Is it possible to learn a new language all by yourself?
When it is time to learn a new language, knowing how to start is important. Most people will enroll in formal lessons and some others will decide to try learning by themselves using books, apps and information available online. Who is at a better start? Can you really learn without formal instruction?
These questions can be answered only after taking some minutes to ask about goals and priorities. At the starting point, at the moment you say it is time to learn a new language you know why: because you need it for your career, for traveling, for advanced studies or research, for fun or as a mental exercise.
It is not the same to learn basic skills to ask for directions, interact while traveling or buying things, than to participate in a technical meeting and express your opinion in a professional environment.
The goal will also determine the priorities and time available and with that in mind, the decision about enrolling in immersion classes, group, private classes or learning by yourself.
After knowing why and how soon you need to learn, another important question has to be answered : how do you learn the best? As adults, we already have experience learning and most have an idea about strengths and challenges in the process of learning (we know if we prefer to attend classes, to have a personal instructor, if we prefer in person or virtual or if we can be really disciplined to commit to study without a teacher) and we need to be honest and analyze them to decide.
So, after consciously answering these questions, you will be in a better position to decide when, where and how to start learning. The ideal situation to learn a new language is to move to the place it is spoken and while learning, explore and practice the language everyday. However, realistically most people will not have that option.
The next possibility is to try to reach a native speaker friend to teach you the language, but unless you have a teacher among your friends, learning from your peers or friends is limited to some vocabulary, idioms or colloquial expressions. There are countless people trying to learn from a life partner or friends and getting frustrated when asking them “why?” and they respond: “because that’s the way it is”, as they speak the language but never had to think about how to do it.
Another option to start learning is to navigate the immense amount of information available online and discriminate among videos and podcasts without references . How do you know that the use of the language you are listening to is proper and educated or it is colloquial or street language? You need to be selective but don’t have the criteria to do so.
You can also buy a grammar book and try to follow some progression order and complement it with apps that teach vocabulary and verbs.