In the previous post we saw the 3 essential foundations that we must never lose sight of when learning languages; that is, motivation, patience and daily practice. But, apart from these important bases, there are some more activities we can carry out to effectively achieve our goal. Among them, I would like to highlight some which I consider especially useful from my point of view.
- Language immersion:
We have been hearing this tip for such a long time by now that it sounds too obvious to mention. But the reality is that it was and it is still so true. To be exposed to a language is the best way to acquire it. That’s the reason why the most of the modern methods tend to create a similar environment through the use of videos, audios and graphic materials.
The best way to achieve this immersion is, of course, travelling or living in the country. We just have to see the incredible amount of money that companies which arrange courses abroad make. However, the most fortunate learners are those who have the opportunity to gain professional experience in another country. This activity can provide us much better results since it allows us to fully know the society and make connections with the people of the area.
To move abroad will always be a very efficient method, not only because of the great amount of hours we are likely to use the language, but because it gives us the chance to know the culture of the area, something that has a lot of relation to the use of languages. In fact, we can learn more expressions and idioms this way than in any other one and it can also give us a great context to understand everything.
Nevertheless, I have to say that today, in the 21st century, we can achieve a kind of immersion without moving from our seats due to new technology. So, if you don’t like to move, you are lucky. Although it’s true that the level of immersion won’t be as high, you can still get excellent results, and here everything depends on your will and motivation. If you are willing to devote enough time to read books and to listen and talk, then you can succeed and speak a language. Remember always that, as we said in the previous post, perseverance is the best weapon, therefore, you need to practice every day a little.
- Be like a child
The general belief that children are the world’s best learners is widely propagated and there are a lot of arguments in its favor. For instance, when a whole family moves to another country, children are usually the first ones in communicating in the new language. Besides, we must remember that we all learn our mother tongue during childhood and we do it very successfully.
A lot of scientific research has been conducted to determine the real differences between children’s and adult’s brains and they ended up with different results. But, leaving aside this subject, what seems to be clear is that children have certain attitudes that help them a great deal for this purpose. However, if we pay attention, we will see that we can understand these attitudes and maybe use them in our own interest. Therefore, let’s see what makes children so efficient learners:
- They have a strong need to socialize and adapt to their environment. This gives them extraordinary motivation, so they do everything possible to open to the world. They really want to communicate and become a part of the society.
- Absence of fear of failure: Children don’t have the same prejudices or fears than adults, and that is what makes them feel so confident when they have to express themselves. Even though their errors are often seen with tolerance and understanding, we, as adults, can consciously ignore the fear of failing. In any case, it is not worth staying in touch with those who are not respectful with our errors.
- Less pressure: Children are freer and they don’t usually have concrete aims such us “find a job” or “pass an exam”, which relieve them from anxiety. In general, everything goes smoother when we are relaxed. Actually, their only goal is to communicate, which is the base of the whole process.
For all these reasons, it is not difficult to understand their success, so it would be a great thing to learn from them.
- If you are a beginner, try to learn a lot of vocabulary.
Portuguese, Mandarin or Russian, it doesn’t matter which language you are learning. Although you don’t have a strong grammatical base, if you learn words, you can start understanding the language, and everything comes after understanding. Besides, realizing that we are able to catch some things, give us a good dose of motivation.
In principle, I wouldn’t recommend studying long boring lists, not even over use memory which, in the long term, won’t help us much. Ideally, all this vocabulary should have the support of some other audiovisual media, such us pictures, recordings, videos, etc. because memory works better in association. Today you can find a lot of applications in these media; now we have to find out which are the good ones.
- Keep what you have learnt.
Language learning is a long road that probably never finishes because, to be honest, it is impossible to achieve a language at a native level of perfection. Moreover, and to make things worse, our brains are lazy and if we don’t use one of the skills, they tend to forget it to make more room. That’s why, if we want to maintain what we learnt, we should never stop practicing. Then our level won’t decrease.
- Have fun
As we have to devote a lot of time and dedication to obtain our purpose, it would be sensible to try to make it more fun, so we won’t give up. To achieve this, each one of us should find the methods and the ways that we enjoy the most. For instance, moviegoers can have a lot fun by searching OV movies. But we could say the same about books, comics, games, series, etc. So, ultimately, learning languages can be fun, if we are able to adapt it to our personal tastes.
This was my list of tips but what about you? Can you tell us one of your secrets?
Also see: 3 keys to effective language learning