05 Sep 2017

6 Practical Tips for Language Learning Success

Via FluentU: 6 Practical Tips for Language Learning Success

Ever stood at the chasm between language learning and fluency?

Even for experienced language learners, it can seem like there are miles and miles to leap over before reaching actual, real-deal conversation with native speakers.

We are here to make that chasm seem like a crack in the road.

All it takes is tweaking your study regimen to get you prepared and motivated to make consistent progress.

With these six language learning tips, plus a little patience and dedication, you will be cruising down a clear path to fluency.

1. Find Your Driving Passion

Passion is the flame that burns in your heart and gives your life meaning. Passion is the source of motivation. It is hard to learn anything if you lack this. Before you do anything else, it is important to ask yourself why you want to learn the language in the first place. This “why” is your purpose.

There are no right or wrong answers. Maybe you want to learn a language to progress in your current field of work, maybe you love the culture, maybe it just sounds pretty to you, maybe it is the language of your ancestry or maybe you have another reason.

Even if you are learning a language for an external reason, like a college course requirement, you can and should home in on an internally-driven passion to keep your motivation up. Think about exciting trips you could take to practice the language, native speakers you know who you could converse with or the professional opportunities that might open up to you as a bilingual or multilingual person.

Once you realize what your purpose is for learning a language, write it down. This will serve as a reminder when motivation is low or when you get stuck. Language learning is not a steady uphill path, but a path full of ups and downs. Having something to remind yourself of why you started language learning in the first place is a great tool to help you get over the lows you will encounter.

Remember your reason for learning a language does not have to be set in stone. It can change over time. As you progress in your language go back and reevaluate your purpose. This will keep the motivation fresh and new.

2. Make Language Learning a Daily Habit

The most important attribute in any pursuit is consistency. Have you ever been so excited to learn something that for the first few days or even weeks you binge studied, only to burn out and take a break from it? After that begins a cycle of sporadic binge learning followed by rest, only to return later at basically the same starting point.

In order to keep this from happening, it is best to set aside a certain amount of study time every day that you can realistically hold yourself accountable to. Blocking out 20 minutes a day is the ideal starting point for most people. It is not long enough to get bored or frustrated and it is just enough time to review and learn something new.

This may not seem like so much time, but by the end of the month, you will have spent about 10 hours learning a foreign language. That is more time than if you paid for one-hour private tutoring sessions twice a week!

For best results, it is advisable that you practice language learning at the same time every day. For example, you may choose to study in the morning after breakfast or before going to sleep at night. That way, after a while, you will form a habit and language learning will be a part of your daily routine.

When learning your target language use your strengths to your advantage. If you learn better through language apps, make that the bulk of your learning experience. If you learn better through traditional grammar books then focus on that. Playing to your strengths will help you progress faster, making language learning more fun and enjoyable!

3. Plan Your Studying Around Your Interests

Finding your passion is not the only thing that helps drive your language learning progress—it has to be enjoyable! If you are doing something you find boring you will start dreading it and may eventually give up.

If you enjoy film, it is beneficial to watch movies in your target language. Likewise, if you frequently listen to music, find bands in a genre you prefer that sing in your target language. Since you already like the genre, the songs will stick in your ear. Eventually, you can find the lyrics online and translate them into your native language.

Once you are no longer a beginner, activities such as listening to a podcast in your target language while traveling to work or while having some downtime help to keep the language in your ear while putting you in contact with various subjects and new vocabulary words.

Playing video games in your target language is another way to practice in an environment that is adrenaline filled and exciting. Here you will have to get comfortable thinking fast in your target language.

4. Set Attainable Goals

Being fluent in your target language is the ultimate goal of anyone pursuing foreign language learning. However, in the beginning, this can seem like a daunting task.

It is best to set a series of small goals that will eventually culminate in your main goal of gaining fluency. These goals should be reasonable to attain in a relatively short period of time. They can be anything. For example, you can set a goal of learning 20 verbs in one week or learning 100 new vocabulary words in a month.

Remember, language learning is similar to the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins the race! Small, steady, incremental progress over time leads to the most success. Setting weekly, monthly or even daily goals will bring you to the finish line of fluency the fastest while preventing burnout.

You will also want to make sure that your goals are relevant. You can learn 3,000 vocabulary words by heart, which is roughly the number of words needed to be able to converse in a language, but if you never learn how to put them together to form sentences you are nowhere near having the ability to hold a conversation.

Sometimes less can be more. Think about what goals are most important to you. If you want to be able to converse with native speakers, you should master essential grammar and vocabulary and maybe some slang. If you want to learn a language for academic purposes, you would need to master grammar and formal usage. If you have a very specific purpose, like practicing medicine abroad, you would need to study niche vocabulary. Take this into consideration when setting learning goals for yourself and you will quickly make the kind of progress that matters to you.

5. Notice (and Embrace) Your Mistakes

When learning a language, you will inevitably make mistakes. It is part of the process. If you do not make any mistakes that means you have nothing else to learn. Embrace your mistakes. Use your mistakes as tools to improve.

It is helpful to research common mistakes foreigners make in your target language. Joining online language learning forums (WordReference has a popular one) is a good way to discover these types of mistakes, and how your fellow learners have overcome them.

Embracing mistakes does not alway have to be about the negative—it can be positive in that you can see how you are improving. Recording yourself speaking a couple times a month is a great way to see your progress. You can also use Dialang, a great resource that offers progress tests to track where you are in reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Taking this test every few months is a great way to clearly see how far you have come and how far you need to go.

6. Find Opportunities to Speak in Your Target Language

Language learning is not just an intellectual exercise. It is a skill that has to be applied. In order to speak a language you have to actually speak! Conversation is key.

The most beneficial way to do this is through a language exchange. This means finding a native speaker of your target language who is willing to practice speaking with you. Not everyone has the luxury of having a native speaker living in their area but the internet offers many great resources to find language exchange partners.

If you are too shy or too embarrassed to jump right into a language exchange with a peer, a good way to ease into it is to hire a language tutor. And with digital platforms like Verbling, you can get a qualified, native-speaker tutor with a click or a tap. You can browse thousands of teacher profiles to find one who meets your learning goals and budget. Plus, Verbling uses a unique communication platform where you can video chat, review documents or images, take notes and more. It is like a personal classroom all on your screen.

You cannot speak with a language exchange partner or a tutor 24/7. It is helpful to think and talk to yourself in your target language, too. Here are some ideas to do that:

  • Do you have to go grocery shopping? Make the list in your target language.
  • Do you have a busy day? Plan out the day in your target language.
  • Are you taking a walk? Name all the things you pass in your target language.

Any time you can think or talk to yourself in your target language will only help you practice!

Remember learning a foreign language is an attainable goal for anyone who sets their mind to it. Using these tips will surely help you on your journey to learning a foreign language easily and painlessly!