Are you struggling to pick up a foreign language? Or probably, looking for language learning methods and approaches?
What is the most adequate, most effective way to do it?
It’s all here. Discover the TEN best techniques and strategies that can help you immensely in your journey of language acquisition!
Languages are the essence of a person’s communication.
And since a tongue is a medium for expressing your mindset with others and gives you a chance to think, analyze others’ thoughts, opinions, and actions.
It is tough to survive without any language, so value it and study it thoroughly.
Most people would agree on the absolute importance of learning a foreign language in today’s society.
It means that you are more valuable to the employer.
You can help with more customers, deal with more business contacts, or help prepare more targeted sales and revenues.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Methods and Strategies to Help You Learn a Language
- 1. Set a short-term language learning goal and stick to it!
- 2. Learning a language by using the Pareto Principle — The 80/20 Rule
- 3. Breakdown your learning materials into smaller pieces
- 4. Learn to think in the foreign language
- 5. Don’t forget listening and Speaking
- 6. Incorporate both the natural and systematic language approaches
- 7. Language learning with Spaced repetition method
- 8. What about Reading and Writing Skills?
- 9. Get married to a Dictionary
- 10. Watch Movies and listen to Music to improve communication skill
- Final thought (Conclusion)
Alright! You want to learn a second language, but you find out you’re too darn busy to even start from somewhere.
I share in your pain! I’ve been there quite a few times.
Homelife and professional commitment are demanding, and those famous 24hrs a day won’t be getting longer anymore.
So, when can we conveniently find the time to sit up and learn an entirely new language?
Fortunately for you, I have some good news.
There are practical, surefire strategies you can adapt to create the time to learn that new language you so much crave.
So take a seat, pay apt attention. School is in session, and the topic is “Language Learning Methodology!”
10 Best Methods and Strategies to Help You Learn a Language
There are plenty of Language teaching methodologies and strategies.
Here things get a little bit more complicated since different answers to this question have guided the various methods employed in the language classrooms throughout the years.
Here is the list!
1. Set a short-term language learning goal and stick to it!
For successful language learning, it is essential to choose a well defined and short-term deadline.
As per my personal observation, most people fail to learn a language by not setting a goal.
How to implement that?
Simple! Make a goal based on S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
This SMART goal setting brings discipline, structure, and trackability into your language learning goals and objectives.
Specific — Avoid making simple goals like: “Learn Italian in 2022”.
It is too vague. Your goals need to be as precise as possible. Your specific purpose should be like this:
“I will practice 30 minutes of listening, at least 5-6 times a week.”
“I will complete Italian irregular verb conjugation in all tenses in 6 months.”
Or I will appear for the Italian proficiency test CELI 1 (A2 Level) in January 2021 by covering the curriculum.
Measurable — Make your goals measurable.
How do you measure your progress in a language?
You want to put a number, quantity, time, date, or anything that makes a goal even more precise and offers noticeable results.
For example, set concise learning goals such as writing three paragraphs around 100 words in a week or fewer verb tense errors in your email writing.
You can start working towards that goal by studying which tenses to use in your essay.
Some people might find that setting a time target (study for 60 minutes a day) works better for them than a results target (learn 30 words a day).
Use what works best for you.
Attainable — An unrealistic goal may cause your motivation levels to drop significantly.
Make sure you can achieve your goal within a realistic amount of time.
Thus, create attainable goals. Don’t focus on too many things at once.
By breaking the tasks down into small milestones is the key to eventually conquering an achievable study program.
Setting big goals that are too difficult will kill your motivation. Break your goal into smaller goals.
You can measure your progress by completing one small goal at a time.
Your goals may change throughout the year but keep working towards something attainable.
Challenge yourself by doing something a little difficult for you, but makes sure that your goal is indeed achievable.
Your goal should be something that has meaning to you; this keeps your interest up and will give you a sense of satisfaction in completing it.
Relevant — Decide how you are going to achieve that goal.
Make sure your goal is relevant to your needs. Choose techniques or activities that are relevant to your language learning goal.
For example, enrolling in a foreign language course in your city could be helpful.
Select your classes carefully so that it is aligned with your objectives and competence level.
It won’t make sense to learn the complicated Spanish subjunctive tense if your only goal is to know the basic conversational phrases to make your stay better in Mexico or Spain.
Additionally, you can focus on areas you are weak in rather than on more persuasive skills.
Time-bound — Every goal needs a target date or deadline within which you want to achieve your small goals.
It essentially means setting yourself a deadline for achieving your goal.
Your foreign tongue will not be perfect in 6 months or one year.
It is one of the prevalent misconceptions about language learning.
Studying a new tongue takes time.
If it intrigues you, you can read — How does it take to learn a language?
