While learning a new language is difficult, it is never too late to try


Karolena Zhou

Learning Your Name in Morse Code Day just occurred on January 11. It was a day devoted to learning a new language. For me, learning a second language was pretty difficult.

Despite growing up in a household that mostly speaks Chinese, I’m not fluent in the language. In fact, my writing and reading skills are a bit lacking, and my tones are a bit off. This is because when I was younger, I didn’t really understand the point of learning a second language, especially since all my friends and classmates only spoke English, so I didn’t try to learn it. 

However, now as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized the importance of learning Chinese, but it has become harder to learn. According to Dr. Richard Shuster, a clinical psychologist and the host of “The Daily Helping Podcast,” learning a new language as children is easier as children’s brains haven’t formed a cerebral preference over their learning style. In face of this challenge, I have found a few helpful tricks and tips to learn a new language.

First, you should start small, like learning the alphabet and basic vocabulary words. For many languages such as Chinese and Spanish, the letters are pronounced differently. Practicing the letters will help you learn how to pronounce words with the correct tones and inflections. As you get the letters correct, you can move up to basic conversational words and phrases, so you can communicate with others in foreign countries.

Another trick is to use good study tools and methods. One tool is the Duolingo software program and app. Duolingo helps with pronunciation, understanding, reading and writing. The app improves language abilities significantly, even in one hour of study. Flashcards are another good tool to use. When I was little, I had a packet of cards with basic vocabulary words that had the way the word is supposed to be pronounced, a picture of the word and different ways to memorize the word. The more you see a word and the more you use a word, the easier it is to memorize the word.

Additionally, watching movies and TV shows in a different language is also a great way to learn the language. Watching shows you are familiar with is a good idea. For example, I watched Harry Potter in Chinese. I also watched kid shows such as “喜羊羊与灰太狼” (“Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf”) and “Ni Hao Kai-Lan” to learn Chinese. This way you can get more familiar with the phrases and inflections.

Furthermore, the only bulletproof way to learn a language is to practice every day, all day long. According to a study by News In Health, processing new information before sleeping is the most effective way to memorize something. You should study 30 minutes before bedtime or study whenever you have time. Additionally, you should immerse yourself into the culture. It is easier to learn a language when you understand the culture connected with it.

The last and most important tip is to never give up. It is hard to learn a new language, especially the older you get. However, that doesn’t mean you should quit trying. The harder you study and the more time and energy you put into it, the easier learning the language will get. And don’t forget, have fun.

To see more of Karolena’s work, click here.