“Language learning is best when broken down into manageable goals that are achievable over a few months.” -- Donavan Whyte
Aiming to be fluent is not necessarily the best idea. “Why not set yourself a target of being able to read a newspaper article in the target language without having to look up any words in the dictionary?” -- Phil McGowan.
“Motivation is usually the first thing to go, especially among students who are teaching themselves.” To keep the momentum going he suggests writing down 10 reasons you are learning a language and sticking it to the front of the file you are using.
When signing up to a particular method or approach, think about the substance behind the style or technology. “Ultimately,” Aaron Ralby says, “the learning takes place inside you rather that outside, regardless of whether it’s a computer or book or a teacher in front of you.”
Alex Rawlings explains that reading for pleasure “exposes you to all sorts of vocabulary that you won’t find in day-to-day life, and normalises otherwise baffling and complicated grammatical structures. The first book you ever finish in a foreign languages is a monumental achievement that you’ll remember for a long time.”
Association is key to retaining new words: A great way to build vocabulary is to make sure the lists you’re learning come from situations or texts that you have experienced yourself, so that the content is always relevant and connects to background experience.
Ralby argues “a key language myth is that it’s harder as an adult”.
Adults and children may learn in different ways but that shouldn’t deter you from committing to learning another language. “Languages are simultaneously organic and systematic. As children we learn languages organically and instinctively; as adults we can learn them systematically.”
You can’t make good progress in a second language until you understand your own.
“I think understanding your native language and just generally how language works is so essential before you launch yourself at a bunch of foreign phrases.” - Kerstin Hammes
It is typical to feel a slowing down in progress once you have reached a certain level of proficiency.
“Translation is such an important exercise for helping you get over a certain plateau that you will reach as a language learner ... Translation exercises don’t allow you to paraphrase and force the learner on to the next level.” - Rebecca Braun
Language learning is more that just fluency. Language learning never stops because it’s culture learning, personal growth and endless improvement.
Travel and living abroad can complement learning in the classroom.
The books and verb charts may be the easiest way to ensure you expose yourself to the language at home, but the people and the culture will far outclass them once you get to the country where your language is spoken.
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