With everything else going on in life, setting aside time for language learning can be daunting.
Decide what works best for you.
Some people like working on a goal for 30 minutes every day, while others would like to dedicate a solid 4 hours on the weekend.
Set a date and get to work!
Be S.M.A.R.T. Language Learner in 2020 and Beyond!
Having a goal will help you improve or learn any new language.
While it is okay to have a SMART goal in mind and rely on memory, writing the objective down gives it a stronger sense of purpose and makes it easier to consult and track.
You can also write why they’re valuable to you.
Making a SMART goal, being honest with yourself, and then sticking to the plan will get you well on your way to reaching your language learning dream.
Moreover, practice makes perfect, and learning takes time.
Once you achieve your goal in a specific time-frame, it will give you a colossal booster and motivate you to move onto your next actionable plan with confidence.
2. Learning a language by using the Pareto Principle — The 80/20 Rule
What is the Pareto Principle?
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 theory, is a rule that suggests that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.
Or 80% of our efforts yield only 20% of the results.
Time is of the essence when it comes to language learning, and without creating adequate time, no other language learning techniques will work for you.
The modern world, as it is, is one buzzing hell of chaotic activities.
And from all indications, it will get worse with each passing year.
However, the primary challenge we face is not a lack of time but the inability to identify and focus on our priorities.
It is at this junction that the Pareto Principle comes into play.
The 80/20 Rule is a simple but efficient strategy that helps you identify the most essential, high result-oriented activities in your life while eliminating the unnecessary, low result-oriented activities.
It will also free up additional time for language learning.
Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, first popularized the principle, and it’s concerned with comparative analysis.
In essence, the Pareto principle states that you can analyze and compare all your activities and free up vast swaths of previously unavailable time.
See the example below:
- Jot down as many daily, weekly, or monthly recurring tasks as you can remember (work, chores, exercise, play, study, etc.)
- Go through the list and starts the job that generates the best, most perceivable rewards. These are the big, resulted-oriented tasks you should prioritize.
- Now, pinpoint which tasks represent the greatest misery or creates the least benefit. Cross these tasks off the list and make every effort to remove them from your life.
Another way to look at it is “Word Frequency.”
We all know the importance of vocabulary acquisition when learning a new language is indisputable.
Imagine you’re studying the German language.
How many vocabularies do you need to gain conversational proficiency in speaking and understanding German?
You can achieve approximately 80% conversational German proficiency with only 2,000 words, whereas if you want to reach, say, 98% proficient, you need to learn roughly 100,000 words.
Thus, gaining less than 10% of the German words would yield 98% of the desired result.
In fact, By learning the 2000 most frequent words, you will be able to cover 80% of almost any language.
Therefore, as a language learner, an 80/20 analysis tells you that you need to prioritize vocabulary.
The use of frequency lists for language learning is beneficial.
By the time you start applying the Pareto Principle to your language learning activities, you will enhance the result.
Plus, you have more time to learn, as well.
3. Breakdown your learning materials into smaller pieces
Now that you have enough time to learn your new language.
You can make reasonable use of your time by dividing your language learning materials into smaller parts.
See this example;
• Ten short stories of 100 words each
• A story of 1000 words.
Now, which of these would be easier to memorize? Of course, it’s number one, if you guess correctly.
One of the best language learning methods of learning anything is to take in little snippets of information.
Then, we internally organize them into what we feel to be sensible ways, and then we, externally, establish what we have understood.
The more you take in additional information, the more your mind will connect, collate, and correlate such details into what you have learned previously.
You can collect small notes through a pocket notebook or smartphone or whatever is suitable for you.
The critical point is to capture the word or any small piece of knowledge as quickly and efficiently.
Make a list of vital points by converting them to Post-it Notes; this will give you some creative freedom to stick them across your home, office, or bedroom.
4. Learn to think in the foreign language
First-time language learners usually believe that they have to be fluent to start thinking in a language.
Trust me, that’s not entirely true!
Is it Easy?
Of course not!
When you start learning a foreign language, thinking in a target language, especially at the initial stage, can be indeed challenging and quite tricky.
Most people acquire a new language by translating.
I see people doing it all the time. It is one of the causes of failure in learning a second language.
Instead of transcribing everything you listen to, thinking of a response in the language you’re learning, you’ll finally be able to communicate effortlessly.
Making your brain believe in your native or English, and your target language will only slow down the language learning process.
If you want to speak fluently, you have to start thinking in the language concerned.
Once you master this excellent and time-tested, and trusted language learning technique, you’ll surely notice considerable improvements in your foreign language acquisition.
It will surely take time.
Well, it can and will happen if you make a conscious effort to make it happen.
