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Though it may not seem plausible, basic communication of a new foreign language can be mastered in weeks. Learning a non-native language can be sped up by compiling a script for responding to queries from strangers, and then organically working oneself up from there. Phrasebooks and online tools/apps are useful in this early stage.
A will to start and self-confidence is necessary as is having the courage to speak, and not being afraid of making mistakes. The key is to immerse yourself and put your whole being to the task.
Total immersion necessitates activities like listening to the radio station of the language you are learning, reading and speaking to people.
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There are many examples of people who pick up a language later in life. Our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker.
The more you expose yourself to the new language, the sooner you will become familiar with its sounds and structures. Familiarity, in turn, will speed understanding.
Repeating the sounds (out loud or in your head) will give you a feel for the language. Memorize not just words, but sentences and even songs to get the rhythm and intonation of the language.
Read words, sentences, children’s books, newspaper articles. Read as far and near as you can, whether out loud to an audience or quietly to yourself.
Seeing the language in print helps you understand word structures. It also anchors the new sounds, and helps them get imprinted in your mind.