What’s the most effective and efficient way to learn a foreign language

People hangout together at coffee shop

This post is also available in: Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish)

Yesyou guessed it – the easiest way to become fluent in a foreign language is to be born in a family that’s bilingual. For example, immigrant parents who speak their native language at home, while living in the country where people speak a different language, grow up to be bilingual. In some countries like Morocco for example, people can speak 5-6 languages. But not all of us are so lucky.

Another way is to be one of those immigrants. You could move to another country and, to assimilate yourself, you would need to learn the local language. Otherwise, you will work in a job that doesn’t require interacting with other people, but those are usually very low paying jobs and you shut yourself out from the rest of the society.

People hangout together at coffee shop

If you want to learn a foreign language while still living in your home country, for Americans it will most likely be Spanish. For the rest of the world it’s English, unless you learn it at school, but often times the people that teach a foreign language don’t actually speak it. Plus, there are no real opportunity to practice since these classes are usually in group settings and lack one on one interaction.

You are then forced to seek this one on one interaction and here you have several options:

  1. Find a school that may offer classes with native speakers and, usually, this will again be in group settings. Although you at least get the access to authentic pronunciation, you still get little one on one interaction.
  2. Find a tutor, a native speaker can be very expensive, after all he moved to your country with the goal to come back to his with some extra money saved up. Finding a tutor just like the one you had in your local school has little practical impact, because you are again studying with a teacher whose pronunciation is completely different from a native speaker. You don’t develop comprehension of the correct pronunciation or even commonly used jargon.
  3. With advent of video conferencing, it’s now possible to connect with a native speaking teacher remotely at a much lower cost. Additionally, you can save time and money on commuting and sustain a consistent schedule. But it has its flaws as well: when teacher is so many miles away, it’s hard to gauge how engaged they are. Are they Facebooking with a friend while talking to you? Are they watching a video on silent and you can’t see them? How do you ensure teacher efficacy?

In the end Immersion is the key ingredient to becoming fluent in a foreign language. It doesn’t have to be the person with a teaching background, ask any immigrant and they’ve learned more from a general interaction a lot more than from a teacher. So our advise is very simple: immersion into the real language environment even without teaching is a lot more effective than taking classes with a teacher who can’t speak a language.

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