Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Tag: language learning tips

How to Learn the Right Way

We’re all lifelong learners. The moment we’re born we start exploring the world around us and learning about its ways. We experiment, make mistakes, memorize what worked and what didn’t in a similar situation last time (retrieval practice) and so progress through life becoming more and more knowledgeable each day.

Image by Jan Vasek from Pixabay

However, this is not how we learn in academic circumstances. Here among the most popular techniques are rereading text and massed practice of a skill or new knowledge (e.g. cramming for exams). Empirical research has shown that they are a waste of time and effort. Massed practice works only in the short run because it takes time for new knowledge to get transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. And when rereading, say, your lecture notes, you practice rereading, not recalling. It’s that simple. Being able to repeat the phrases in your course book doesn’t mean that you have mastered its content. It’s just an illusion of knowing.

Instead try at least one of the following things.

  • Test yourself on the material.
  • Can you define its main points?
  • Try turning the main ideas into questions and then answer them.
  • Connect the new learning to what you already know.
  • Look for examples beyond the text.
  • Find a metaphor or visual image for the new material.

It’s time-consuming, requires a lot of mental effort and might sound counterintuitive but this is how deep, durable easy-to-access knowledge is achieved. Shortcuts won’t get you there.

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Learning a Language Takes Time

Image by Ruwad Al Karem from Pixabay

This is Part 3 of a series of posts about language learning. Read parts 1 and 2 here and here

I think most people give up on learning a foreign language for one reason – they’re not prepared to play the long game. They believe and are often supported in this wishful thinking by self-proclaimed language experts that a language can be learned in a matter of a few months or even weeks.

Now remember how much time and effort it took you to learn your mother tongue. And even now that you’ve mastered it to fluency and, hopefully, proficiency, which is not the same, there’s still so much to do – all those words you don’t know the meaning of, and those you think you use correctly but one day find out otherwise, tricky word stresses, grammar rules you were taught at school but since then forgot, let alone striving to be eloquent without being bombastic. And that’s, let me remind you, your first language!

So the bad news is that learning a language – any language – is a lifelong commitment, which like any commitment requires patience, discipline and perseverance. The good news is that we’re perfectly capable of doing it as our never-ending learning of our native language proves!

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Why You Should Learn Languages

Image by MonicaP from Pixabay

This is Part 2 of a series of posts about language learning. Read part 1 here

I can come up with quite a few ideas why studying a new language is worth your while. In no specific order:

it creates a new you – an individual that speaks a different language (you’re likely to notice that even the timbre of your voice changes when you switch to your second language) and through it becomes to some extent British/American/Italian etc.;

it broadens your horizons bringing into your life a whole new world of values, traditions, ideas and viewpoints you might have never even heard of before;

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Make Learning a Foreign Language a Habit

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

This is Part 1 of a series of posts about language learning

We’re all creatures of habit. Routines make life easier – instead of figuring out how to do something each time, you can rely on good old well-tested practices. Probably more importantly, once established habits stay with us forever, which means you can’t possibly get rid of bad ones; all you can do is replace them with new, better ones. Easier said than done though, as your old habits will resist to the last.

How can you win this battle? Start small. Set yourself a goal, say, to do 10 minutes of listening or make 5 flash cards a day. That’s pretty doable and will make you proud of yourself each time you achieve your daily objective. However, for it to become a habit you must do it every day. If you’re asking yourself ‘why bother?’, then it’s probably time to talk about reasons to learn a foreign language.

To be continued…

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