Learning a language is certainly a personal process. You have your own goals in mind when choosing what to practise and the reasons for becoming fluent also differ from person to person. We’ve written a lot about how you should always keep your own objectives in mind when choosing how to approach learning a new language.
However, there are still some strategies that can help almost all language learners become fluent quicker. Whether you’re taking group lessons or prefer one-to-one teaching, using the following language learning strategies will help you reach your goals faster and with less effort.
1. Selective attention
The human brain is not a bottomless pit into which you can pour new knowledge. Sure, its powers of retaining and reproducing info are almost magical but they’re not endless. What that means for you is that you should prioritise your learning.
This applies especially to those taking group language lessons. Don’t spend an equal amount of brainpower on everything that is taught. Instead, pick and choose the topics that fit your interests and needs, to maximise your personal result. Of course, with a private teacher that is less of a problem because you can already determine your own path of teaching.
2. Engage with the material
The thing with language is that it’s impossible to acquire it when you’re taking a backseat in your own learning. Sure, you might be able to learn the correct grammar rules and be able to understand texts but the true joy starts when you’re able to express yourself in a foreign tongue and interact with native speakers.
For that reason, you need to actively participate in your learning process and engage the material you’re trying to master. Ask you teacher questions and demand explanations, experiment with the language you’re trying to acquire. All of these help your brain to process the new language better.
3. Note down the important parts
Another significant aspect of engaging with the material is taking notes. Even if you have online classes, keep a notebook with you to mark down the most important parts of the lesson. This will help your brain to go over the information several times – first, you hear it from the teacher, then you write it down, and have it clearly before your eyes. Additionally, keeping notes will give you a tangible resource for revising the lesson. And if there’s one thing that helps you retain information better, it’s revision.
A lot of the time, language learners will take a look at a new text or listen to something they’ve never heard before, and they get discouraged because of the amount of new vocabulary. Afraid that they won’t be able to decipher the meaning (or feeling they need to correctly translate everything), they give up. Smart learners, however, look at the same task and start by taking an educated guess.
This is especially easy if you’re trying to figure out what two people are saying either in a video or in real life. That’s because so much of communication is nonverbal – around 93%. That means you can do a lot of guesswork based only on someone’s body language and tone of voice. With a little bit less accuracy, you can use the same strategy for understanding texts – gather as much info as you can based on context and maybe illustrations and just try to predict what is being said.
Putting social cues and context to good use will definitely make your language learning process a lot easier.
5. Make mistakes, look silly
If there’s one thing that all language learners are afraid of, it’s making mistakes. And it’s also the main thing holding you back. Making as many mistakes as you need is surely the quickest way to fluency if you don’t let fear get in the way.
Not being afraid to look a little bit ridiculous is one trait that all great polyglots and language learners have in common. It can certainly seem daunting at first but once you overcome your anxiety and let go of the fear of making mistakes, there really is nothing holding you back.
Conclusion – Prioritise, engage, and don’t be afraid to look silly
There are as many reasons for learning a language as there are language learners, and certainly everyone takes a slightly different approach. But there are some approaches that set the successful ones apart from the rest. Take risks and play with the language you’re learning. Prioritising your attention will make language learning work for you and using all the tools at your command can make learning a breeze.