5 Tips for Learning a Language
By Jen

I was a student. Back in 2010 I moved to Beijing and resurrected my Mandarin by taking some language classes at a university for 3 months. 

I am a teacher. While myself and my sister set up giftas, my full-time job has been teaching English as a second language.

Here are a few tips I give students on how to enjoy improving their second language skills.

#5 Make friends*

*Who DON’T speak the same first language as you.

I used to invite my classmates to lunch after class. I was quite nervous about 
1-to-1 conversations so I would encourage at least 3 of us to go together. Lunch was also the perfect length of time. About 30 minutes to chit chat and talk about class or whatever. It did a lot for my self-esteem.

#4 Do the stuff you love in the language you’re learning

You love films…watch them

You enjoy museums…go to them.

You have a passion for food…go out and eat with friends, read packets in the supermarket, follow a recipe in your chosen language.

I once took a spin class with a Chinese Instructor, in one night I perfected my pronunciation of the word ‘faster’, I loved it…and I earned my dinner.

#3 Conversation for the sake of practice

Don’t think about it - just go for it.

When I first learnt to ask directions I spent a whole Saturday out on the streets in Beijing asking random people for directions. At first I was quite nervous and didn’t even listen to the responses I got. However as the day progressed and I relaxed, I started to realise I was picking up words and phrases that we had studied in class.

#2 Humour goes a long way

Life is about having fun, and if you can start your new language identity with a laugh, all the better.

In class we used to make rubbish jokes about the bad coffee at our university. We also used to talk about dumplings. A LOT. Our teacher would groan, but the more she resisted, the more we bonded, and the more hilarious our lame jokes became.

#1 Write a diary


This will help you practise what you’ve studied, and encourage you to look up every day vocabulary. It will prepare you for chit chat. ie. What did you do today? Do you like living here? What do you do in your free time etc…

My Chinese diary looked a lot like notes for a wannabe Life Coach.

‘Today I took the train. It was very busy. People push me,  a lot, I am very tall and I have a big smile and I am happy today. Why are people angry today? We should together all go and eat pork (or vegetable) dumplings tonight. We can be good friends.’

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