and understand a film in the language without subtitles.
2. Study Every Day
Learning a language depends very largely on regular repetitions, so slotting in half an hour a couple of times a week isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to set aside a substantial amount of time every day to learn and practice, as well as using any free time you happen to have, such as driving to and from work. This might mean some other activities having to go on hold, but it's worth it to achieve your goal.
3. Focus on the Basics
The traditional way of learning a language involves learning all the rules of grammar that the language follows — but it's unlikely that most native speakers know these. There are basic aspects of grammar you'll need to know, such as word order, but most of these can be picked up by listening to speakers. In the meantime, concentrate on learning the most essential words and phrases. Learning to count can valuable, and you can pick out the hundred most common words in the language to get to know.
4. Listen to Get Your Pronunciation Right
If you're finding words in books or in text on websites, you're probably going to be guessing how to pronounce them. You may be given indications about pronunciation of letters and where the stress comes, but that can only be approximate. Listen to native speakers as much as possible, whether that's in conversation or watching films, TV programmes or YouTube videos. Pay attention to the way they pronounce the words, as well as trying to follow what they're saying.
5. Use Language Apps
Language apps such as Duolingo or Memrise can be invaluable for taking a structured approach to learning a language. If you're going for a popular language such as French or Spanish, you'll be spoilt for choice, but you should be able to find an app offering most national languages, though different apps may suit your specific needs and learning style better than others. Some are free, but in most cases you'll at least need to pay for the more advanced content.
6. Hire a Native Speaker as a Language Tutor
Any good private tutor can help you learn a language quickly, but a tutor who's also a native speaker will be particularly valuable for helping you not only with pronunciation, but also with the language as you'll actually hear it when you're in the country. In addition, you'll be able to pick up crucial tips about the culture you'll find. Register with TutorExtra to find a language tutor who's also a native speaker, to help you learn a language quickly.