As this is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked throughout my years of teaching English, I have come to the conclusion that learning English quickly and effectively is one of the most important demands of most students of languages. Therefore, I would like to share now with you some tips and tricks for learning a new language that I’ve collected throughout my years of teaching and learning new languages myself.
But let’s start by asking why:
Why do you want to learn a new language?
Why are you learning this language? Before starting your learning journey, you should be able to answer these important questions. Is your goal a specific test/score/certificate? Is it for fun? School? Immigration? Self-development? Brain exercise? Or anything else?
After determining your goal for learning English, you should answer the next question: When? When are you planning to start? When are you planning on achieving a certain level of proficiency?
This is part of the goal setting process which is the most important factor in learning a new language. It helps us become more conscious of how we learn and how we can learn even better.
And now let’s get started with my list of 10 tips & tricks!
1. Don’t waste too much time getting started.
Don’t spend too much time trying to find the best teacher, the best language school, the best methods and books, etc. Do your research quickly and when you find the reasonable tools and answers to your needs, start right there.
2. Don’t try to learn everything.
Human brains have an endless capacity to learn and you’d need to be immortal to tap into all of it, so don’t try to learn and memorize every single word, idiom, or phrasal verb you hear. Focus on your specific needs and the precise weaknesses you need to work on.
3. Learn practically. Put what you’ve learnt in use.
I always tell my students to use what they learn in their daily conversations. If you live in a country in which the language you’re learning is not spoken, you can use the new content in class while you’re having a conversation with your teacher. If you’re learning the language by yourself, have conversations with yourself in the mirror. I know this might sound funny, unusual or even crazy, but it works in a very effective way. Imagine that someone else is with you and make sentences with what you’ve recently learned. If you find it difficult, you can also write some dialogues and then read them out loud. This will even help you with your writing as well.
4. Practice, practice and practice!
Try to do this on a daily basis. You think you have it all saved in your mind, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you can forget or mix up information when you want to implement it after a time of little or no practice. You might ask: “How many hours should I work on learning and practicing and reviewing?” I’d say, it really depends on you and your attention span. In most cases, a normal attention span for adults is approximately 15 to 20 minutes, though a lot depends on factors like subject matter, the nature of the activity, and the time of day. Attention spans tend to be longer in the mornings and shorter in the evenings, and people often have better attention when it comes to things that interest them. According to these factors, you should decide when and how long is the best for you to practice.
5. If you’re trying to expand your vocabulary, learn it in context.
That’s why I recommend reading books and articles that you find interesting. The interesting subject or topic is a great incentive for you to continue reading and, through the process of reading, to keep encountering new vocabulary and synonyms in context, rather than lists of random words and definitions without any information on how and when to use them. Lyrics of your favorite songs can also be very helpful in the same way. Sometimes, watching shows in the language you’re learning with subtitles in the same language can also help. You can pause, read the subtitle, take notes of what you didn’t understand, look up the definitions, rewind the video and voila!
6. Change the language of your technological devices.
Change the language of your phone, computer, and social media accounts to the language that you’re learning. This is an easy way to become familiar with some set of basic commands, phrases and new vocab.
7. Have a notebook and categorize it into different sections.
For example: Vocabulary, Idioms, Phrasal Verbs, Grammar, etc. You get the idea! Try to keep your notebook at hand at all times.
8. Don’t forget to ask questions and make mistakes.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know something or make mistakes while you’re speaking or reading. Ask your teacher or someone who knows the language you’re learning and let them correct you. The chances of learning something you don’t know by asking about it are much higher. Don’t forget that asking questions and making mistakes are an essential part of any learning process.
9. Have confidence.
You’re learning a whole new language with a whole new set of skills. You’re making time for this learning process and putting a certain degree of effort into it, so you should value what you’re doing and feel confident you’re trying your best. Don’t be shy to show off what progress you’ve made thanks to your hard work.
10. Learning a new language, especially if you don’t live in that country, can be challenging and frustrating sometimes.
When you are frustrated and find it hard to study and continue the process, remind yourself of the main reason you started to learn the language in the first place. This will help you stay motivated.
I could go on and on with personalized tips and tricks, but I’m sure these 10 points on their own can be a game changer for you. As I said before, you don’t need to learn everything, and not all of these tips need to be put in use, as some might not be particularly useful to you. We are all unique and different from one another, and our learning journeys will all lead us to different places. Just enjoy the ride and be proud of what you’ve achieved!
This article was written by Break Into English’s online teacher and blog contributor Tandyce Vand.