How to Learn a New Language on Your Own

Whether you dozed through college French or loved it and then promptly forgot everything, you’re probably aware of the increasing demand for bilingual and multilingual job applicants. No matter what field you’re studying or working in – health services, teaching, technology, business – learning even a little bit of a second (or third) language is a great way to improve your resume and make yourself more marketable as an employee.


But if you don’t remember much from your previous language classes, you might not be sure where to start – and that’s okay! Learning a language on your own is very different from learning in the classroom, and it may take some time for you to figure out which methods work best for you. Here are few steps, though, to help you get started:


  1. Choose your language. The first thing a lot of people think of when they want to learn a new language is how many speakers it has, and that makes sense. But it does you no good to learn a language with millions of speakers if none of them live or work near year. Instead, consider why you want to learn a language in the first place. Maybe you’ll choose Spanish or French to be able to communicate better with patients, or Chinese or German for your business. If you’re just learning for fun, think about a culture or country that you’re interested in or would like to travel to.
  2. Get your materials. You’ve got lots of options here. Sure, you could shell out a lot of money for a full program, but it can be a lot to pay if the course ends up not working for you. If you’re short on cash, or just want to try the language out before committing, there are lots of free resources online to choose from – sites like Duolingo and Memrise make learning into a game, and it’s so easy to find an online dictionary or two to help you learn vocab.
  3. Be flexible. Once you’ve got your materials, it’s important to frequently evaluate them and make sure they’re still working for you. Fun, game-like learning sites are great for some people, but you might find that you’d work better with a textbook or workbook, both of which you can find online (depending on how much you want to pay). And don’t be afraid to add new tools to your toolbox – once you’ve gotten the hang of how the language sounds, try searching for music or podcasts to get some listening practice.
  4. Talk with native speakers. I know this post is about learning a language on your own, but there really is no substitute for practicing your skills with a native speaker. If you’re lucky, you might have a friend or neighbor who can help you out, but there are plenty of resources online to help you find speakers in your community or even over the internet if you can’t meet up in person.
  5. Stick with it. Making your learning a habit is the biggest step – it’s all to easy to have a week or so of high motivation only to be followed by almost giving up entirely the next week. It won’t happen overnight, and it certainly won’t happen very quickly (or even at all) if you don’t put time into it. Try to devote at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to it, wherever you can fit it in, even if it’s just listening to music as you make dinner.


There are so many benefits to learning a second or third language, regardless of the reason – not only will you have a skill that can be incredibly helpful in your job and looks great on your resume, it can also make travelling more fun and is great for your brain. While it can be intimidating to go it alone, without the comfort of a teacher and a classroom around you, learning a new language on your own doesn’t have to be hard!