Which language should I start with?

How to learn a language

Summary of the project [edit]

  • Target group: People who are interested in a language, want or need to learn a language, or learn the language in school
  • Learning goals: The book is used to collect tips for language learning
  • Book sponsorship / contact person: Nobody at the moment. Book may be taken over.
  • Are co-authors currently desired? In any case. This book lives from broad participation.
  • Guidelines for co-authors: Diversity is required here, so that everyone can find suitable tips for their own personal learning style.
  • Project scope and delimitation to other Wikibooks: The book is an "open end" book with a strong emphasis on the wiki principle. From time to time it would make sense to put the tips you have collected in a closed form.
  • Structure of the book: free

Basics [edit]

First of all, develop a deep desire to master the language. This may seem obvious, but passion produces the best results. If you don't have this desire, sooner or later you will stop studying. Join a group that is practicing speaking the language or engage in cultural things that motivate you.

The best thing to do is to find friends who come from the country whose language you want to learn. These native speakers will be the quickest to teach you the language. They know exactly how to really speak the language. This is usually very different and faster than buying a book, and also cheaper!!

And: be patient. Sometimes you just learn, learn and learn and think you still haven't gotten ahead, understand in movies or when other people speak the language, you still only get station. But still you always have to think to yourself: Would I have understood this sentence or this word a few weeks / months ago? So!

After all, there is always one problem with learning a language: learning vocabulary. Each individual develops his own method and no one finds the perfect one. But learning vocabulary doesn't always have to be separate from grammar. There are basically three different methods of learning:

  • Hanafi method: Instead of just dealing with grammar and pronunciation, with this method you learn a lot of vocabulary and idioms that you use in appropriate situations. The pronunciation and grammar are automatically assimilated as the learner speaks more and begins to understand the language. This method is generally considered to be the easiest and fastest.
  • Traditional method: With this method you first learn the grammar and some vocabulary and continue learning on this basis. In this method, one often learns with a teacher who has already mastered the language. This method often takes the longest time.
  • Structure method (translation of "pattern method"): With this method one learns from a mathematical point of view. Words are connected in the same way as mathematically working on numbers. This method cannot be used for all languages.

But there are also other methods (even without vocabulary drums):

  • Learning through music: There are now some CDs (e.g. by Langenscheidt or The Grooves) on which phrases or terms are underlaid with music and spoken rhythmically and in repetitions to match. This makes it easier to remember them. Whether you like the music on offer is of course a matter of taste.

Or you look for songs in the respective language (see also under vocabulary).

Evaluation: With the present Wikibooks text, there is currently a discussion about it neutrality. The one you want on Wikibooks neutral point of view is not given.

Help with the revision is desired here. Perspectives must be formulated more neutrally or supplemented by reputable sources that are acceptable for textbooks. Text suggestions and information on the associated discussion page should be constructively considered or incorporated into the present text.

  • Birkenbihl method: This method is completely different from the "conventional" method, because it is FORBIDDEN to learn vocabulary and anyone who wants to can do grammar is not necessary. It consists of 4 steps and you only need the text in the foreign language, e.g. from a textbook and the audio material or a native speaker who reads the text on tape. (With dead languages ​​like Latin, you can do it yourself or ask someone who has had Latin for a long time.). You can also use lyrics, so the audio is even easier to get.

The 4 steps:

1. Decoding (word-for-word translation of the text, no 'good German' should come out, but the real structure of the foreign language becomes clear) 2. Listening / active (audio material is listened to while the de- reads the coded text (not aloud!). This is how you read the German word and hear the English at the same time => the brain links the words correctly and does not stick them together, as in vocabulary drumming) 3. Listening / passive (if you follow steps 1 and 2 and you thus know the meaning and the sound of all words, you let the audio material run quietly in the background in a loop while you do other things (read a book, listen to music, play TV, PC, clean up etc.) There is no time lost this step, but the brain builds the nerve tracts that are needed to speak) 4. Activities (ONLY now do you read aloud yourself, fill in the blanks, dictate etc., or if you are a student, the activity en everything that is done in school -> you have to study beforehand)

Many teachers do not like the pre-study, so if in doubt it is better to keep it a secret and only contact us after the lesson has been dealt with for a long time so that it is not noticed. Otherwise this method is simple, fun and leads "with less effort (no endless vocabulary drumming) to better results". But it requires a little experimentation at the beginning in order to try it out because it is so different.


