For many people the start of a new year brings with it the urge to better themselves. This could be joining the gym, eating healthier or learning a new language.
Why learn a new language?
It’s true that many people throughout the world speak English, especially in tourist areas. However, according to Ethnologue the language only has an estimated 980 million speakers. So only about 1/7 of the world’s population speaks English, with the majority speaking a wide variety of other languages.
Therefore, learning a language other than English can allow you to communicate with people you couldn’t otherwise, helping you experience another culture and way of thinking.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Is learning a language expensive?
Learning a new language used to be a costly endeavour, but the internet has changed this.
There are free online resources you can use such as Duolingo and Memrise that focus on reading and writing. These won’t take you all the way to fluency, but they are a cost-free way to get a solid foundation before you commit any money.
If you would prefer to learn listening and speaking skills, there are reasonably priced audio resources such as the Michel Thomas Method and Paul Noble series available for many commonly learned languages.
How to keep your New Year’s Resolution
Research by Statistic Brain shows that a massive 92% of people don’t achieve their New Year’s resolution. This is likely due to their ambitions being vague, unrealistic and with no real timeframe.
Making sure your resolution is ‘SMART’ can help you achieve it. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
Here are two example New Year’s resolutions:
- Become fluent in French
- Complete the French Duolingo course by the end of the year
Below is an analysis of these two goals based on how SMART they are:
- Specific. The first goal is vague whereas the second is precise.
- Measurable. The first goal is difficult to measure and how fluency is defined is up for debate. The second one can easily be determined as Duolingo gives you a virtual certificate of completion.
- Achievable. The first goal is going to very difficult to complete in a year unless you are a seasoned language learner or a prodigy. The second goal is realistically achievable if you put in the work.
- Relevant. Both the goals in this example are relevant because the imaginary person wants to visit France on holiday. Make sure you are planning to learn a language you will actually use.
- Timely. The first goal has an imprecise deadline without any timescale of when you are actually going to achieve it. The second one is better because it has a deadline, so you have a time-frame to stick with.
When writing your language learning resolution, consider how much time you are going to invest. Learning a new language is a large, yet rewarding time investment. If you are only going to spend an hour a week, you may want your goal to be more modest than if you are planning to spend an hour every day.
Which language should I learn?
Common advice is to learn the one with the most or a large number of speakers. On the surface it makes sense, right? This isn’t necessary good advice, however.
Learning to speak another language will take a lot of motivation regardless of which one you choose as you will need to regularly be studying and using it (ideally every day). If you aren’t passionate about the language and its culture, how will you have the enthusiasm to keep learning it by the end of the year?
Better advice is to choose a language spoken in a country you are interested in, even if it doesn’t have the most speakers or financial benefit. For example, if you are an anime fan and want to watch it in its original language and without subtitles then don’t be put off by people saying it’s too hard or nobody outside of Japan speaks it.
If you aren’t drawn in by a particular country and just want to learn another language, then maybe learning the easiest one is the best choice. Esperanto has vocabulary familiar to English speakers, regular grammar rules and no noun genders.