According to the research published by the University of Chicago psychologists, by thinking in a target language, you will not only be jump-starting your skills in that language.
You’ll also make smarter and rational decisions.
Imagine yourself learning French.
If you can choose to think, “I am learning French now.” So there is no reason you can’t remember “J’apprends le français maintenant” as soon as you know those five words.
If you don’t know the word “J’apprends” (I am learning), but you know how to say “J’étudie le Français maintenant” (I am studying French now), you can think that.
Alternately, you can always look up a word or two in the dictionary as you get “stuck.”
Putting your thoughts and mind into your new language forces you to learn, not just vocabulary.
But also phrases and grammar rules, but also specific ways to express what you want to say. Often, you learn what others think you should know.
It helps, but your thoughts are uniquely yours, and when you feel in your new language, you are learning what YOU need to know.
Talk to yourself!
Speaking a language is perhaps the best way to learn it, and thinking it is just expressing it in your mind.
You’ll discover your most important words, expressions, and sentences quickly if you continually think about them.
It is a great way to study a new language.
You should try to implement this fantastic method of studying languages into your learning routine.
Trust Me It Works!
5. Don’t forget listening and Speaking
Learning a new language involves listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In the area of language learning, these four skills are critically important.
The speaking and listening parts tend to be more difficult and complicated than the acquisition of reading and writing skills.
Usually, people struggle most with listening and speaking.
The two main reasons are:
- Lack of enough practice when you’re not living in the country where the target language is spoken, and
- Love for the language is lost when the primary goal is writing, reading, translating, and the conscious studying of infinite grammatical rules.
We must keep in mind that we learn a foreign language for practical use and not develop literary mastery.
Unless, of course, your only aim is to become a great writer.
Importance of Speaking and Listening skills in language acquisition
Speaking the language and understanding what another person is saying is synonymous with knowing that language.
As you continue the language learning journey, you will probably find that speaking and listening are the two most essential parts of effective communication.
Improving your listening skills will have a massive impact on your ability to learn to speak a foreign language beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Any language should be learnt like children learn their mother tongues if you want them to be fluent.
As a kid, we all learned our first and maybe the second language by listening, speaking, immersion, and mimicking all the time.
We did not receive any grammar lessons or writing skills from anyone.
It means you need to listen (not just read from a book) and speak lots of foreign words and phrases.
Turn the words into something familiar by associating them with their actual meaning.
The main goal is to develop natural listening and speaking ability.
The bookish knowledge, translation, and reference to the first language should take the backseat.
So do spend time working on your listening and talking. It will bring you great rewards that may surprise you!
How to implement this language technique?
You need to practice the new language with native or fluent speakers while listening to it as it is adequately spoken.
Additionally, you can take advantage of numerous audio and video lessons, podcasts, radio programs, broadcasts, and TV programs.
It is one of the most convenient and accessible ways to boost your fluency.
Many foreign languages are spoken very quickly. Thus you need to make sure you can keep up with the pace and hear it pronounced correctly.
The more you listen to the language, the more your brain will start picking up words from the context and making connections.
Learn the art of listening.
The best way to acquire accurate pronunciation, accents, and intonation of a language is to listen to how a native speaker speaks it.
It is necessary for anyone who wants to be an expert in any language to develop his listening comprehension. Remember, knowing a language means being able to speak it.
Improving listening skills must be a top priority for anyone who wants to become good at speaking a second language.
Your learning will progress more quickly.
As a result, you will later become more actively involved, verbally, and creatively.
6. Incorporate both the natural and systematic language approaches
Don’t think this is complicated, nor is it even expensive, unless you want it to be.
The quickest way to learn a language is by moving to a particular country that speaks the language.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to travel abroad.
But can we be like children for a time?
Yes, we can, and we should, as another way of acquiring a new language.
Children can learn and understand any language because they respond and immerse themselves in the task when confronted with the challenge of learning a new language.
If we can do the same, we can understand the language naturally.
It is the standard and natural way everyone learns a language.
However, we can also decide to go systematically, which involves being taught in schools, universities, and classrooms under direct instructions.
All of us have our preferred mode of learning a language, but you will have the advantage if you decide to incorporate both approaches.
You can learn naturally by investing in a course that encourages immersion or communicating with native individuals.
You can also practice through multimedia files and methodically by registering with a language class or finding a foreign language teacher and following the guideline and books.
7. Language learning with Spaced repetition method
Have you spent hours and hours learning some vocabulary or grammar rules or sounds or phrases, but a few days later, the knowledge was almost gone?
So, here is the solution: Spaced repetition Technique.
Spaced repetition is a scientifically proven technique that incorporates increasing intervals between previously learned and acquired material to retain the maximum information.
