Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Good Practices For Language Learning

Learning a language is an extremely rewarding task. We've given you 10 reasons to learn another language as well as telling you the best languages to learn and the easiest languages to learn. If you haven't started learning by now we're not sure what to tell you.

What we're covering today is what you should be doing when you learn a language. General good practices to maximise your learning. So here goes...

Yo soy... tu eres...
Study

It may sound obvious, but you can go to as many classes or through as many online activities as you want, but if you don't study you'll find everything you cover will just disappear into the ether. If you're no longer in school you should remember all those times you told yourself that you should have studied.

Your efforts will be rewarded once you've mastered all the conjugations and tenses in your new language. Never again will you forget that, for some reason, table is feminine. 

Read

We don't mean reading the materials, as you should be doing that already. If you're learning a language, with the exception of sign language, there should be a wealth of material available to read in the target language. Try newspapers, books, comics, or websites. Almost anything that has the language in its written form will benefit your learning of the language. There are usually thousands of words written down that you'd never come across if you only speak or chat in your new language. Why do people who read tend to have larger vocabularies? Quite simply, they see more words.

Write

Nothing will help you form sentences in a foreign language more than writing it. Unlike speaking, writing allows you to make mistakes. If you write something down in a foreign language you can always erase it and correct your mistakes. With speaking you can't un-say a word. Once it's said there's very little you can do about it. Use writing to practice sentence structure and spelling. This is particularly useful for languages which use writing systems dissimilar to your own.

Listen

Very rarely does a language not have a spoken form. Again, sign languages are the exception. Find anything you can to practice listening. That could mean finding foreign radio stations, of which there are plenty available on the internet; listening to foreign music, which allows you to find new bands that you'd have never heard on a chart radio station; or even just relaxing whilst you watch a foreign film. The more you listen the more you'll get out of the language. Even passively, you can learn a lot about a language just by hearing it.

"Get the beers in Michelle, I need to practice my Irish..."
Speak

You may meet people who have studied a language at a fancy university. Maybe they have a degree in French literature. They can conjugate verbs that haven't been used for hundreds of years and are familiar with archaic spellings. Can they hold down a conversation? Hell no!

We cannot stress enough how important speaking is. It's also a great excuse to meet people and even have a drink. Why not further your language skills whilst hanging out at a trendy coffee shop or drinking in a pub?

You can read as much as you like, but if you avoid a language's raison d’ĂȘtre then you've not only pulled half the fun out of learning it, but you won't be any good at it either. Never underestimate how important actually speaking the language is. Make sure your accent is as authentic as possible. Of course you'll probably never eradicate your own but there's a huge difference between being lazy and pronouncing every word as you would in your mother tongue and at least having a go at trying to get it right.

If you find a good balance among these five things you will learn your language far quicker than you'd expect. Make sure to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths.

What do you reckon? Are there any other indispensable tricks and practices you know of that we've missed? If so, tell us below in the comments.