Learning Another Language
Let's deal first with the myths. One, Shakespeare among non-natives while illiterate among your own. Two, children learn better and faster than adults.
The native supremacy idiocy rides on the academic wave created by Chomsky. It is all bull. Being a native speaker implies nothing. The knowledge a person has of a language depends on the person. If you read, for instance, you will have a larger vocabulary than those that don't read regardless of whether you are a native speaker or not. The objective of the learner should always be fluency and natives are not the model, fluent speakers are.
The myth that children learn better, faster, or effortlessly is at complete odds with reality. It takes years for a child to learn to speak and even when they do, they are able to accomplish very little compared to an adult, regardless of level of fluency. Last, if you think children learn effortlessly, you've never done homework with them or taught them anything. As an adult language learner, you could be operational within six months (no philosophical discussions but able to buy a house). As a rule of thumb, it takes about 2,000 hours of study to become fluent. This amount of work changes depending the distance from the languages you know to the one you want to learn, in other words, learning French from English or German takes less time that learning Japanese from the same two languages. Still, and despite language distance, you will outperform any child any time.
So, how do you go about learning a language?
Here are some pointers:
1. Learn the pronunciation as soon as possible. Practice first with complete speech acts (songs, poetry, speeches, prose) rather than individual words. Ignore the meaning and focus on the sounds (segments) and their rhythm (prosodics). Pay particular attention to vowels and also to stress patterns.
2. Learn the grammatical basics. No need to jump into it all at once. Get a book and study the first few chapters... just to get an idea of what you are dealing with.
3. Learn vocabulary in context. If you were learning English and wanted to memorize the word "dove", place the word in complete sentences such as "I like doves", "There are many doves here", etc. Surround the unknown word with known words. Pick the phrases from existing text rather than make them up yourself. In this manner, you will learn what a word means _and_ how it plays with other words.
4. Most vocabulary is harly ever used. In English, 100 words account for half of all words we use while 3,000 words account for up to 95% of all words we use. It is the reason why most people know about that many words _only_. Don't be surprised. The vocabulary of most fluent people is quite small. In fact, a "knowledgeable" person might know some 8,000 to 15,000 and, in very rare cases, up to 20,000 to 25,000.
5. Because most of the words fluent speakers use are _relatively_ few (compared to the entire lexicon of a language), the most frequent words have a high degree of polysemy, that is, a lot of meanings. Consider the English words "put" and "astronaut", the first has a lot of meaning, the second only one. Thus, it is a complete error to think that the word "hydroponic" is a difficult word for non-English speakers while a word like "take" is easy. First, an adult will know what "hydroponic" means in his/her language(s) so it is a direct translation. Second, the word "hydroponic" has very few collocations (ways of interacting with other words). On the other hand, the word "take" has many meanings and many collocations, from "take off" to "take ill" or "take out". In sum, the word "take" has many meanings and collocations.
6. Practice aloud as often as you can.
7. Find input opportunities. Radio/TV programs. Newspapers, blogs, etc.
8. Find opportunities for interaction. You must have heard the "joke" that the best way to learn a language is to marry into it. Well, seek out that French woman or Korean man and give them a run for their money. You don't need to sleep with everyone... but it doesn't hurt.
9. Don't be discouraged by mistakes. When you come across learners of languages you speak, you quickly notice that some learners are more eager or willing to communicate. Often, these people are not the ones that know the language better, they are the ones that are willing to make mistakes.
10. Remember that learning a language is learning a skill. It is not an academic subject. It is like learning to dance or ride a bike. Practice is required above it all.
Now, go for it.