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Tips to learn a new language or improve your skills

Travel Tips General

Tips to learn a new language or improve your skills

Have you just moved to a new country where you would like to pick up some of the local language? Would you like to further improve the language you’ve been learning during your latest trip abroad? Or are there any other reasons for you to either start learning a new language or improve your current skills on any particular language? I’m very thrilled to be sharing some of the experiences I have had over the last couple of years. Besides my mother tongue Dutch, I have learned English and Spanish (which I both speak fluent) and I have quite a solid understanding of German. Moreover, after some brushing up, I could even find my way around in France and other French-speaking parts of this world. 

I’ve got several tips on how to improve your language skills that are free and there are also ways in how you can have someone assist you professionally by improving your language skills, which would be a paid service. However, don’t worry as this really does not need to be very costly. You will be surprised, trust me!

In case you’d like to have someone assisting you for a longer time, you might want to consider taking a language course. I’d very much encourage you to do this even abroad. And now we’re touching the subject anyway, I would want to recommend you a surf and language holiday, where you would be able to improve your Spanish, Portuguese, French or English while staying in an environment that’s full of surf. Imagine spending a number of weeks while being located in one of Spain’s best surf spots San Sebastian and working on your Spanish (for all levels) at the same time.

What is the best way to learn a language?

In my opinion there are two key elements when trying to pick up a new language (or when improving your current skills of any language).

  1. Creating a solid basis
  2. Practice, practice and practice

Further down in the article I’m discussing several ways in how you can practice the language. Here I will distinguish between two different ways of approach:

How to create a solid basis for learning a new language?

I remember very well the moment where I felt the confidence of speaking Spanish freely. It has taken quite some time and a lot of practise to reach that moment

Olmo van Beurden

Learning a new language will take a lot of dedication and motivation, full stop. There’s no work-around here, you will just have to invest into the language you want to be learning or improving. I noticed the imporance of a solid basis from where I could further deploy my knowledge.

A language course could be a great way of creating such a basis. However, (long-term) langauge courses can be costly and that will not be an option to anyone. Luckily there are many more ways of learning a language.

What are ways to practice the language on a continuous basis?

As I’ve written in the header, it’s both proven and pretty straight forward that the chances of serious improvement will increase if you practice the language on a continuous basis. And even if that means you can invest time only once a week you’d already find yourself getting better every time you practice. It is however widely advised to be investing time at least twice a week into the language of your choice.

Free ways of practising a language

What I have always very much liked is to listen to music in the language you are learning. When focussing on the lyrics you might get a better understanding what the song is about and in case you hear any unfamiliar word(s), you could just look them up online.

Watching movies is another great way of learning and the subtitles are playing a vital role here. You could listen to the movie in the language of your choice and in case that’s not the original language of the movie, you could up to actually select to watch the movie in its original language while adding subtitles of the language you are learning. This principle also works the other way around, where you’d be watching the movie with the text in the language you are learning while having the subtitles in a language you are comfortable with, providing you with the opportunity to check any word you didn’t understand with the subtitles. A third way of going about is to have both the language of the movie and the subtitles in the language of your choice as that’s a great way to practice your listening skills. Especially when people are talking in local accents, it might not always be as easy to understand what the people are saying. If you have the subtitles in the same language, you can always find out right away what they were talking of.

Get someone to help you professionally

I’m a huge fan of working on your language skills with a language buddy. This is someone with whom you exchange languages. I wrote an article including 10 tips on how I have improved my Spanish and my friend Miguel has worked on his English. Generally this is free of charge (as you exchange knowledge) but it’s not always guaranteed that the other person has all information available that you would require. Furthermore, not everyone can explain things well, which is something you might want to keep into account. An alternative – again, this does not have to be costly, starting at a couple of Euro’s/Pounds/Dollar’s per hour – could be to have one or more sessions with a teacher online.


Co-founder of SurfaWhile, with a passion for travel, surf, cooking, salsa, football and meeting new and interesting people.

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