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How to learn a new language quickly

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Hoping to learn a new language? It's easier than you might expect. With this guide, you'll be speaking another language in no time.

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One of the best ways to stand out in the job market is by speaking a second (or third, or fourth...) language.

Being able to speak other languages is so valuable, and you don't need to spend a fortune on courses to develop your skills. So if you're looking to learn a language at university cheaply and quickly, you've come to the right place.

We'll cover the key benefits of speaking other languages, along with some tips on the quickest ways to learn a foreign language at uni. Allons-y!

Benefits of learning a second language

These are the main reasons to learn a language at university:

  1. Languages make you more employable – Plenty of businesses either have offices abroad or are keen to branch out into the global market. Employees with more than one language are extremely valuable. Plus, it's generally a very impressive skill if you have an aptitude for learning languages.
  2. You can earn easy money with language skills – Have you ever looked into how you can use your language skills to make cash? Many companies rely on translators to carry out their global communication. As this is such important work, it can pay well. Or, if you're completely fluent in a second language, you can also become a private tutor to teach others a new language.
  3. Speaking other languages makes travelling easier – It sounds obvious, but learning another language will help you communicate when you're in a foreign country. This can greatly improve your experience of the country as you might find out about things to do nearby that only the locals know about.
  4. Languages lead to great opportunities – When learning a language, you can discover incredible career routes that haven't been open to you before. With other languages on your CV, you could consider becoming a diplomat, ski instructor, professional translator, language teacher or more.
  5. Learning a language is great mental stimulation – By pushing yourself to learn a new language, you can further develop your study skills and self-motivation. This could make a big positive difference to your uni studies, and in turn, could help you pick up new tasks and knowledge in the workplace. The more you learn, the more you can achieve.

Best ways to learn a language

Here are the best and most effective ways to learn a new language:

  1. Start a free language course at university

    Plenty of universities offer free language courses to their students, so this should be your first port of call.

    In some instances, the courses may only be available to students from specific departments. However, it's worth enquiring in case they're flexible with who they let in.

    Although the languages on offer will probably be restricted to the more popular ones (such as French, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.), a free language course taught by your university is an ideal way to learn a language quickly and cheaply.

  2. Take a language module as part of your degree

    Many universities allow (or even require) you to take a unit or module outside of your main subject, so it's possible to learn a language as part of your degree. This means there would be no extra cost, and it wouldn't risk adding to your overall uni workload.

    In your first year, there will likely be a wide variety of beginner language courses. These would suit you if you're completely new to the languages, and haven't learnt them previously at school.

    Speak with your tutor or someone in your department before the term starts to find the best language course for you. As common as they are, open units aren't available on every course, so it's best to double-check first.

  3. Learn a language from home

    Companies such as Rosetta Stone provide language software that uses images, text, sounds and videos to teach you the vocabulary and grammar of a new language.

    The beauty of self-teaching is that it's easy to fit it around your schedule. If you find you have a free evening or just want a break from uni work, you can teach yourself from the comfort of your own home.

    However, even the most basic Rosetta Stone course will cost money. To give you an idea of prices, for three months' worth of classes, you can expect to pay just under £50. It might be one for the Christmas or birthday wishlist.

    If you've been priced out of trying Rosetta Stone, worry not. There are also free online learning options.

    Best ways to learn a language at home on a budget

    Here are some cheap ways to learn a language at home:

    • Language learning apps Online-based language learning tools like Duolingo and Memrise help you learn a language at home. These resources often have free and paid-for versions, but the free versions are a pretty safe bet for learning European languages to a decent level.
    • Language exchange apps – With apps like HelloTalk and Bilingua, you can connect with native speakers and exchange your language skills. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, you could connect with a Spanish native who wants to learn English and help each other.
    • Find books in your university library For an offline alternative, head to your uni library to see if they have any useful free resources, like foreign language dictionaries or language learning software on the computers. Just make sure you return them on time to avoid getting a library fine!
    • Buy cheap exercise books Head to eBay, Amazon or Hive to find cheap exercise books. These will help you expand on your online learning with written exercises.
  4. Study abroad or go on holiday

    airplane landing at sunset

    Credit: Nieuwland Photography – Shutterstock

    The summer break is your perfect opportunity to go abroad for a month or longer to learn a new language.

    Speaking a language in a country where it's actually spoken is the easiest and fastest way to become fluent. It gives you the chance to put each new word and expression that you learn into practice.

    Alternatively, do some research into whether your uni offers a year abroad programme in the country where your language is spoken.

    The Turing Scheme and year abroad programmes don't usually involve any extra cost in terms beyond your tuition fees. You should be able to receive at least a portion of your Maintenance Loan too. Find out more in our guide to Student Finance on a year abroad.

    Don't worry if you're a bit daunted by the prospect of living abroad with basic language skills. Before you depart, see if you can get free language classes at uni.

    You could also consider working abroad over summer. This is another great opportunity to fine-tune your language skills.
  5. Join one of your university's language societies

    Joining a language society at uni is a great way to build on what you've learned. It likely won't be right for complete beginners, but would help you improve your fluency once you've picked up the basics.

    At language society meet-ups, there will likely be a range of activities such as screenings of foreign language films and trips abroad to the country of your chosen language.

    Most importantly, though, you'll have a real opportunity to practice your speaking skills in person. Most members of the society should be able to speak the language to some extent, but many will be at the early stages of learning it, meaning there's no pressure to be word-perfect.

    Above all, language societies are a good environment to make new friends and turn learning a language into the fun and fulfilling experience it should be.

  6. Take part in a language exchange programme

    If your university has a large number of international students, a language exchange could be pretty easy to arrange.

    There will be many international students arriving in the UK who are keen to brush up on their English. Lots of them will appreciate an hour or two of your time each week to practice and ask any language-related questions that they have.

    In exchange for your time, you could ask them to teach you their first language.

    The key is to find students who speak the language you want to learn. Use university noticeboards and post on uni Facebook groups to advertise your proposal. You'll likely be pleasantly surprised by the response.

  7. Try a local adult education course

    Most local councils offer adult education courses, and languages are usually a permanent fixture on their timetables.

    Classes will usually take place during evenings and weekends. However, if you have a lot of free time around lectures, it might be worth seeing if any daytime classes are running too.

    Prices vary, but see if it's possible to get a discounted price as a student.

    If your council doesn't run language courses, check noticeboards in local churches, charity shops, supermarkets or newsagents, as language teachers will often advertise their classes there.

    And, voilà!

The best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it. So why not try studying in one of these European cities where you can do a master's for free?

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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