Learning Languages

How to Learn a Foreign Language

Hello everyone!

This is the second post on Austauscherfahrungen with tips for learning languages. These tips are based on my 3 1/2 years of experience learning German. Along the way, I have naturally collected tips from different sources as well. We are all a bit different when it comes to how we learn so take what suits you and don’t be afraid to try something new 🙂

I have organized the methods to learn languages according to language beginners and intermediate learners. At the end, I also discuss different materials for learning languages. Don’t hesitate to check out my other language related posts:

 

Language Beginners:

For beginners, it’s essential to know why. Why are you learning this new language? Write down at least 5 reasons.

What do you want to do with the language? What are your goals? Use this to decide exactly what you should be studying.

  • Find a teacher to explain pronunciation and grammar.
  • Take a beginner’s class but don’t think that the teacher can force the language into you. The teacher is there to explain new concepts and answer questions, but you must practice and teach yourself. You should ask questions and not be afraid to make mistakes. Take a lot of notes and always review them. Use class time to practice speaking! Search for outside material that expands on the topic so that you have a holistic understanding. Review! Don’t just passively read vocabulary lists–actively use vocabulary and grammar. Test yourself.
  • Take time making a vocabulary list if there isn’t a list already. If there is already a list, practice sentences with unknown words and write the definition next to the less familiar words. That way you save time—instead of copying the list, you can use the time to memorize new words and learn the vocabulary deeper.
  • Memorize phrases! Repeat, repeat, repeat. Know the correct situations to use them.
  • Repeat after hearing native speakers pronounce a word or phrase. Be aware of the sounds that are different than in your native language and practice using your speech organs in new ways to develop a better accent in the target language. It’s not just about individual sounds, but also the overall rhythm, melody and intonation, when you want to speak with a minimal accent.
  • Must be consistent with your language studying. Let’s say at least 3 or 4 times a week, 30 minutes to an hour. You can even set a schedule to study for an hour a day in 15 minute blocks.
  • Do lessons and exercises.
  • Create your own vocab cards with necessary grammar or pronunciation information to use the word correctly and with something familiar from memory or even a mnemonic trick to help it all stick in your head. You can review new vocab cards before sleeping or set time each morning to learn new words in your target language.
  • You simply have to practice speaking even if you have to use a translator at first to build up your language core. Prepare yourself to handle a new situation in the target language like memorizing the kitchen utensil names or learning phrases to talk about your work/studies.
  • Surround yourself with people who learn the language. When you immerse yourself, you will notice your progress–how little things slowly start to click.
  • Keep a diary of what you learned. Include what you liked and didn’t like, where you still have questions, what you did to learn the language for the day and so on.
  • To improve vocabulary, accent, and overall comprehension, watch films. Watch movies and TV shows with subtitles in the language. First, start with subtitles in your native language to allow your brain to make connections with the new language. Then move on to subtitles in the target language. And finally, watch without any subtitles in the target language.
  • Describe the world around you. Find 3-5 words each day. It doesn’t always have to be an object–include colors, verbs and adjectives too. Then move on to a daily diary. It can be written, recorded on video or just spoken. This will really help you to start speaking, find the vocabulary you need to express yourself and also gives you the chance to correct your mistakes. Describe what happened, what emotions you felt, people you met, what you ate, and even your plans for the next day.

 

~These last two points already transition from beginner to intermediate level so let’s continue with some methods to learn languages for intermediate learners!~

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Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

 

Intermediate Learners:

  • Translate texts for contact with vocab and grammar. It may also create a memory of the word/grammatical structure and allow you to make use of it in your speech.
  • Read books and listen to audiobooks. Start with texts made for non-native speakers learning the language then progress to first children’s books to books for teenagers and then to adult novels, blogs or poetry (= authentic material in the language)
  • Set your devices (or play games) in the target language.
  • Talk with and listen to advanced or native speakers. You can learn a lot of vocabulary from them and will reinforce correct grammatical structures.
  • Native speakers are a great resource. Textbooks are useful, but idiomatic and everyday language can be effortlessly learned when you converse with native speakers. You can ask how they would describe something or if the sentence you created sounds natural.
  • Have something that is fun such as a blog, social media, making videos, music or film.
  • Practice writing. Ask for corrections.
  • Write hard-to-remember words on the back of your hand. One per day! You’ll most likely be able to remember the word that you keep forgetting.

 

~Now we are almost to the end of this post and it’s time to discuss materials for learning languages. Technically, I have already named numerous types of materials in the “methods” sections above. I listed them as methods because those are things you can do to learn the language. So I won’t repeat the same things before, but instead give some additional suggestions for materials one can use to learn a language.~

 

Materials:

You want to have a balanced variety of repeated content and new content as well as a balanced variety of explicit learning and passive learning. Explicit learning would be learning from a textbook, whereas passive learning would be watching movies or reading stories.

  • Give yourself regular tests to see if you are on track. You can see yourself progress and find what you still need to improve.
  • Listen to news podcasts. Start with news for learners, which is spoken slower and vocabulary is explained.
  • Listen to podcasts for learners but with everything is explained in the target language. It will really help to improve your listening, vocabulary and  pronunciation.
  • Find a monolingual dictionary in the target language. They typically have better cultural explanations and you can find one suited for learners with relevant vocabulary that is often used.
  • There are so many free vocab and grammar videos on YouTube. Watch/listen, take notes, study, watch again and create playlists for the categories you need to improve.
  • If your comprehension is still low, you can start by watching cartoons and children’s films.
  • 100 words with good examples as well as grammatical information and a definition/translation are better than 1,000 random words that can be easily forgotten. Build dialogues with the vocabulary you want to learn. Context is a great friend for your understanding and memory.
  • Read children’s books.
  • Find a companion for practice. Memories of real-life interactions will be much deeper than anything you’ve read, heard, or written by yourself without face-to-face contact.
  • Thinking in the language and self-conversations- prepare yourself for situations and USE the language. Practice stories and other talks about yourself or the things that interest you so that you will have some basis when speaking in a real situation.
  • Be able to take your materials with you!
  • Speaking is very important. Have conversations regularly.

 

Viel Erfolg beim Sprachenlernen.

~Stephanie F.

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