There are few things in this world that define a culture more completely than a language. A language is shared by and shaped by the people who speak it, and by understanding the language, you develop a more complex and nuanced understanding of world cultures.
But these days, we’re all busy, and learning a foreign language is something that few of us can find the time for. The good news is that you can learn a foreign language in your spare time, even if your free time is limited!
First, choose a language.
Choosing a foreign language can be difficult. For native English speakers, the easiest to learn are European languages. In most parts of the United States, Spanish is extremely useful as a second language. In many parts of Canada, French is the ideal second language.
Choosing an ancient language or a language not widely used will limit the availability of resources available to learn the language. For example, Swedish and Norwegian are not widely used outside of Sweden and Norway, so resources to help you learn those languages will be more difficult to obtain. Latin and Attic Greek can be useful in Biblical scholarship, but the resources available to learn those languages are generally geared toward college-level students and can be difficult for an autodidact to use.
Second, choose a primary resource.
One of the best free resources for learning popular modern languages is an app for the iOS and Android. Duolingo is also available as a web-based game. Not all languages are included with Duolingo, but its portability on various devices makes it a fun way to learn languages while sitting in a waiting room or picking the kids up from school.
If the language you want isn’t available on Duolingo, Rosetta Stone is another option that’s exceptionally easy to use. Rosetta Stone is a computer program and website that’s rather pricey, but is highly effective in helping to learn foreign languages. With adjustable settings, the program can be adjusted to allow children as young as seven to begin learning a foreign language.
If you need a classroom setting to learn most effectively, or if you can’t find your language on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, consider taking a class at your local community college. For Vulgar Latin, Attic Greek, or Arabic, you may be able to find classes at local churches or mosques.
Find a friend!
The best way to cement learning a new language is to speak it often! Rosetta Stone offers students the ability to chat online with people all over the world, allowing students to hone their language skills while conversing with real people who speak that language.
Ideally, you’ll be able to find a friend who speaks the language you want to learn. You may want to ask around on social media or within your network to seek out a linguistic buddy. Meeting periodically for face-to-face interactions will help you learn to truly understand your new language.
Learning a second language can be incredibly rewarding, and it’s not as difficult as you might first assume. In most parts of the world, people are expected to know more than one language. A native English-speaker has an advantage when he or she is bilingual, as it’s a skill that few native English-speakers develop. But the true value of learning another language is not in its benefit as a resume-booster; learning another language teaches you about people, customs, and societies in other parts of the world.