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Learning a language - 10 things you need to know

Ignore the myths: age is just a number

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.”

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Learning a language - 10 things you need to know

Learning a language - 10 things you need to know

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/30/learning-another-language-ten-tips

theguardian.com

10

Key Ideas

Make realistic, specific goals

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.

Remind yourself why you are learning

“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.

Focus on substance

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.

Read for pleasure

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.”

Learn vocabulary in context

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.

Ignore the myths: age is just a number

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.”

Revision of your native language

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

Translation is important

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 

Beware of fluency

Language learning is more that just fluency. Language learning never stops because it’s culture learning, personal growth and endless improvement. 

Go to where the language is spoken

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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A will to start and self-confidence is necessary as is having the courage to speak, and not being afraid of making mistakes. The key is to immerse yourself and put your whole being to the task.

Total immersion necessitates activities like listening to the radio station of the language you are learning, reading and speaking to people.

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It is a good idea to master the basic skills first and focus on the grammar later, while asking for feedback and correcting yourself, learning on-the-fly.

Invest not only your head but your heart in the learning process. Practice makes perfect.

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Learning a new language

There are many examples of people who pick up a language later in life. Our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker.

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First words to learn

In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language as well.

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Learn cognates

Cognates are “true friends” of words you recognize from your native language that mean the same thing in another language.

For instance:

  •  Words like Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciation. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish. Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção.
  • Many languages also have words that share a common (Greek/Latin or other) root.
  • Even languages as different as Japanese can have heaps of very familiar vocabulary. 
Interact in your language daily
  • To hear the language consistently spoken, you can check out TuneIn.com for a vast selection of live-streamed radio from your country of choice. 
  • To watch the language consistently, see what’s trending on Youtube in that country right now. 
  • To read the language consistently, you can find cool blogs and other popular sites on Alexa’s ranking of top sites per country.

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