Are you struggling to pick up a foreign language? Looking for language learning methods and approaches? What is the most adequate, most effective way to do it? It’s all here. Discover 10 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 language is the medium for expressing your mindset with others and gives you a chance to think, analyse 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. Thanks to growing language jobs and new career opportunities for language learners. Having at least one foreign language on your resume is a big plus. It means that you are more valuable to the employer because you can help with more customers, deal with more business contacts or help prepare more targeted sales and revenues.
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.
Home life 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!”
Best Methods and Strategies to Help You Learn a new 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, stick to it!
For successful language learning, it is important to choose a clear and short-term deadline. As per my personal observation, most language learners fail to learn a language by not setting a goal.
How to implement that?
Simple! Make a goal on the basis of 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 2019”. This is too vague. Your goals need to be as specific as possible. Your specific goal should be like this:
“I will practice 30 minutes of Italian listening, at least 5-6 times in a week“, or “I will complete Italian irregular verb conjugation in all tenses in 6 months“, or maybe I will appear for Italian proficiency test CELI 1 (A2 Level) in July 2019 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 3 paragraphs in 100 words in a week or if you want to make fewer verb tense errors in your email writing, start working towards that goal by studying which tenses to use in your writing. 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 goals that are attainable. 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 programme. 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 that is a little difficult for you, but make sure that your goal is truly 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 you goal is relevant to your needs. Choose methods, 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. Also it wouldn’t make sense to learn the complex 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 stronger 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 Language will not be perfect in 6 months or one year. This is one of the common misconceptions about Language Learning. Language learning 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 a daunting task. 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 a weekend. Set a date and get to work!
Be S.M.A.R.T. Language Learner in 2019 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 goal 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 practice takes time. Once you achieve your goal in a specific time-frame, it will give you a huge booster and motivate you to move onto your next actionable goal that also with confidence.
2) Learning a language by using Pareto Principle — The 80/20 Rule
What is 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 are facing is not the 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 and free up additional time for language learning. The principle was first popularized by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, and it’s concerned with comparative analysis.
In essence, the Pareto principle states that you can analyse 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 tasks that generate the best, most perceivable rewards. These are the high, resulted-oriented tasks you should prioritise.
- Now, pinpoint which tasks represents 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 foreign language is indisputable. Imagine you’re studying German language. How many vocabulary do you need to gain for conversational proficiency in speaking and understanding German?
You can achieve approximately 80% conversational German language proficiency with only 2,000 words, whereas if you want to reach say 98% proficient, you need to learn roughly 100,000 words. Thus, learning less than 5% of the words in the German language would yield 98% of the desired result.
In fact, By learning the 2000 most frequent words you will be able to cover about 80% of almost any language.
Therefore, as a language learner, an 80/20 analysis tells you that you need to prioritise one thing: vocabulary. The use of frequency lists for language learning is very effective. By the time you start applying the Pareto Principle to your language learning activities, you will not only increase result but 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 judicious use of your time by dividing your language learning materials into smaller parts.
See this example;
• 10 short stories of 100 words each
• A story of 1000 words.
Now, which of these would be easier to memorise? 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 proceed to internally organise them into what we feel to be sensible ways, and then we, externally, establish what we have understood. The more you are taking in additional pieces of information, the more your mind will connect, collate and correlate such information into what you have learnt previously.
You can make a collection of small notes through pocket notebook, or smartphone or whatever suitable for you. The key point is to capture the word or any small piece of knowledge as quickly and easily as possible. Make a list of important 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
The first time language learners usually believe that they have to be fluent to think in a language. Trust me, that’s not entirely true!
Is it Easy?
Of course not!
Thinking in a target language when you start learning a foreign language, especially at the initial stage can be indeed challenging and quite difficult.
Most people acquire a new language by translating. I see people doing all the time. This is one of the cause of failure in learning a second language. Instead of translating everything you listen, thinking of a response in the language that you’re learning, you’ll finally be able to communicate effortlessly. Making your brain think in both your native or English and your target language will only slow down the language learning process. If you really want to speak fluently, you have to start thinking in the language concerned.
Once you master this awesome and time-tested, and trusted language learning technique, you’ll surely notice huge improvements in your foreign language acquisition. It will surely take time. Well, it can and will happen eventually if you make a conscious effort to make it happen.
According to the research published by University of Chicago psychologists, by thinking in a target language you will not only be jump-starting your skills in that language, but 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 think “J’apprends le français maintenant,” as soon as you know those 5 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, phrases and grammar rules, but also certain ways to express what you want to say. Often, you learn what others think you should know. This helps, but your thoughts are uniquely yours, and when you think in your new language, you are learning exactly what YOU need to learn. Talk to yourself!
