HOW TO TEACH YOURSELF LANGUAGES SUPER EFFICIENTLY
I write this bcz I’m a huge language enthusiast and I’m frustrated about the way most methods and language classes/courses approach the process of learning. I’m not a professional but I have a lot of experience in studying foreign languages: I have taught myself Lithuanian and reached the upper intermediate level (B2) in 4-5 years without much help from others, and in Spanish reaching the same level took me only 2 years bcz I simultaneously studied it at school and already knowing French helped me a little. I want to help everyone who wants to start a new language, does not have the possibility to join a language course or just feels frustrated of the stagnation they might experience in the early phase of learning a foreign language.
So, if you want to learn a new language, I suggest following tips:
• Immerse yourself from the beginning! This is really important so that you can get yourself familiar with the intonation and pronunciation of the language. Listen to radio or tv and try to read whatever you can (ingredient lists from the food packages, newspaper articles, whatever!) it doesn’t matter if you can’t understand much yet, it will come! If you start a language with a new alphabet learn the alphabet really well first thing.
• Get an overview of the grammatical structure of the language! This is often not properly done in language courses where you learn some vocabulary and greetings but after 60 pages of the textbook you still have no idea how many verb tenses or noun cases the language has. Take a look even at the “hardest” topics, bcz they might not be that hard after all. (for example the Spanish equivalent of past perfect is much easier than the present tense)
• With that being said, learn to recognise past tenses even when you are still learning the present tense! I find it absurd that most courses expect you to master present tense _perfectly_ before even taking a look at other tenses. Most of the time, in everyday communication, past tenses are used more frequently than the present tense + in some languages mastering the past tense can also help you to form the conditional. So, learn the past tense earlier than most ppl would recommend!
• In general, study the easiest things first! If you find something particularly difficult you gain more confidence and knowledge if you first focus on what you find more interesting (however, you can’t postpone studying boring topics eternally, especially if you are preparing or hoping to prepare for an exam at some point) In Lithuanian, I taught myself a lot of grammar before learning how to tell the time… and it was ok.
• For material: usually the country’s universities have a reading list on their website which proposes what books one could use to study the language. These are often preferable to handbooks aimed for tourists and some language methods for beginners because those mostly focus on useless vocabulary you might only need when you rent a car or book a room in a hotel. The grammar is often also relatively poorly explained in those “tourist language books”, whereas books that are aimed at immigrants or university students usually focus more on the efficient language acquisition and are written by professors and specialists. If you are persistent enough and google all possible search words in both English and the target language, you can probably find whole textbooks in PDF format, which you can then save on your laptop.
• Don’t get stuck on vocabulary! Remember that grammar is the skeleton of the language and that vocabulary is the muscles hair and eventually the clothes you use to dress up and embellish your apperance. Vocabulary is useful once you know how to use it. For me, learning vocab is the hardest part of a new language, especially bcz I like starting languages that are not really similar to any other languages I know (consider Lithuanian and Greek when I previously knew Finnish, English, French and Spanish) ofc you need to learn some of it to be able to form sentences but most traditional methods focus on that too much. My suggestion is to read a lot: start by children’s books and comics and gradually get more advanced material. When you read them, make notes!! Look up the words you don’t know and don’t be afraid of using unconventional, seemingly challenging ways to learn, such as buying a bilingual poetry collection and trying to decipher what the original poem says and compare it to the translation. 100% recommend, even for the beginner level + it’s a nice way to connect to the culture but still focus on the language itself, not on the way ppl make breakfast in that country. (That’s something that irritates me a lot in most Youtube’s language videos where ppl are just discussing the traditions of the country in English when you had come there to look for the explanation of grammatical structures or just to hear the language being spoken. smh.)
• A really important thing about vocabulary is to learn all the abstract words, such as conjunctions, really soon! For example, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to use the words therefore and otherwise, it is almost impossible to try to explain those words without first translating them to another language.
• Make vocabulary learning more interesting and deep by learning about the etymology of the words you learn. It can be mind-blowing and it helps you to remember the words better.
I hope these tips inspire you in pursuing your interest in foreign languages and facilitate your learning process. I might add more to this if I remember I have forgotten something of great importance.