There is no “best” way to learn a language, because everyone learns slightly differently. However, some methods appear to be more effective than others, and placing a heavier weight on them in an educational program may help a student to succeed. These include immersion, taking conventional classes, and self-teaching.
Many language teachers agree that immersion is an excellent way to learn a language. Immersion programs in the country where the language is spoken are especially valuable, as students must use the language outside of class as well as in it. In addition, students will learn more about the culture in which the language is spoken, which will give them context for their vocabulary. Some students benefit from taking a brief intensive in their native country before traveling to an immersion program or language school in a foreign country. The intensive establishes a foundation for the student to build upon as he or she learns.
Students can also learn a language through conventional classes, although classes which meet more frequently are more effective. Most universities and schools offer language programs, some of which are open to members of the community as well as registered students. Students may also want to look into private classes, or tutoring with a native speaker. These classes require much more work outside of class, and interacting with native speakers is an excellent supplement to a language class. A native speaker can help a student expand vocabulary, improve pronunciation, and learn how to use words and idioms properly.
Some students are able to learn a language through self teaching. Books, tapes, and guidance materials are readily available through bookstores and the Internet. These materials can be limiting, however, because they lack a classroom environment, which offers practice and well structured criticism to help students improve. However, a self teaching program can prepare a student for a trip overseas, in which he or she will polish language skills by putting them to active use.
It is also possible to acquire a new language by being thrust into an environment in which it is spoken. By being forced to use the language to communicate needs, people can pick up the basics surprisingly quickly. If a student wants to use this technique to learn a language, he or she should plan on staying in the nation where the language is spoken for several months. This type of language vacation can get expensive, so students may want to think about seeking employment while they are learning. For example, a student could offer instruction in his or her native language for a nominal fee.