For many language learners, studying on your own is hard. Having good teachers can mean the difference between just getting by in your target language and learning to speak fluently.
As anyone who has made major progress during language classes knows, the goal of becoming fluent begins to feel attainable. You understand exactly what you need to do in order to improve and your teachers know just how to help you do it.
But even with good teachers, learning a language can be a struggle. There’s always something you can’t quite understand or struggle with. You might drag your feet when it’s time to review the lesson on your own. Even if you have a plan to follow, it doesn’t always seem to work.
What’s the problem?
Before you start thinking you’ve done something wrong or that you’re incapable of learning, remember this: Teachers are your language learning guides. It’s up to you to reach your actual goals. This means treating your lessons like a conversation with a knowledgeable person rather than a school classroom.
So instead of following advice and instructions without feedback, don’t be afraid to take charge of your learning.
Start with some of these tips: Make notes for the next class, engage more thoughtfully with your instructor, or find more suitable study materials.
Take advantage of your strengths
Remember that you are the learner!
Maybe you’re more comfortable with reading. Or perhaps you are better at listening and repeating. Let your instructor know so that you can use your strengths to improve other areas. It’s more important that you are able to improve, than it is for you to follow a plan that doesn’t work as well.
For example, if you have a hard time understanding during a conversation, ask your instructor to write some things down. If your speaking or reading skills aren’t the best, ask for the correct pronunciations and repeat them.
Ask your teachers for tips that relate to your interests so that your out-of-class study sessions remain fun. If you don’t like to read news articles in your native language, will you really enjoy trying to understand them in your target language?
It’s easy to believe that your teachers know what works and only offers the best advice. But accepting the first suggestion without offering any feedback, especially if it’s not working for you, will only hurt your progress.
Instead, ask for other resources that hold your interest outside of the classroom. Your teachers should be able to point you in the right direction.
Explore other methods
No matter how much you hear about the benefits of one study method over another, remember that not every quick study tip will be the best option for you. If your current method seems to be working, don’t worry about finding something better. If not, don’t feel bad about dropping it.
For example, if you’ve always been told to study flashcards, but you keep forgetting most of your new vocabulary, try making lists instead. Or see if your instructor has another method that might work.
In short, there is more than one way to succeed at learning a language. As long as you focus on how you learn instead of the way everyone else learns, you’ll be more than capable of reaching your goals.