This second post (of three) looks in more detail at how you can learn a language quickly (and well!)
Setting yourself up properly at the beginning of your learning journey will help you to progress independently. The role of a language training course is to help you study and learn by yourself as your trainer cannot always be present to provide new information, help with the practice of the language or to answer questions.
1. Focus on the sounds
Try to focus on being able to recognize and pronounce the different sounds. It is important to know how these sounds are produced and what the phonetic symbols are. In this way, when you come across an important new word or expression, you will be able to look it up in a dictionary and work out its pronunciation without having to ask a trainer.
There are lots of great resources online that help you to listen to the pronunciation of a word. Just type into Google “How do you pronounce X” and it will undoubtedly come back with a recording of the word being pronounced correctly – just take a look at the humorous video below on how to pronounce some British place names:
2. Go online
In English, for example, the different ways of pronouncing ‘ough’ only become clear with the help of a trainer or the phonetic script in a dictionary (compare: though , through, bough, trough, thought, etc.).
Arming yourself with a good dictionary, a practical grammar book and a list of a few good websites can help this independent progression. Websites can provide practice in all of the four skills. Some examples of these are:
The same resources are available online for learning every major (and minor) language on this planet. Just let Google (or whichever search engine you prefer) help you.
3. Take a Look Under the Hood
The best way to become a competent and accurate user of the language is to learn its grammar. Methods which teach set phrases without explaining the mechanics or grammar of the language are not doing you any long-term favours.
It is only when you understand what lies beneath the structure of a sentence that you will be able to start making your own sentences in a fully independent way.
It is important, however, that you find the approach to grammar that works best for you
4. Mix it up!
It is important, however, that you find the approach to grammar that works best for you as there is an enormous amount of material on the market and on the internet to choose from. Slogging away at grammar exercises when these bring back bad memories of lessons at school is obviously not the right way.
By focusing on the functions of the language or on the lexical chunks could help you move away from the word ‘grammar’. In the same way, it is important that you know yourself and the way that you learn best.
If you are a more visual leaner, it is important that you supplement what you have heard with written documentation
You might be more of an aural or a visual learner, for example. If you are a more visual leaner, it is important that you supplement what you have heard with written documentation (look at the audio scripts, read the subtitles, etc).
If you need to see the written word before you can register it correctly, then it is important that you note down new vocabulary. Most trainers will adapt the language training courses according how best you learn but it is always beneficial for you to think about your own learning style and apply what you discover.
5. Dive In!
Immerse yourself in the target language as much as possible
Watching the news, documentaries and films in the language you are studying is also a great help. Even if you cannot understand everything that is said, getting used to the sounds and rhythm of a language is very helpful. Podcasts are a wonderful tool as the same extracts can be listened to as many times as you like.
If possible, travel to a place where the target language is spoken. It might be possible to join an association or club in your home town, which groups together people who share the desire to practise the language.
Make the most of those journeys to work by car, train and underground by listening to a podcast, CD or MP3 files. If you are interested in music, then go one step further and discover what is being sung. Singing along can help pronunciation as well. We all love a bit of Johnny Hallyday or Enrique Iglesias, don’t we?
Enjoy learning the language and embrace every opportunity you have to be close to it!