How i study languages
A couple of days ago @bonbonlanguage asked if i have a post about what i do in order to learn a new language so i thought i should try to make a post about that.
As a beginner i always do the same stuff. I research a couple of apps or i just see if my favourite choices have a version for my target language. Usually i use:
Fun Easy Learn
babbel, busuu (rarely but i still have them on my phone)
+some sites and specific apps only for my target language
I choose a grammar book and i take notes from from it. So far i chose books from 3 collections: Teach Yourself, Colloquial and For Dummies.
How i take notes from a book
I ignore the excercises, in my notebook you will see only grammar notes and sometimes irregular verbs at the end, but you will never see exercises. (i’ll say later what i do with the exercises)
If the book has a pretty good structure, i just copy what’s in there. (when i say good structure i mean that i can’t extract main ideas or just a formula e.g. stem+ending)
The theory is written in black or blue, the examples are written with a pencil and if there is a keyword, i highlight it. When i have languages with articles based on the gender of the words, like French, i use a pink and a light blue pen so when i study the articles i can see the difference.
Now, i said that in my notebook you won’t see exercises, true, that’s because i solve them on another notebook or just on a blank sheet of paper. If your book has exercises after the grammar lesson, solve them. If half of them are wrong, you will take a break of 1-2 days (in which you will study the grammar rules) and when you feel prepared, you solve again those exercises. (you are allowed to have mistakes but try to have at least 70% of the exercises correct).
What i do after i finish a book
After i finish that grammar book, i take another one. However, this time i don’t copy-paste like i did the first time. I read what informations are there and if there are new rules/exceptions, i just write them on a sticky note and add it to my notebook. After i finish my 2nd book i usually move on to the next stage but if i feel that i missed out something, i take a 3rd book and do what i did with the 2nd one.
As a beginner i have the habit to read my notes once a week, as an intermediate learner i rarely do that.
Don’t understand that as a beginner you only take notes! Sometimes when i get bored i just study on memrise/vocabulary app and that sometimes can last 1 week, sometimes 2. I even like to use InternetPolyglot with my target language and an old target language. (e.g. I learn new words in Spanish through Danish)
After i have a proper notebook
Usually when i finish my book and i add all the exceptions/rules that i found in the 2nd book i also have learned 1.500-2.000 words in that period of time so i want to test my skills.
When i feel confident enough, i start using duolingo. I use it as a test tool, not as a learning one! I take the shortcuts and usually in 2 days i finish a tree. (at the last part of the tree you don’t have a shortcut for everything so you just have to take the shortcut of every skill there which gets boring)
Since Duolingo is pretty advanced with his lessons, at the end i can consider myself a B1 learner. (if you have an amazing memory and skills, you can say you are B2, but Duolingo can’t get you further than that)
The intermediate stage
Whoever followed my blog for a while knows that i have 2 nightmares in my language learning journey, the intermediate stage and the irregular verbs.
For how to overcome a plateau in the intermediate stage i made a post here. (sooner or later you will hit a plateau)
Back to what i do. No book anymore, duolingo is done, this is the moment when i start to use my skills. If i didn’t use 50Languages as a beginner, i use it now. It has 100 audios so i use them to get used to the sound of the words in case i don’t know them and i also use it as a resources to learn new words. On Memrise i try to find advanced/intermediate and i use 9000 words and Fun Easy Learn.
At this level the main problem is the lack of vocabulary so i try to learn as many new words as i can. However, since using apps can get boring after a while, i use the classic method of learning vocabulary, reading.
How i memorize/learn new words
Most of the time i just use apps/sites. However, everyone had moments when we couldn’t remember a word regardless of how many times we tried to memorize it. When i have to deal with this, i usually make a mnemonic. (e.g. afslutte = to finish, to end, to conclude; in order to remember the meaning i think at a key sentence: If you don’t study you’ll END up as a slut. [harsh example, i know, but it stays in my mind])
If my mnemonic method doesn’t work, i write the word a couple of times, sometimes with my left hand too since i focus more then. (i’m right-handed) and if i still can’t remember the meaning, i’ll start making some sentences where i’ll use that word.
How i read in my target language
Just as a side note, if i feel confident with my skills (that has happened only once) i read books, if not, i read comics until i feel confident enough to try books.
I have 2 methods because sometimes the first one doesn’t work. So, for French i just read and try to guess the meaning of a word and if i can’t, then i search it. Why i do this for French? It’s easier somehow and i can guess the meaning very well. Sometimes i even highlight words and search the meaning later just to analyze them more.
However, this method doesn’t work on Danish. For Danish i have to read once the entire paragraph and then see what i understood from it. If there is a certain word that it’s unknown, i’ll search it. Since Danish has a lot of structures, i tend to use HiNative to translate those because normal online translators aren’t good for these. After i have all the unknown words, i will look over the paragraph again.
With all these unknown words, i usually make flashcards on Quizlet and practice them from time to time.
Sometimes when i’m in a hurry or i’m not in the mood for studying new words in big quantities, i use WordBrewery or Clozemaster. When i use these i always write the new words on a piece of paper or i just add them directly to Quizlet.
I mentioned it above so i should tell you how i use it in order to improve since many might not be familiar to it. It’s an app where you ask questions and natives will answer. I use HiNative mostly after i read, watch a movie or learn something from memrise.
For what i use it?
- ask for differences
- ask for examples with new words that i didn’t find a context for
- ask for translation from target language to English since not everything is easy to translate as a beginner/intermediate
Listening is a very interesting skill because you can combine it with speaking and reading or just focus only on it.
In this category you find movies/cartoon/series with subs. Usually i don’t do anything when i watch series/movies because i guess the meaning of the unknown words but if there is a certain word that i can’t understand, i will write it down and search it’s meaning.
This involves 2 things. I either talk to someone or i just talk to myself/a toy/the cat. I tend to use the 2nd method most of the time. (it’s not that i dislike talking, i just don’t feel confident enough to use my skills until i’m not sure that i know most of the things/vocab i need to know). I start the conversation like “hey, how are you?” and then i ask myself “how was your day?”. For this question i have to make 2 answers, the reality with what has happened, and an imaginary version for my other side who’s “talking”.
Here i just watch videos on youtube, listen to 50languages, a podcast or songs. If i do listen to songs, sometimes i try to find the lyrics and see if i understand everything, if not, i’ll look for the unknown words and after i start to sing too. (disney songs are great because most have lyrics on youtube already)
Here i have 2 choices, i either find someone or i just write in a notebook/diary. The purpose of this is to figure out what vocab/structures/expressions i don’t know.
It’s not that i dislike talking, i just focus on this skill at the end usually. I improve my other skills and the speaking one improves in a weird way too. However, at some point i just ask people who i know for a long time and i feel comfortable with to talk to me on skype/on the phone.
Idioms are everywhere in a language. At some point you have to deal with them. If i find them on memrise, i study them there, if not, i’ll look for them and make flashcards. These flashcards have only the idiom in my target language on them and that’s it. I don’t write the translation. I force myself to remember the meaning.
Also, when i don’t know the pronunciation for something, i use Forvo.
The advanced stage
Here i just learn idioms and some advanced vocabulary at the beginning. After these, i stop caring. I consider my learning journey almost done so i just enjoy my life using the language. I read without worrying that i don’t know words, i watch shows without worrying that i don’t understand what i hear, i can sing without worrying that i just say words with no meaning but similar sounds to what i hear.
Note: This is how I learn languages. I can’t say it will work for everyone but it works for me.
p.s. sometimes Fun Easy Learn and 50Languages are set in another language, not my native one or English.