Written By Miranda Owen
I am a Senior in Political Science at NC State, but to fulfill my major’s requirements I decided to take on a difficult challenge: spending two years studying Japanese language. I took beginner lessons in Spanish during high school, but going in-depth to learn a language and taking college courses is a lot more difficult (but rewarding too). Improving my foreign language skills has been a long journey but I have acquired many different tips for learning a new language.
Listen to Music
Something that’s really helped me expand my vocabulary and practice pronunciation is listening to and learning songs in my target language. Listening to foreign music can expose you to different cultural elements and help you practice your skills anywhere, at anytime.
I have loved Quizlet to help out with all of my classes but especially Japanese. I can review everything I’ve learned so far quickly, and it’s just like using flashcards but with less paper waste and no chance of losing your work.
Start a Journal
It really helps to write as much as possible in your target language, especially if you’re learning a language that has a unique alphabet and characters such as Japanese or Arabic. I use a bullet journal to help me track my progress learning the language and write a few lines about how my week is going. Writing your own thoughts in your target language can help you practice grammar, writing, and vocabulary.
Reading Books or Comics
Likewise, it’s helpful to read books or, if you’re also studying Japanese, manga. I’ve found that books targeted toward a younger audience – like teen novels are easier to read but still entertaining.
Games and TV
Taking in any type of media that’s spoken in your target language can help you take in new vocabulary and get exposed to more casual, modern speaking styles. For this purpose I absolutely love learning Japanese by watching Japanese reality TV like Terrace House. I love it because I can learn how people my age talk to each other (this is really important if there are different dialects or honorifics you need to learn).
Join Practice Groups
Whether you’re studying with a class or learning solo, it really helps to talk to people on your skill level and practice together. The students in my class have a Discord to discuss in, and I am also a part of some Facebook groups for practicing the language. It’s great to socialize while practicing your skills and getting some new ones as well.