It would be nice if you could stick a language book under your pillow, go to sleep and wake up knowing that language. Not gonna happen. What you CAN do takes longer but is arguably more fun and definitely more challenging than the pillow solution. Here are three tips for learning a new language.
Commitment and Intensity
You’re better off taking a crash course in the new language (even if that means studying five hours most days for three weeks) rather than a semester-long course. Classes in semester-long courses are separated by several days and homework is less demanding. It’s easier for you to forget stuff—or not retain it in the first place.
After your language crash course, it’s absolutely imperative you continue immersing yourself in the language. Learning a new language means repetition and experiences that lodge in your memory.
This is worth extra emphasis: rethink taking language classes, whether official or unofficial. One problem with classes, as touched on above, is that they’re usually spread over periods that are far too long. Another issue is that since everyone learns differently, the teacher can’t meet your needs as well as you can yourself.
Immerse yourself in the language however you can. Grab a dictionary and head out to community gatherings for people who speak the language or set up study groups with people more fluent in the language than you, although they may not necessarily be native speakers. Whatever method of immersion you use is going to help you a lot more than laboring over a textbook or listening to a professor drone on in a language you are already fluent in.
Learn the most common words in the language first; 100 is a good target. This helps you pick up more snatches of conversation in your immersion experiences, and you can converse more efficiently in the language if you can ask basics such as where the bathroom is.