Tips for learning a language as an adult

Every week, people ask Julie Dahl the secret to learning a language.

Dahl, who directs the Spanish language enrichment program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, tells them there’s no special shortcut.

“Language is something we do, not something we find at the end of the path,” she says.

Though there’s no secret to reveal, Continuing Studies instructors do have plenty of tips for their adult students.

Michael Kruse, who teaches Hindi, suggests setting goals.

“Language is an investment that requires regular practice,” he says. “So it’s crucial for you to have short and long-term goals.”

Japanese instructor Junko Mori tells students to find a favorite pastime that involves the new language, like watching movies or TV. Spanish instructor Arsenio Cicero encourages them to become more familiar with grammar in their own language.

Alan Ng, who teaches German, recommends practicing with new Internet tools.

“Try duolingo.com to practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening in 13 languages,” he says. “Drill yourself with quizlet.com, and tweak your Google and YouTube language settings so you can live your life, day to day, in your target language.”

See the video above for more tips on learning a language. For information on Continuing Studies language classes, see here; or contact Julie Dahl (Spanish), julie.dahl@wisc.edu, 608‑262‑5929; Sage Goellner (French), sage.goellner@wisc.edu, 608‑262‑4873; and Becky Tarver-Chase (English as a second language), languages@dcs.wisc.edu, 608‑890‑3253.