5 Quick Ways to Learn a New Language

by Megan Eileen McDonough

No one said mastering a language is easy. Not everyone absorbs foreign tongues like a sponge, and it takes a whole lot of motivation and practice to make real progress. Plus, it's also quite possible to spend years "studying" a language and not be able to function well abroad. French always came naturally to me, or so I thought, and I took classes in junior high and high school before passing an exam to opt out of my college language requirement. So getting around France should've been très facile, oui? By the time I actually visited Paris I was a mess and could barely communicate. But there's hope for you! Here are five language tools so you can make like Wayne Campbell when wooing his love interest Cassandra in Cantonese. Wayne's World reference...anyone? Anyone?

1. Rosetta Stone

Unless you've been living under a, er, stone for the past few years, you've heard of this tool — especially around the holidays when they're promoting their blowout sales, because nothing says Christmas like a set of Farsi 101 CDs. The price tag is hefty but it gets positive reviews, allows you to learn from the comfort of your home, and offers lessons in 30 languages, including Arabic, Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi, Swedish, and Japanese.

2. Fluenz

If you've ever seen an episode of YouTube original travel series Sonia's Travels, you'll probably recognize Fluenz host Sonia Gil. Fluenz is one of the main competitors to Rosetta Stone, they just don't invest the same type of money into advertising. I've been using Fluenz to learn Latin American Spanish, which, I might add, is in fact different from Spain Spanish. The difference between Fluenz and Rosetta Stone is the approach. In simplest terms, Fluenz introduces new vocabulary and concepts based on the way adults are used to absorbing information. Rosetta Stone's methodology is based on how a baby learns a language.

3. Skype with a Local

If you don't have friend/boyfriend/husband from another country, chatting with locals via Skype may be the best alternative. The Mixxer is a free website for language learners that connects both students and teachers via Skype. You find a language partner, chat with them on Skype, then write a blog and receive feedback and corrections from your instructor. There are other similar online resources and Skype also has a designated community for language learners.

4. Live Abroad

Clearly, this isn't the cheapest way to master a language but it may be the most effective. If you can figure out a way to make it work, you'll soon be speaking the lingo like a local. Languages like Spanish vary from country to country so this is one factor to keep in mind before choosing your locale. Take classes while you're there if you can swing it, or opt to live with a host family. Whatever you do, don't let your shyness and fear of sounding ridiculous keep you from practicing with locals. Take full advantage of the opportunity.

5. Sesame Street All the Way

Let's not forget how amazing Sesame Street is. If you were anything like me as a kid, I'm guessing you spent hours in front of the tube learning the alphabet and singing along to catchy songs like "Cereal Girl" only to find out years later that it's the same tune as Madonna's "Material Girl." Tangent aside, watching children's television shows in another language is a great tool for expanding your vocabulary and getting a grasp on simple grammar rules.

Need some extra inspiration? Check this out. Schwing!

Image: Fotolia