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Language Scramble by Erik Andresen, for 5 Habits to Learn a Language for Keeps.

One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way. ~ Frank Smith

You’re right . . . learning a language is not easy.

And between the office and your part-time hustle, you don’t have the time or the energy for language study.

You want so much to regain the speaking facility you had back in college. Even been thinking of taking up a new language, but life and family (Sorry, dear Husband, for how this sounds if you’re reading this!) keep getting in the way.

But you wanna speak another language so bad! 

If only to know what people are saying about you when they think you don’t have a clue. 

So, how in the world do you do it?


By remembering you don’t so much learn a foreign language as get used to it.

You get used to a language, or anything else, the more you come into contact with it. Like how you learned your first language and how that one-time stranger is now your best friend. 

By making language learning a part of what you do day in and day out. 

So, relax, take a breath . . . smile. You can do this.

Fluency in your language of choice will be yours when you establish habits with what you watch and listen to on a daily basis.

Outlined below are five such habits

Apply them consistently and you WILL improve your listening and speaking skills no matter what language you are learning or level of skill you’re starting out with. 

5 Habits to Learn a Language

Hello in speech bubbles by iliveinoctober, for 5 Habits to Learn a Language for Keeps.


1) Watch a Movie in Your Target Language.

  • Movies are tailor-made for language learning. And one movie a week is a habit your family can enjoy with you.
  • Listening to dialogue accustoms you to the sound and rhythms of language. The actions and attitudes of characters portrayed on screen will help you to understand the dialog, local slang, and ways of communicating non-verbally you wouldn’t “get” any other way. You experience the culture via the costumes, scenery, and soundtrack.
  • Whether you download your movie via Netflix or borrow it from the library, make sure it has not been dubbed into English. You want to hear the actors speaking the original language and come to understand what they’re saying through their actions.
  • You may have a new favorite must-go-to place by the time the end credits roll, having learned as much about the culture and history of the film’s location as its language.


2.    Meet with a Language Partner.

      • Practice makes fluent. Conversing with a native speaker on a regular basis either in person (if possible) or online via SKYPE or FaceTime is the next best thing to doing so in country.
Practice makes fluent. Click To Tweet
      • You can make initial contact with prospective language partners at any one of several good language exchange websites with ease. You’ll be surprised how many people speaking YOUR language will want to learn English with you, so here are some things to consider when vetting the candidates: Choose someone from a place you’re interested in who is eager to learn and get started with you. Don’t stress if all of your interests aren’t matchy-matchy. The very fact you have different interests will open the door to real conversation based on curiosity. And you’ll learn all kinds of new words.
      • Arrange to meet for 40 minutes to 1 hour per session.

If a single language partner can’t meet with you more than once a week, then find another partner for your second session.  

Hello in speech bubbles by iliveinoctober, for 5 Habits to Learn a Language for Keeps.

      • Having a language partner will help you focus. Your vocabulary and ease in speaking will grow with every meeting since you have something specific to talk about and someone specific to talk with, to whom you’re accountable.

In other words, if you don’t show up, if you’re not prepared ~ you’re gonna feel like mud.

Motivationally-speaking . . . how cool is that?

          • Having a language partner can also, over time, give you a friend in that far-away place you’ve been wanting to visit. You’ll have an insider’s view on what certain words and expressions really mean, how they’re used, and how things work in his or her world.


3. Become a Stick-Up Artist.

“What’s that?”

Weren’t these your first word’s after “Mama,” “Dada,” and “Mine?”

          • Once you start gaining another language your brain asks that same question every time you see a new object. Seeing new words attached to the things the words mean will give your brain the answers it seeks in a way it will remember.
          • Put post-its on everything everywhere. Whenever you encounter something you don’t know the word for in your target language, place a post-it note on it. Then look the word up in your pocket dictionary or online and write it on the note. (If for some reason, you can’t find the word because your dictionary is not comprehensive enough or you can’t get an internet connection, the empty post-it note will remind you to look it up later.)

Get into the additional habit of putting a pad of post-its and a pencil by the coffee pot at the end of each day, so you’re sure to pick them up and be ready to use them at the start of every day.

          • Your knowledge of everyday vocabulary will soar and you will be able to share more detailed stories with your language partner about your daily activities.

4.    Listen to a Language Podcast.

          • You can listen to language podcasts most anytime. Sharpen your speaking and listening skills while driving to work, working out, and walking the dog.
          • Subscribe to a language podcast via iTunes or Stitcher on your digital device. Listen as much as your schedule allows, but at least 30 minutes a day.
          • Among the multiple benefits: you can develop your ear by listening to native speakers, grow your vocabulary, get a grip on how words really work together ~ all at your own pace.

Hello in speech bubbles by iliveinoctober, for 5 Habits to Learn a Language for Keeps.

5.    Watch a Foreign Language Television Program.

          • With very little effort on your part other than watching, you’d be surprised how much you pick up by viewing these programs on a regular basis. (And not just you. Four years have passed since I last watched Caso Cerrado  ~ a court case show where the judge says “Caso Cerrado” (Case Closed) at the end of every case ~ yet my husband can still say in perfect Spanish, “Caso Cerrado” And all he did was work in an adjacent room while I was watching it.
          • Find a TV program in your language at least 30 minutes long. You want it on a subject you’re interested in, to which you can commit to watching daily. 
          • Newscasts are ideal since reporters speak the standard form of your target language on a clear and consistent basis. 

If your entertainment package doesn’t already provide a channel by which you can watch daily newscasts in your language, it may be available as an add-on. Or you can watch it via an online news channel.

          • You’ll become savvy on the goings on in countries where your language is spoken. This will inspire and help you shape your travel plans, give you current stories to trade with your language partner, teach you new words and further develop your ear.

Five is not a large number.

But, these five habits, combined on a consistent basis will have you speaking and ~ this is CRUCIAL ~ understanding your new language in record time.

Besides, given your schedule, five is all you can handle.

How long will it take you to establish each habit? Some say 20 days, others 30. I give myself the luxury of 40 days to be sure a new habit is really mine, so I’m recommending the same to you.

But whatever number of days you choose, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to acquire more than new one new habit at a time. Once your 4o days are up, start in on the next one.  

Language learning that sticks isn’t a sprint; it’s more like a marathon.

And that finish line isn’t at the start of your next vacation but at the end of your purposeful, well-traveled life.

Language learning  that sticks isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. Click To Tweet

Don’t you think it’s worth the wait to develop crazy good skills you can enjoy and serve others with for a lifetime?


1) Get started on one of the habits you can begin to adopt right now. Like listening to podcasts.

30 days from now ~ 

2) Put the pieces in place so you can begin your second new habit on time. For example, if you choose number 3, Become a Stick-Up Artist, lay in a supply of post-it notes for stashing around the house, in your pockets, and;

3) Locate an easy-to-carry pocket dictionary or dictionary app appropriate for your level.

If you’re at a beginner-intermediate level, a bi-lingual dictionary in your native and target languages is what you want. If you’re at an advanced level, a single-language dictionary in your target language will serve you better. 

60 days from now~ 

3) Drop me a line I’d love to hear how far you’ve come and to cheer you on in your progress!


Featured image, Language Scramble, by Erik Andresen; seamless pattern with “hello” in speech bubbles by iliveinoctober.