Speaking a language is perhaps the best way to learn it, and thinking it is just speaking it in your mind. You’ll learn your most important words, expressions and sentences quickly if you are thinking them continually. This is definitely a great way to study a new language. You should try to implement this amazing method for 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 part are 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 only 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 to develop literary mastery of the language, Unless, of course, you only aim is to become a great writer.
Importance of Speaking and Listening skills in language acquisition
Speaking the language and ability to understanding what another person is saying is synonymous with knowing that language. As you continue the journey of language learning, you will probably discover that Speaking and Listening skills are the two most important parts of effective communication. Improving your listening skills will beyond the shadow of a doubt have a huge impact on your ability to learn to speak a foreign language.
Any language should be learnt like children learn their mother tongues, if you want them to be fluent in the language. As a kid, we learned our first and maybe second language by listening, speaking, immersion and mimicking all the time.
We did not receive any grammar lesson or writing skills from anyone. It means you need to actually listen (not just read from a book) and then 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 on working on your listening and speaking. It will bring you great rewards that may surprise you!
How to do that?
You need to practice the new language with native or fluent speakers, all the while listening to it as its properly spoken. Additionally, you can take the advantage of numerous audio and video lessons, radio programs, broadcasts, podcasts, TV programs. It is one of the most convenient and popular ways to boost your fluency.
Many foreign languages are spoken very quickly, therefore you need to make sure you can keep up with the pace and actually hear it spoken correctly. The more you listen to the language the more your brain will start picking up words from the context and start making connections.
Learn the art of listening. The best way to acquire skills in correct 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, to know a language means being able to speak it.
Improving listening skills must be a top priority for anyone who wants to become really 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 methodical 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 learn the language naturally. It is the common and natural way everyone learns a language.
However, we can also decide to go the methodical way, which involves being taught in schools, universities and in classrooms under direct instructions. Every one of us has our preferred way 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 by communicating with native individuals, practicing 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 system
Have you spent hours and hours learning some vocabulary or grammar rules or sounds or phrases but a few days or weeks later the knowledge had almost gone? So, here is the solution: Spaced repetition Technique.
Spaced repetition is a scientifically proven technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between previously learned and acquired material in order to retain the maximum information. In short, frequent repetition helps memory to retain the existing knowledge.
Spaced repetition system is a powerful software and amazing 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 greater percentage of the material. It enables you invest as little time as possible to get the optimum profits from your language learning efforts.
Moreover, It really helps you remember numerous words and phrases. Repetition works, and saying the words and sentences, even if only in your mind, works better than reading or hearing them. 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. This is a powerful way to learn a language and start speaking it quickly.
To follow the repetitions in language learning, you need to practice the previously learned content with increasing intervals such as after an hour, then a day, then weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, then every six months, then yearly. If you remember then you know it very well otherwise you need to review more often.
8) What about Reading and Writing Skills?
You should be reading and writing a lot. Due to 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 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 certain word or expression, you can instantly look it up to fill in what you’re missing. This is a quick way to learn the words that are most relevant to you, because you will see where you struggle. Additionally, when you are learning a language with pictographic writing system such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean. The visualizing in your mind how a word is written will help immensely.
A writing practice will help you keep track of your progress, but 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 major 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/mobile device dictionary will do just fine. When you are on the road, and you 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, it will serve you well to study the dictionary. This will not only help you widen your vocabulary, it will increase your confidence in choosing the correct words for particular situations.
Why to wait for few hours when you can do in few seconds? This will go a long way towards achieving the higher competence of language proficiency test.
As you link the place to the phrase, it will become much clear 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 how effective this is. Therefore, carry a language dictionary or install an app with you to use whenever your thoughts stop flowing.
10) Watch Movies and listen to Music
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. When you watch movies of the particular language you are learning, it will help you improve your pronunciation, harnessed your syntax and vocabulary as well.
When you are watching language movies, make sure you don’t focus too much on the subtitles because it can easily distract you from the experience at play. Turn off subtitles, and as you continue, you will be surprised how quick you can pick some words. There are many websites online like Netflix, 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, Listening to music in target language will definitely improves your listening skills, pronunciation and increases your vocabulary. You’ll also learn many expressions, varieties, local dialects and slang.
Watching Movies and Music in foreign languages are not only relaxing and entertaining, 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.
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 just need to apply the proven language learning methods and techniques.
There are a number of language learning methods you can apply. These 10 are time-tested, tried and trusted language learning techniques, approaches and strategies. Try all of them out and see what works with you! You are surely going to make progress.
Do you have a question or suggestion? Feel free to ask and leave a comment below.