You need to take into account your home language, past language learning experience, learning styles, time spent, motivation and effort to be able to answer this question. Language learning is a lifelong journey! It took me 3 years to feel comfortable and fluid in Korean, but less than that for Japanese, purely because my background in Korean grammar helped me learn Japanese faster, and I lived in Japan for a while and had more exposure to the language.
The language you learn should be a personal choice, as the reason you decide to learn it should become the motivation for you to continue. If you’re equally interested in two or more languages, then this blog post will help!
Lots of websites have free lessons and usually go up to intermediate levels. Browsing the language resources tag on Tumblr is handy as well, and you can always check out YouTube videos teaching the language.
You can also try apps like Memrise, Duolingo, Clozemaster and LingQ for various languages – their free versions are pretty cool. Instead of getting a textbook, you may consider joining a language exchange group. Just search for one in your area on Meetup or Facebook.
If you prefer 1 on 1, consider getting a language partner on free apps like Speaky, Tandem or HelloTalk. See my video on tips to have a successful language exchange here and check out the Tumblr post I made on comparing language exchange apps here.
It comes with practice! It took me almost two years to get two sounds down in Korean, and I only got it once a native speaker showed me how to move my tongue in my mouth to produce the sound.
I suggest increasing the amount of time you spend listening to and speaking the language. Shadowing or repeating what people say in movies or TV shows is a good way to practice as well. You can pause the part, repeat and record yourself, and then play it back to see how accurate it is.
Some language learning apps also have parts where you need to record yourself and it measures the soundwaves to see how accurate your pronunciation is. If there’s a word you struggle with, listen to it being pronounced on a website like Forvo over and over until you get it. You can also record yourself and upload the clip to HiNative and native speakers can give you tips on how to improve.
Improving pronunciation goes hand-in-hand with improving your listening skills. Here’s a post that might help!
There are many methods you can use and the possibilities are endless! For one, it’s good to stick to a base rule that if you’re a beginner in languages, first learn one language to an intermediate level and then tackle others. It’s also a good idea to learn two languages from different language families so you don’t get confused.
I also like to try language stacking. I try to learn one language to an upper-intermediate level so that it’s good enough to be a language of instruction for the other language. For example, once I learnt Korean to a good enough level, I was able to study Japanese using textbooks written in Korean.
You can also use the 80/20 approach if you’re learning 2 languages at once. Spend 80% of your time on one (main) language, and then 20% of your time on the other language. This works best when they are two different languages or if you are intermediate+ in both.
I have a full blog post on this here.
For now, here is a summary:
1. Learn the writing system first
2. Learn basic greetings and sentence structure
3. Pick up as much vocabulary as you can before worrying about grammar
4. Learn grammar later and replace phrases with new vocabulary words
5. Get a language partner or tutor
6. Keep track of your progress and mistakes so you can improve
Apart from scheduling regular meetings and taking notes, there are some great things you can do to ensure you have a successful language exchange with a partner. I wrote a post about it here!
I’ve made numerous videos on this topic, the most useful being this one. And here is a useful blog post where I go into detail about things you can do in your busy daily life to integrate languages more.
Alex Rawlings also has great advice in his book How to Speak Any Language Fluently, which you can get on Amazon here.