Many people struggle to learn new languages. Most of them think learning a new language is so difficult that they give up halfway. Actually, learning a second language can be easy. Here are a number of tips we learned from some linguistic talents who have mastered multiple foreign languages. If you can apply one or two of them to your daily learning, you will soon be a winner:
a) Listen and Read Every Day
Wherever you are, try to listen to the foreign language broadcasts on your MP3 player. Repeat what you are listening to. Listen to and read contents that you like and that you can mostly understand or even partly understand. It's better to practise like this for 30 minutes every day than for a non-stop 3-hour round once a week. If you can spare an hour a day, break it up into two or three sessions to avoid brain overload. If you decide to study for half an hour a day for example, try to stick to that time. It's often easier to get started on an activity if you know you'll finish it after a certain time.
b) Don't Worry about Making Mistakes
You probably make mistakes occasionally even when speaking your native language, so making mistakes in a foreign language is nothing worth worrying about. What matters is to get your message across, not whether you use all the right words, inflexions, tenses, cases, etc. If you cannot think of the exact words, try using other ones.
c) Start Speaking the Language Immediately
There are hundreds of ways to learn a language, but I will tell you very frankly that if your goal is to speak it, then anybody who tells you anything but to speak it right away is hurting your potential progress. The purpose of studying should be to improve what you're already saying, not to prepare to speak someday. So just speak out loud right now!
d) Focus on Words and Phrases
Build up your vocabulary—you'll need lots. Start to notice words and how they come together as phrases. Learn these words and phrases through your listening and reading.
e) Stop Thinking too Much
To really speak a language, you have to learn to stop thinking so much. Learn enough to say something first, let go of your ego, make a few mistakes and just let conversations flow!
f) Break down Your Mental Barriers
One of the most difficult hurdles of language learning is training yourself out of the translation mode and into the communication mode. After you've become familiar with the language, try to rely less on the mindset of 'x means y' and more on 'x means x'.
g) Build on Solid Foundations
Make sure you're comfortable with the fundamentals of the language before tackling the more advanced stuff. It will take you quite a while to get used to the pronunciation and orthography of a new language, but without a solid understanding of these, you'll find it very difficult to learn more.
h) Learn Vocabulary Efficiently
The absolute best way to learn vocabulary is through the use of self-made flash cards, which can be taken everywhere in your pocket. Write a vocabulary word in the front and its English definition on the back. As you learn more information about each word, you can add these to the cards.
i) Set Yourself Targets
Setting reasonable targets is a good way to motivate yourself. You could set yourself a time limit or goal for a certain level of proficiency.
j) Form Study Groups
Meet regularly with classmates to work together on assignments, learn vocabulary, study for tests, or just practise speaking the language. Learning with others helps decrease knowledge gaps and gives you opportunities to actively discuss concepts and materials covered in class, thereby increasing the chances that you will remember them.
k) Take Responsibility for Your Learning.
Communicate with your instructor any problems that may be interfering with your learning or any specific difficulties that you are having with the material. Seek help immediately when you need it. You might be surprised how easily such difficulties can be resolved under the help of a teacher. Also, be proactive about making up missed work. Not only your grade, but also your success at learning depends on it.
l) Relax and enjoy yourself
Find ways to make language learning fun. This could involve games, songs, stories, tongue twisters, jokes and anything else you can think of. Do not worry about what you cannot memorize, understand, or say. It does not matter. You have been learning and improving.
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