In short, frequent repetition helps memory to maintain the existing knowledge.
A spaced repetition system is a powerful software and a fantastic way to slow down the process of forgetting.
Once you learn something, revision and going over the knowledge again later, at intervals, helps us remember a more significant percentage of the material.
It enables you to invest as little time as possible to get the optimum profits from your language learning efforts.
Moreover, It helps you remember many words and phrases.
Repetition works, and saying the words and sentences, even if only in your mind, works better than reading or hearing.
When you make a point of translating your thoughts into your new language, you are always practicing. It is more than just good practice, though.
It is a powerful way to learn a language and start sputtering.
To follow the repetitions in language learning, you need to practice the previously learned content with increasing intervals.
It can be an hour, then a day, then weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, then every six months, then yearly.
If you recognize it, you know it very well; otherwise, you need to review it more often.
8. What about Reading and Writing Skills?
You should be reading and writing a lot.
Due to the rapid development of communication and digitization, you can find plenty of reading material on the Internet.
You can read newspapers, blogs, news, research in your target language.
When you practice speaking, you don’t have the time to rectify your mistakes.
You can’t spend a few minutes on a single sentence because you need the conversation to flow.
Writing and reading are altogether a different ball game.
If you don’t know a particular word or expression, you can instantly look it up to fill in what you’re missing.
It is a quick way to learn the most relevant words because you will see where you struggle.
Plus, when you are learning a language with a pictographic writing system such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.
Visualizing in your mind how a word is written will help immensely.
Writing practice will help you keep track of your progress. It will also help you remember the things you’ve learned and build correct memory traces.
This practice will make you a more confident speaker, but it will also help you start thinking in a foreign language.
You’ll see significant improvements in your language skills in no time.
9. Get married to a Dictionary
Now, this can be somewhat inconvenient, but it’s critical, as well. As much as language learning is concerned, a dictionary should always be by your side all the time.
It doesn’t have to be huge. A pocket or even a phrasebook or mobile device dictionary will do just fine.
When you are on the road and come across a word you don’t understand, bring out your dictionary and look up the word.
Learn to use the dictionary.
Whether you are writing, reading, or merely listening will serve you well to study the dictionary.
It will not only help you widen your vocabulary, but it will also increase your confidence in choosing the correct words for particular situations.
Why wait for a few hours when you can do it in a few seconds?
It will go a long way towards achieving the higher competence of language proficiency tests.
As you link the place to the phrase, it will become more precise and concrete within your mind.
You can also pick random items and locations and look them up to know how to say them in the new language you are learning.
You will be shocked by how effective this is.
Carry a language dictionary or install an app with you to use whenever your thoughts stop flowing.
10. Watch Movies and listen to Music to improve communication skill
Well, If you enjoy watching movies and TV Series and listening to music, why not take advantage and combine it with studying a language?
Language is a culture, and cultures are best displayed in movies.
TV-shows and Movies can help you improve your language if done in the right way.
When you watch videos of the particular language you are learning, it will improve your pronunciation and harness your syntax and vocabulary.
When you are watching language videos, make sure you don’t focus too much on the subtitles.
It is because it can easily distract you from experience at play.
Turn off subtitles, and as you continue, you will be surprised how quickly you can pick some words.
There are many websites online like Netflix, Hulu, Disney, HBO, Amazon Prime, and many more where you can watch foreign-language movies of your choice.
Who doesn’t enjoy listening to good music?
Music stimulates your brain functions to improve your memory capacity, ability to focus, and attention span.
As per various research, if you listen to music in the target language, it will enhance your listening skills and pronunciation and increase your vocabulary.
You’ll also learn many expressions, varieties, local dialects, and slang.
Watching Movies and Music in foreign languages is relaxing and entertaining, but they’ll also enhance your language skills and, of course, your cultural understanding and appreciation.
You can even make a problematic situation fun when you watch in a group because everyone will be trying to deduce the words being spoken.
Movies to help you improve languages → (i) French (ii) Spanish (iii) German (iv) Japanese (v) Chinese (vi) Korean (vii) Arabic (viii) Persian (ix) Turkish (x) Danish (xi) Russian (xii) Italian (xiii) Portuguese (xiv) Dutch (xv) Norwegian (xvi) Swedish.
Final thought (Conclusion)
Creating time is the most critical strategy for learning a new language. Your success will largely depend on the amount of time you dedicated to learning that language.
Once you have the time, any other method and strategy can work for you. You need to apply proven language learning methods and techniques.
There are several language learning methods you can apply. These ten are time-tested, tried, and trusted language learning techniques, approaches, and strategies.
Try all of them out and see what works for you! You are surely going to make progress.
Do you have a question or suggestion? Feel free to ask and leave a comment below.