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How to learn another language

What do you do when you want to learn a new language?
Research courses, buy a grammar book, download Google Translate…

The traditional approach to language learning involves going to class, working from a coursebook, doing a series of activities and lots of homework. Every student in the class wants to get the most out of their investment of time and money. But often the initial enthusiasm doesn’t last, students don’t have time to do their homework, they are not satisfied with their teacher or they miss a few lessons.

Do you feel that way about learning English or another language?

Learning a language is a journey, not a destination. You can use the momentum gained from your initial actions to maintain progress and motivation. How?

I encourage students to take an active part in the learning process by asking themselves the following questions:

1. Who has responsibility for learning anyway? Me or my teacher?

I’ve found that students who consciously think about and evaluate their learning benefit more than those who do not. Is it enough to go to class once a week and do the set homework? Many would agree that more is needed.

Take responsibility for your learning.

2. What kind of learner am I? What’s my learning style?

Do you like learning in group classes or do you enjoy quiet personal study? Do you learn better from studying or from doing? Do you like doing word searches but hate those filling in the gaps tasks?

Notice how you learn best and keeping doing it that way. Stop doing activities that demotivate you.

3. Is it better to learn a language on my own or in a group?

Is it possible to learn a language alone? To a degree, yes. But you would probably agree that at some point you will need someone to speak to. You don’t necessarily need to enroll in a language course. Instead you could:

  • Find an interesting Facebook group and join in with an online discussion.
  • Ask a friend on LinkedIn to introduce you to one of their friends who speaks your target language.
  • Join a cookery club or fitness class in the language you want to improve. Combine your language goals with learning something else that you’re interested in.
  • Check out what the local community that speak your choice of language are up to on meetup.com
  • Does your local library have language services?

4. How can I measure/evaluate my progress?

-Keep good notes. Making and keeping word lists (or flash cards) will help a lot. Write down new vocabulary and include:

  • Examples of the words in use (in sentences)
  • Opposites
  • Synonyms (other words that are close in meaning)
  • Notes on common mistakes

-Create a learner’s diary:

  • Write down activities you did to work on the language and how it went.
  • Was it easy?
  • Or difficult?
  • Did you enjoy it?
  • Did you retain what you had learnt or forget it all?
  • Use your findings to become a better learner.

-Record yourself speaking:

  • Most smartphones have a voice recording app.
  • Record yourself now and then again in a month.
  • Listen for pronunciation issues.
  • Check how you use the tenses.
  • Compare your recording with a native speaker.

Follow these simple tips and you will have evidence of your progress!

5. How do I start?

Be proactive.

Fact: The more you work on something, the more benefit you’re going to get.

  • Study topics you find interesting.
  • Ask your teacher for suggestions.
  • Find ways to live in the language you are studying.
  • Build new habits (or transfer existing habits like reading the news to your new language).

I hope you find these ideas useful and that they motivate you to continue on your language journey, one step at a time.

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  1. Thank you very much for your precious advice. I will try to do it! Adélaïde

    1. RoyaCaviglia says:

      Ade, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so happy you find this useful. Let me know if I can help you!

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