Learning a language is much like exercising
The hardest thing is to find enough time to practise. If you are training for a run, for example, you need to run several times a week to build up your stamina.
It’s much the same with language. You need to practise regularly to ensure you retain new vocabulary and grammar that you learn in your lessons.
There are many different guidelines about how much exercise you should do every week to keep fit. Whether it is 30 minutes intensive exercise per day, or lifting heavy weights three times a week, every little helps in maintaining a healthy mind and body.
The same goes for learning. Should we learn in small bite-sized chunks or study for several hours? It’s sometimes hard to fit in the time to revise difficult words, structures or to practise pronunciation.
We spoke to our Lingoda team to come up with some tips and advice. Many of the people here are fitness fans as well, so it’s no surprise that they can help you stay language fit!
1 – Why learn in the first place?
The most important thing, when you start on your language learning journey, is to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Is it to help you get a promotion at work? Do you want to be able to communicate better with your partner’s family? Do you simply want to learn for fun? Knowing why you want to learn a language will bring value to what you are doing, and will help you stay on track.
2 – Take things slowly
When you start learning a new language, it’s best to introduce new topics, phrases and grammar slowly. If you do everything at once, you may become overwhelmed and find it hard to concentrate. Remember, learning a new language can be a challenge, so take steady steps to ensure you have enough time to absorb your new found knowledge!
We recommend reading your class notes before bed, or if you’re too sleepy, try to go over your notes after a lesson to ensure you are clear about what was covered. Also, try and keep a small vocabulary book with you at all times. Don’t understand a word? Write it down and check the translation later – you’ll see your vocabulary double in no time!
3 – Be patient
Learning a language, like honing a fitness regime, takes patience and time. If you lift weights twice a week for a month, you won’t be entering the world’s strongest person contest just yet! First, you need to build up your strength and technique. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’ve “hit the wall’’. It happens!
Try not to set yourself huge or unrealistic goals. Look at your schedule: how much time can you dedicate to language learning? Can you fit in a class at lunchtime? Or would you prefer to learn in the evening, in the comfort of your home? Start small, so you can build up as your confidence grows.
4 – Focus
If you struggle to motivate yourself to learn, think about what you will achieve from taking a lesson. Will you feel better afterwards? Are you now one step closer to your overall aim?
You could also try to combine language learning with other things you enjoy. You could cook using cookbooks in your target language, or go running whilst listening to music or podcasts. The more you’re exposed to the language in everyday life, the more you will progress.
If you live in the country of your target language, try joining sports classes and see how much you can actually understand! You will come out of the class feeling physically and mentally fitter!
5 – Make it a habit, exercise your vocal skills
Like learning a sport, you have to make language learning a habit. For example, if you decide to learn how to play tennis, you will have to learn all the rules by heart. But if you want to actually play tennis, there is no way around it, you have to play tennis to put those rules into practise!
You’ll make mistakes at the beginning. But at some point you’ll get better and it will become second nature. With learning a language, it’s the same. You have to get into the habit of speaking as much of your target language as possible.
6 – Change your routine
Don’t feel guilty or upset if previous attempts at learning didn’t work out. Try to switch things around and change your routine. If taking classes in the morning didn’t work, switch your classes to the evening.
You could even join an online learning group, such as the Lingoda Sprint Facebook Training Group, to stay inspired and talk to fellow language learners about what works for them. Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!
7 – Immerse yourself
Immersing yourself in a language can be difficult if you live in Taiwan and you are learning French! However, there are many things you can do to introduce a language into your everyday life.
- Try to listen to music in your target language. If you are struggling to understand, you could print out the lyrics and follow them to the music.
- Watch a film you already know very well but in the language you are learning. That way, you will understand the story and can anticipate what the characters are saying. Alternatively, you can watch foreign films with subtitles to help you translate the words.
- Try and find a language buddy. There are many online forums where people are looking to practice their language skills with people in their city. You could pair up with someone who wants to learn your language and, in exchange, they will speak to you in your target language.
- Change the language of all of your gadgets and devices to your target language. It will be difficult at first, but you will soon get used to it and learn lots of new words!
- If you are struggling to remember the names of things, use post-it notes and stick them on everything in your house! Everytime you use that item, say the word out loud, or even better, say a full sentence using that word.
8 – Set rules
Sometimes we need rules to keep us on track. Try to think of three simple rules that you must stick to through your language learning process. These could be as simple as learn five new words a day, practise saying these aloud in full sentences, and taking at least two online Lingoda language classes per week.
9 – Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family are a great source of support when you feel like you just aren’t getting those all important phrasal verbs or conditional sentences!
10 – Treat yourself!
After all your hard work, you deserve a treat! Reward yourself when you reach certain milestones. Start with small targets at first, and as your confidence grows, challenge yourself further and set better rewards!