  1. ↑ Source: BIRKENBIHL, Vera F .: Learn foreign languages ​​for schoolchildren with the Birkenbihl method. Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, Kreuzlingen / Munich 2008

Start [edit]

Fortunately, learning a language is a lot easier than it first appears. The first step is to see learning the language as an exciting challenge. Look forward to learning something new and it will be a lot easier!

It is much easier to learn a language these days than most people think. With the use of audio cassettes and CDs it can even be "very" easy. Think you can't learn a new language due to lack of time? Then you are wrong! We waste time every day. Whether we wait for the elevator to come, fill the car tank or download a program - we always lose a few minutes. It is estimated that the average person wastes 45 minutes a day!

Even if we assume 8 hours of work a day, 8 hours of sleep and a trip to work of one to two hours, there are still about 70 hours of free time left per week. During the minutes you spend waiting, insert an audio cassette or look at some vocabulary. This will make a huge difference in your learning progress! So go ahead! Buy some textbooks and audio cassettes!

Vocabulary [edit]

  • Basic and advanced vocabulary are collections of the most common words in a language and are a good source of vocabulary to learn.
  • With spaced repetition systems, you can have a word queried at increasing intervals and you don't always have to go through simple words, although you already know them. The most convenient and accurate are computer programs such as Anki, which treat vocabulary individually according to difficulty and can import pre-prepared vocabulary lists.
  • Think in full sentences with feeling. So don't just memorize words, but entire sentences with the evoked feeling. For example (Spanish), to remember the word “bread” - “pan”, use the phrase “I eat bread with butter” - “(Yo) como pan con mantequilla” (try to imagine how you are eating the bread ).
  • Likewise, try to visualize the (Spanish) word graphically. Can you see the bread in your mind's eye? If so, then that is a sign that you have learned the word and can call it up again at any time.
  • Repeat the whole sentence until you are able to say it without hesitation, like a reflex, a karate punch. Language is a reflex.
  • Replace words from your native language with words from the language you are newly learning. Of course, this causes fewer problems if you have informed the person you are talking to about this plan. For example (French): To make a cheese sandwich, put fromage between two pieces of pain.
  • Make it a habit to leaf through the dictionary and write down words that are part of the language spoken on a daily basis.
  • As you build donkey bridges, humorous phrases will help you learn the new words.
  • Write down newly learned words in two columns - one for your mother tongue and one for the new language. Go over them every day and write down any words you couldn't on the next page. Then go through these, etc.

By the way: If you study in the evening, a few hours before going to bed, then our brain goes through the learned vocabulary again by itself!

  • Read texts in the language to be learned and write unknown words and phrases directly on your cards or in your vocabulary learning program.
  • Create word fields to learn related words, for example: furniture - seating - chair, sofa, stool - sit, squat, etc.
  • Solve crossword puzzles or word search puzzles in the language you are learning. Hangman games and the like are also well suited.
  • Search the Internet for sites that contain pop songs in your language of study with text and audio files. Pop songs are linguistically undemanding and are therefore well suited for translation even for advanced beginners. When you sing along, you learn a lot of useful vocabulary with ease.
  • Well suited for consolidating vocabulary: watching TV / films, listening to the radio, audio books, newspapers, chats, etc. in the language to be learned

