My Advice for Language Learners
Here are a few tips that have come from my experiences as a language learner :)
Intensity and duration of your study sessions is WAY more important than the length of time spent studying a language.
What I mean by that is that studying for 2-4 hours every day for a few weeks will take you much farther than 30 minutes to an hour every couple days, even if you do that for months. Half-@ssing language learning for a long period instead of being super committed for a short one will usually yield poorer results. This has been consistently true for me, and I believe it is because only studying for 30 minutes will not immerse you as much in the language, will not give you as much consistent repetition that is needed to drill new ideas into your head, and will not show you your most common mistakes as well.
Start off with learning the most common words.
I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. Learning the most common words (and their pronunciations) will help familiarize yourself with the language and will help you with jumping into conversation as soon as possible. Here are links to lists of common words with pronunciations in some major languages:
Once you know some common words and basic grammar…
It’s time to start talking to people! Language exchange apps and websites have been the most important piece of my language learning experience. A language exchange is where someone who speaks your target language wants to learn your language, and you talk. You can correct each other’s mistakes and recommend more natural ways of saying things. Using a dictionary, in my opinion, is extremely important. Talking and texting strengthens known vocabulary, and using a dictionary as well helps build new vocabulary in a natural way. Here is a great website for this. For your phone, I recommend Tandem.
Once you feel like you know the basics of a language (I mean this very loosely; you can even do this in the very beginning!), it’s time to start immersion! Listen to foreign music –I like the Killerpilze for German btw– and watch foreign TV shows and movies. I know, you may be thinking that you have to be fairly fluent to be able to understand all of it, but that’s not the point. The point of this is to become more familiar with pronunciation, word choices, tones, etc. It can also expand your vocabulary. For instance, look up the lyrics to your favorite foreign song. If there’s an English translation already online, lucky you. If not, then translate each sentence on your own with the help of a dictionary. Listen to the song a few times while reading your translation and remembering what meant what. Most likely, there will be some words that’ll stick and get refreshed every time you listen to that song!
Immerse yourself (again).
Yes, I already said to “immerse yourself.” But I mean something different this time. Change your atmosphere to suit your language learning. For example, when I was very starting to learn German, I put post-it notes on things in my room where I had written its German translation. My lamp had a note that read “die Lampe,” my desk had “der Schreibtisch,” etc. My refrigerator has charts of German adjective declensions. Everyday I write a foreign word on my hand with its English translation and I look at it when I’m bored. (Today it was “das Schimpfwort” translating to “the cuss word”). Even little things like that really help.
These are my thoughts and tips on learning your target language(s). I’m no expert, but I think these are helpful, as they have helped me. OH and there’s one more thing:
(Bonus haha): Think and talk to yourself in your target language.
Just the other day I was looking for my water bottle, and out of nowhere I said, “Wo ist meine Wasserflasche?!” It was like it was automatic. That’s because I make myself think in other languages all the time. Whenever I can, I translate what I was either thinking or saying into German, and it strengthens my ability to put together sentences on my own. Whenever you’re bored, create a random conversation in your head in your target language. For example (and you can be way more creative than this):
A: Hallo! Ich habe mich verlaufen. Können Sie mir bitte helfen? B: Na sicher! Wo wollen Sie gehen? A: Zum Lebensmittelmarkt. B: Sie werden nach rechts auf dieser Straße abbiegen, dann werden Sie geradeaus für zwei Blöcke gehen. Dann wird der Lebensmittelmarkt auf der linken Seite sein. (If you aren’t learning German and are curious as to what I wrote, it’s just a person asking for directions.) Just practice that in your head at whatever difficulty you need.
OK wow I’ve written a lot. If you actually read all of this, thanks xD I’ll stop rambling now.
Thanks for all the good advice! I especially liked the "think and talk to yourself in your target language" I think it is very important if you are serious about learning a language you have to be able to think in that language.
Yeah, I agree :) I think that being able to think without trying in a different language is a big part of what it means to be fluent.
Of course 2-4 hours everyday will take you further than 30-60 minutes every two days - it's four times as much time!!! But it's important to remember that learning a language (if your going for fluency) isn't a sprint it's a marathon, so daily consistency I think is more important. Because even 10 minutes per day adds up to 60 hours over a year. I do think if B2/C1/C2 fluency is your goal it's worth putting at least an hour a day though.
Yeah I know it's a little bit of an extreme example, but what I meant was that doing that much every day for less time overall will take you father than the other way. Everyone has their own opinions though, and I respect yours ^-^ I definitely agree that you need at least an hour a day to get over B2.
I'm not saying sprints are bad either, but I know people can burn out and stop all together if they go too hard in the beginning. The shorter the daily time commitment the harder is to say no and break your streak. I like small minimums, you can also do more if you like, but you don't break the habit. Along with what you said, when someone is doing X minutes every few days, it's hard to know how much time is actually being spent, but it's probably less than they think.
Agreed in full. I try to make it a habit to study Vietnamese everyday using various methods. I don't get the chance to study as much as I want, but I can squeeze an hour or maybe 2 this way. Some of the ways I sneak in some practice is to think/talk to myself while I'm on patrol. :)
If someone do not know how to learn in general should look for books/other publication made by people like Tony Buzan or Dominic O'Brien. Side note: I do not know why people associate talking in head with thinking.
I guess because you can reason in language too, and can easily remember what you were thinking and even write it down, but there's other ways of thinking.