Language learners tend to fall in a rut after a few months studying the new language. They easily realise what is happening and I am often asked how to improve.
Here are a few tips you can implement to boost your experience at learning a language. They will be equally useful if you follow them alongside a formal course or just on their own. It might be very difficult to apply them though if you are a beginner.
Write short stories
One of the things you must do is reading regularly in your target language. This allows you to broaden your vocabulary and getting to know the spellings of complicated words. Whilst reading, I recommend you have a special notebook where you will annotate the new words you encounter. Later, choose 10-15 of these words and write a short story using them. The length and depth of such stories are up to you. This exercise will facilitate memorisation as well as spicing up your language activity.
Keep a video diary
Record yourself, play it back and listen to the recording. This will help you notice where some work is needed in improving your accent, intonation, and word stress. Learning from your listening will make a real difference. It will also document how much you have improved over time. You might even want to post some on language forums and ask for feedback if you are confident enough.
Create your own dictionary
Have a special vocabulary notebook to record all the new words you find in your daily studies. Write them down. Under each word write the meaning, their definition in the foreign language- try to avoid translating them in your own language as much as possible- and write a sentence that illustrates the word.
Appreciate that the process is not easy
You must be conscious that learning a new language is not as easy and as glamorous as some make it look like. You must be psychologically prepared for the ups and downs of your language journey, take stalk, and keep on keeping on even when you don’t feel like it. You must learn to love the journey, simply said, love what you do. Never compare yourself to others, keep on your lane and strive to be better every day.
Have processed goals
It is good to have outcome goals – these are the big goals - like “I want to excel at my B2 Italian test in one year”. But you must think on the steps you ought to take to get you there. All these short-term goals will be your processed goals
(or mini goals if you prefer). Every time you’ll go through one processed goal you will have reached a milestone that will make your progress measurable and boost your confidence.
The best way to avoid distraction is by creating a system that will eliminate them.
Create a routine. Know when and where you are going to study. Switch phone and laptop notifications off if you are studying online. Only have your books, notebooks, and a dictionary on your desk. These ‘insignificant’ changes will allow you to keep your focus and make the most of your study time.
Don’t blame teachers
Learners tend to rely too much on their teachers for their progress. If they fail, it’s the teacher’s fault. He/she didn’t explain well enough, didn’t dedicate enough time to them.
Remember, teachers are there to guide you, but it is totally up to you to find time and put the effort necessary to learn and practice this new language. Teachers are just helpers and facilitators. You are the master of your own destiny. Good language learners make the most of their circumstances, even when things seem not going their way.
Teachers are there to guide.
Don’t trade 15-minute study time for one hour on Duolingo. It can be fun but, Duolingo should be a complement to your language study. Limit your time on the App and do the work. The same goes for the memorising vocabulary Apps. They are useful but this is not all when learning a language. You need to get yourself out there and find every opportunity to practice it, if speaking the language is your aim.
Teach the language
The best way to learn is teaching. Teach your second language if you are at an advanced stage. This will help you learn more about it, dissect it and offer useful nuggets to your students. If your pronunciation is not native like, encourage them to listen to native materials.
Don’t learn two or more languages at once
Contrarily to what is preached on the internet, I don’t recommend learning multiple languages at once. This might create confusion in you about different terms especially if the languages belong to the same group – example, the romance languages. You might misuse a term that might have a different meaning in some other language.
Instead, study one language to an acceptable level, give it your undivided attention and then add another one and so on.
Do you want to improve your language learning? Opportunities are all around. Just have the courage to grab them and make them work for you.