New Year. New Language.

When contemplating your New Year's Resolutions, think about adding "Learning a New Language" to the list. I'm sure some of you just groaned thinking about the feeling of dread from when learning a language was required as a class. But learning a language on your own terms can actually be a lot more fun and engaging because you find your own meaning in it other than receiving a grade. And, honestly, the language you took in school maybe wasn't even the language you were truly interested in. It could've been the one you knew a bit about and knew you could get a decent grade in or the language you settled for because the school didn't offer the language you wanted to learn.

Personally, I had an interest in learning Dutch, but that wasn't an option and I stuck with what one I thought could be most useful: Spanish. However, a couple of summers ago I took the initiative to start learning Dutch on my own. No strict schedule or "unnecessary" assignments that make me unmotivated to learn more about a new language and culture different to the one I'm accustomed to. I had always loved Spanish class because I was intrigued by learning about the culture and it helped me with grammar. But, unfortunately, having to learn the language for a grade also made it more of a hassle and inconvenience because the assignments and pressure to remember rather than retain became the main focus other than learning about this other culture. So learning a new language on your own terms resolves those issues!

It's actually quite simple to go about learning a new language! There are many apps out there that have a variety of languages to choose from and ways to teach you that can be used. Or you can go the route of buying or renting books to help teach yourself. In my opinion, Duolingo has been a great tool in helping me learn Dutch, and has many other languages to choose from! (And I recently found out that you're not limited to just the app on your phone, though it may be most convenient. It is also available on your computer from the website). Duolingo also has ways to help you create a routine and makes it engaging to learn. There are groups you can join with others who are trying to learn the same language as you. You also receive points as you complete sections, so in a way, you can make it as competitive as you want to motivate yourself to keep learning! It also allows you to choose how aggressive you want to be in your approach to learning this new language. You can decide to practice as little as only 5 minutes a day! The daily notifications you can set help you do a little each day and keep making progress. Every little bit helps!

Another tip that is a great help when learning a new language is to start a journal designated specifically for vocab and things you learn so it's easy to access for you to review and keep track of what you're learning. It's also a great resource for you to utilize if you want to look back on if you decide to take a break from your learning streak which makes the transition into learning again smoother. While Duolingo allows you to do an activity as many times as you wish, it is helpful to have something tangible to help you along the way apart from the app.

Everyone's experience learning a new language is unique to them as we all have our own interests in what we want to get out of this new knowledge and as we all learn at different speeds and in different ways. This aspect of learning can make the experience isolating, but I found it really helpful and inspiring to look into others' stories and advice about learning a new language. I watch YouTube videos of how to get started and what people recommended on doing to get the most out of the experience. Particularly, I found having a specific role model or person learning the language or person who is naturally fluent in the language and/or living in the culture is incredibly inspiring as well as motivating and enlightening. For me, I was fortunate and found a Dutch YouTuber that was also a big part of the book community too, so her channel fit two of my interests! (If you're interested in checking out her channel it is: booksandquills).

I found learning a new language on my own is a fun, new hobby that I actually enjoy spending the time to grow as a person. It can be easy to push aside as life gets busy - trust me, I let that excuse take too much control of my life! But each time you learn even just a new word, it brings you a strange sense of pride for accomplishing even that. Even though life can be chaotic and adding teaching yourself a new language into the mix can seem overwhelming, you can just take 5 minutes a day to practice or learn a little something new. We all have 5 minutes to spare, sometimes more, so why not put that time to good use?! Most of us spend that time on our phones anyway, so why not learn something from your phone other than mindlessly scrolling on social media?

All in all, though, the experience of learning a new language is what you make of it! I know many New Year's Resolutions quickly become tossed aside. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Become more cultured this year. Prove yourself wrong this year. Learn a new language this year.

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