Speaking and understanding

  • Speak! Make mistakes, but speak up! Nobody will be able to speak a language perfectly the first time. It doesn't matter at first if you use the wrong time or inflection. So speak!
  • Simulate dialogues in your head, such as driving a train or car, walking down the street, standing in line, etc. Always take a compact dictionary with you to help you do this. Speaking loudly in the shower will help you practice pronunciation without feeling ridiculous. For those who have no idea what to say, it is helpful to describe what they are seeing or doing.
  • Repeat and memorize sentences that include grammatical rules. To say a simple sentence, you have to do real arithmetic with memorized grammar. Therefore, it is better to start from an example sentence. Write down a few phrases that you can learn in a day. For most people, it shouldn't be too difficult to memorize a model sentence or two every day.
  • Some people can read foreign language texts aloud well, but have problems reading it without reading it. For those, it is advisable to memorize entire texts. In the beginning this can be a simple counting. Later you count backwards. Then you say the multiplication tables of different numbers forwards and backwards. After all, you learn whole sentences and later complete texts by heart. It is helpful to repeat it when idling, for example during lunch break, on the bus, etc. If you can't go on, it helps to let the text rest for a few weeks and then start over again.
  • Most new languages ​​contain unfamiliar sounds - you should practice these very intensively! Try to repeat out loud sentences that contain as many of these sounds as possible. For example, you can use the phrase “il fait de la voile” to practice pronunciation of the French Fs, Vs, and Ds. The same goes for “un grand vin blanc” and the French nasal sounds.
  • Watch films in the foreign language and pretend you already understand everything. Children also unconsciously absorb language. TV and radio shows are also great ways to practice a language.
  • Memorize the speech melody by listening to songs in the respective language and singing along. This will reduce your accent and you will also learn a lot of new vocabulary and phrases. For this purpose, get the accompanying lyrics.
  • Listen to radio broadcasts in speech over the internet or via satellite reception. It is not important that you understand every word as you go along, not even that you listen carefully. It is better to let the radio program play in the background. This will get you used to pronunciation and intonation and train your ability to isolate familiar words from a torrent of speech. The international French radio [1], like the BBC [2], offers broadcasts in 19 languages, including one in "simple French".
  • Watch German films with subtitles in the language - and vice versa.
  • Also use the computer to learn the language by installing programs or games in the target language. For example, use the Italian version of Firefox. Services like Youtube also offer material in abundance. Advantage: Here you will often find the colloquial language that matters in everyday life.
  • Talk to a native speaker. Often there are local roundtables in your target language that anyone can participate in. Listening or taking part in the discussion can be helpful.

Read and write [edit]

  • Never underestimate reading! Read as much as possible in your target language! Start with children's books and move on to newspapers and fonts later. Reading dramatically improves your vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and knowledge of the culture of the language. Gradually more and more idioms, formulations and sentence constructions are memorized. Reading a lot is a prerequisite for being able to write good texts. You should look up frequently occurring words in the dictionary; over time you will be able to intuitively guess rarer words out of context if you have more knowledge of word stems and word formation.
  • Buy bilingual books. Or buy a book in your target language that you have already read. Read them together and combine words from the two languages. This is easier if there are two languages ​​that are linguistically related. To learn Spanish, for example, it is easier to start from French or even Italian than from German, as you can recognize more common structures.
  • For those with a good sense of humor, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ”is a good book to start with. Originally written in French, it is available in many different languages ​​- some of them even free of charge on the Internet! The book is short and contains simple grammatical structures and vocabulary, but is lyrically demanding. So if you don't understand the text in German: hands off! The book is therefore unsuitable for teaching that focuses on learning everyday French and does not also require an understanding of poetry.
  • Reading quickly does not help when it comes to relearning a language. Read aloud so you can hear yourself speak. If a word seems like a tongue twister, it is often helpful to first extract the vowels and pronounce them one after the other at a continuously increasing pace. "Hard" reading is required at the beginning - fundamental words and sentences have to be mastered. At an advanced level, however, reading quickly can be helpful and recommendable.
  • Get a digital dictionary. The ability to look up unknown vocabulary faster makes it easier for you to write your first texts, especially if they are in electronic form, e.g. eBooks or news. Furthermore, the clear delimitation of word meanings (which most common dictionaries cannot guarantee) helps to understand new words more easily. "Freedict" offers a free collection of digital and modifiable dictionaries.
  • As an advanced player, watch films in the foreign language with subtitles also in the foreign language.
  • MP3 players are quite normal these days and you can see them everywhere. Get one and listen to fairy tales or audio books in your target language at every opportunity.

