You like a language, learn it. Don’t give up on learning it only because it’s not popular, “useful” or your friends don’t like it.
Sticky notes, sticky notes everywhere. If you can’t remember a grammar rule or a word/structure, use sticky notes.
Study daily, even if it’s for 5 min or less.
Learn the first 100-300 most common words, they are like everywhere.
Duolingo, Memrise and Forvo are the holy trinity for every language learner; everyone uses them at some point.
HiNative will save your ass when you have questions.
“Hakuna matata mais quelle phrase magnifique” Disney is your friend, sing disney songs to improve your pronuniation.
Also, watch disney movies. You know the story already so you can focus on the language.
Watch movies with subs in your target language.
Write daily a short text about whatever you want, even about your socks. In 1 month you’d have learned a lot of new vocab.
Talk, talk, talk. If you aren’t a soial person, talk to yourself, to your pet, to a wall; it doesn’t matter. Just force yourself to think in your target language.
If you are busy, Semper is a good app for learning vocab while doing your daily activities.
Use your target language for basic stuff like counting, groceries, complaining etc.
Change your settings on social media. Many people learned English through twitter, facebook, tumblr etc. This can work for other languages too.
Change the settings of your phone too. You use it 24/24, you know what every thing does there so you could learn the name of those setting in your target language.
If you lost motivation, take a break and remember why you started.
If you hit a plateau, that’s most probably because you don’t know enough vocab.
Understand that your progress will be slow after a while. Accept it and keep going.
Lang-8 is a great place if you want natives to correct your texts.
Langblr community is amazing, if you need any advice/explanation, ask a langblr.
Try out many resources but choose a handful that you’ll use daily.
If you don’t know a word in your native language, you don’t need it in your target language.
Accept the fact that you can’t translate every word one by one. There are special structures, word order, particles etc. your target language might not be as your native one.
If you’re bored, look around and name in your target language what you see.
Try to find a language/motivation partner. You will support and help eah other.
You’ll make mistakes, love that! That means you’re learning and you’ll have funny stories to tell in a couple of years.
If you don’t remember a word, make a mnemonic or write it with your other hand; you’ll focus more then.
Learn words in context; you’ll remember them easily after. Clozemaster and WordBrewery are 2 great sites for this.
When you want to read if you are a beginner, choose a book you know. If you are an advanced learner, choose a new book.
Find online a native to talk to. Tumblr is full of natives and langblrs will love to help. Another choice is to find a chat group.
For slang words check out the youtube comment section. Twitter is a good alternative though.
Don’t waste money on fancy programs. Some can be found for free and some aren’t so good as they claim they are.
When you learn a new word, try to make a couple of examples in your head.
Read articles. They use simple structures and actual expressions; also, they aren’t boring.
Youtube is your friend, don’t be afraid to use it. Watch movies in your target language so you can get used to how real people talk; most programs/apps speak slowly and they try to make themselves clear but that’s not real life.
You’ll have an accent; don’t worry, it will go away after a while.
Age doesn’t matter, everyone can learn a language; you can be 5 or 50, the only difference is how you learn.
Don’t just learn, revise as well.
As a beginner you will translate everything from your native language and that’s okay. People will correct you and you will learn.
If you like to read fanfiction, read it in your target language and use the ReadLang extension when you don’t know a word; it’s faster than google translate.
Beware of those vocab lists you see on tumblr. Not everything might be right.
Flewent is an extension that translates a certain % of what you read in your target language. It’s a fast way to learn new words while doing your homework or whatever.
Prepositions are a nightmare to everyone. To have a more pleasant life, try to find a list with verbs and what prepositions they require.
Children songs are catchy, use them to learn vocab faster.
Pay attention to false friends. They might look the same with a familiar word but they have another meaning.
Try not to learn 2 languages at the same time, especially if they are from the same family. (e.g. French and Spanish)
If you decide to study 2 languages at the same time, try to study in different places and use different colors for your notes.
You learn faster if you use your target language than if you learn Nth vocab lists.
Try to avoid making the same mistake until it becomes a habit.
Idioms can impress anyone but don’t start learning them too early or too late.
If you have to learn irregular verbs, try to find patterns and part them in groups.
Hard work beats talent but when it comes to learning a language, there’s no one who has talent. There are people who have a good memory or can figure out patterns but that can be improved so no need to worry if you progress slowly.
Don’t compare yourself to someone who studied a language for years. Everyone progresses in their own way.
Everyone has another method, if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not the end of the world. Just experiment and figure out what works for you.
Classes are a waste of time, don’t think to pay for one.
Try to learn vocab that interests you. You’re a Harry Potter fan? Learn magic terms. You like cooking? Learn cooking terms. etc.
Flashcards are a nice way to learn vocab. Make some and study them before going to bed.
Learn chunks of vocab, not single words. (e.g. Buy a bottle of milk; Brush your teeth; Wash the red car.)
Use the diglot weave technique. Basically you
insert foreign words into a sentence of a language you already know
Taking breaks is fine but try not to take a break of Nth months.
Decide what skill you want to improve first. You can never improve everything equally so try to focus on what you need/want the most.
Set a big goal (e.g be advanced in French) but remember to have small goals too. (e.g. read Harry Potter by the end of this season)
Watch people talking. Join a chat and “spy” others if you don’t feel like talking yet.
Associate word - image - sound. Don’t just learn plain words, if you learn the word for tree, think of a tree or search an image with one.
Learning a language takes time, don’t expect to know it perfectly after only 1 week.
Immersion is hella frustrating but it pays off in the end.
Don’t study when you are too tired. You have many chances to learn nothing then.
Find someone you admire so they can motivate you.
Use a bilingual dictionary not only for finding specific words but just for the sake of reading.
After you’ve read 1 page/chapter from a book, try to make a summary in your target language.
When you read books, try to see if you can find the audiobook as well. (Youtube might have it) In this way you know the correct way of saying certain words.
Try to make it fun. If it’s fun to have a schedule do that, if you enjoy more watching movies, do that. Don’t make your learning journey a burden.
Break study time into smaller chunks
Know your learning style.
Try to have a notebook/diary/agenda where you write down what you did daily to improve.
When you feel like giving up, think how many new stuff you have learned.
Your attitude plays an import role. Try to avoid thinking how “difficult” a language is, instead think how good you will feel after you learn it.
ReadLang and Linguarana have videos with subs in many languages, if you like learning with videos, give them a try.
Anki is an amazing app with flashcards for several languages so you don’t waste time making them and they have a daily limit of cards so you don’t burnout.
Physically writing down a word can help seal it in your memory.
Say new words out loud and pay attention to your pronunciation.
If your target language has another alphabet or a writing system, don’t be afraid to learn it. Take a couple of days and master it.
Always have an app or a dictionary/notebook with you. While you wait for a taxi you can study a bit.
If you don’t understand a grammar rule, search some articles about it, take 2-3 days to understand that concept.
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:
Memrise Fun Easy Learn 9000 words 50Languages HiNative 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.