Fine-tuning [edit]

If you feel confident reading it, try reading a grammatical textbook in the foreign language. It's not as difficult as it sounds.This exercise is both a review of the basic rules and an introduction to more advanced aspects of the language. In the end, a clearer picture of the structure of the language will remain.

Children [edit]

General [edit]

There are many popular superstitions about language acquisition in childhood. For example:

  • “Children who grow up bilingual usually learn to speak later than monolingual children.” Nonsense. Children growing up multilingual and exhibiting a speech development delay that is relevant to speech therapy would have this as well if they grew up monolingual. The only difference is that such a developmental delay is more noticeable in a multilingual environment and is therefore more likely to be diagnosed.
  • “Children who grow up bilingually are more intelligent and talented than monolingual children.” So far, it has not been possible to provide any solid evidence for the thesis that early language acquisition not only promotes language development, but also the mind in general. It is true, however, that parents who generally give a lot of thought to promoting talent in their children often also encourage early language acquisition. If you just look at those, you get the impression that multilingual children are particularly intelligent.
  • “The earlier the foreign language is learned, the better the pronunciation and the lower the accent.” Nonsense. Accent is an extremely complicated matter that depends on a large number of factors, and not just aural training or the pronunciation of the parents or teachers. There are multilingual people who speak their mother tongue with an accent. Conversely, there are linguistically gifted adults who learn new languages ​​with almost no accent. But let's just say in principle: What is actually so bad about an accent? In most countries he is perceived as charming, and after all, you don't want to seriously pretend to the people you're talking to that you are a native speaker.

Method [edit]

The best reason to let children learn a foreign language at an early age is that children learn foreign languages ​​so problem-free and seemingly effortless. Of course, this only applies if the language is via Immersion is acquired. Immersion is understood as the temporary "immersion" of the child in a social environment in which the language is spoken in their mother tongue.

If you don't have such an environment for your child, you can even simulate it at home. However, this only works if you speak the language very well. School French or English alone is not enough, because if you play “catch” or “don't be annoyed” with your child in the foreign language, you will need a wealth of real-language vocabulary that you definitely did not acquire in school .

Immersion is particularly effective when it is used in recurring situations that parents and children particularly like and in which one lovingly takes time for one another, e.g. when putting the child to bed.

Learning aids [edit]

Aids that are particularly useful in teaching languages ​​to children include songs, finger games, counting rhymes, and picture books for toddlers; even children who have long outgrown such activities often like that.

Websites where they can play are particularly attractive for children. In far greater numbers and variety than on the German-language web, such pages can be found on the English web, for example. Thorough research is worthwhile. The play world at www.poptropica.com, for example, is suitable for children from 6 or 7 years of age. If the activity is appealing to the child, the language will be learned along with it. Pages such as www.starfall.com, which are specifically designed for literacy, are also useful. The categories Children's websites and Educational websites in Wikipedia provide an overview.

Measures accompanying learning [edit]

Labeling [edit]

If you are too lazy to look up the word for e.g. butter every time, the following method can be worthwhile. Just take a few sheets of labeling and stick the corresponding word in your target language on every object around you. On the table, the chair, the vegetables, the door, preferably everything. In this way, the vocabulary for all the important everyday objects will build up much faster and with less stress.

This method is also particularly worthwhile if you live with people who already speak the target language or do a language exchange (i.e. you want to learn each other's language). Simply label everything in two or more languages. Whenever you see an object again, you will associate the corresponding word from the label.

Language calendar [edit]

There is sure to be a tear-off calendar for the language you are learning, on which you will find a new phrase or word every morning that you can memorize throughout the day. If you're learning a fancy language, you may have to look around the English-language book market to do it.

Create a foreign language environment

A foreign language learning environment can be created anywhere with posters, photos and self-written writing. Then you also learn when your eyes wander from the textbook. It has proven to be extremely useful to put sticky notes (also known as sticky notes or post-its) on all kinds of objects in your apartment or house, which you can write on in the foreign language. For example, you put a sticky note on a chair with the word "the chair" in the foreign language to be learned.