Is there a technique in learning a language and learning it quickly? Scholarly articles say style and strategies are two key variables in language learning. Linguists say that three types of language learners exist – kinetic, visual and auditory. I personally believe that rather than putting learners in a specific category, learning a foreign language should be a combination of all three plus what scholars say.
Each person has a particular way of learning something. A person might be more inclined to learn through auditory means, but could still be visually and kinetically stimulated and vice-versa.
We have to consider motivation – the reason why one needs to learn a new language. I think this has a bearing with how successful a learner will be, because the interest is there, unless, the reason for learning is to pass a school requirement. Still, the person will have that impetus to at least make the effort to understand and audibly and/or orally pass an exam to get a good grade.
From the motivation, then a student must apply the learning style he or she is most comfortable with. It could either be visual, auditory or analytic. You can listen to recordings – lessons or other content in the foreign language. You can do grammar, or you can use flashcards, and combine this with the learning strategies you want to adopt. The learning strategy is defined as the method you want to use to learn the language. You can either learn the language on your own, find a learning partner or enroll in a language class on site or online.
If you’re a visual student, you want to read and are better motivated by visual stimulation. An auditory student learns better from lectures, oral directions and conversations. Tactile and kinaesthetic students are stimulated by tangible objects such as flashcards, collages and things that involve a lot of movement. Culture plays a role, too. Hispanic language students are often auditory, while Korean students prefer to learn visually. The Japanese, on the other hand are not auditory learners.
Language learning tips
1. Divide learning material into smaller chunks. Taking in smaller bits of information is one of the excellent ways to learn. Your brain is one huge information storage. You can add information a little bit at a time. Your brain processes the information, allowing you to remember it, then stores it away. This process will be repeated several times until you’ve got the entire information stored. Your mind will then link, collate and mutually relate the new information to what you’ve already learned.
2. Combine your learning approaches. Some people say that the best way to learn a language is by going to the country where it is spoken. Sure, it’s a good way to learn, if you have the means to do so. Otherwise, you can learn the language naturally by purchasing a language immersion course, speaking to native speakers and methodically by joining a traditional language class.
3. Make a dictionary your indispensable companion. This might pose some inconvenience because it means you have to carry a bag wherever you go. If you’re traveling, it is an informal way to learn by identifying things you see and hear along the way in another language. But it is actually effective. Learning how to say the things you are familiar with in another language allows you to link the object and the word, forcing you to think in another language. Be sure to carry a notebook with you (and a pen) as well, so you can record the new words that you’ve learned.
4. Watch foreign films. One effective way of learning a new language is to watch foreign films. There are several movie/drama streaming websites. Do not wait for subtitles to be available. Watch the movie or the drama episodes raw, which means you will be forced to make the effort to listen and understand parts of the video. Do you know why watching them raw is better? It’s because if there are subtitles available, you’ll be tempted to turn the subtitles on.
5. Read. There are so many ways to get foreign literature today, particularly online. Try to read newspapers or magazines or even comic books. The latter are good source materials because they are presented in a conversational manner. You can start with comic books before moving on to magazines and newspapers. Of course, have your handy dictionary and notebook with you. If you want to read offline, choose a good book or poetry. Magazines and newspapers are constructed to be grammatically correct. When reading poetry or a short story, you’ll also gain practical knowledge and colloquialisms, and study the speech patterns between the characters.
6. Listen. Audio tapes are very good instructional materials as these can help you speak the language better. Initially you might not understand what’s being said, but you can pick up the inflection and the pronunciation, which will help you later.
7. Think in the language you are trying to learn. This is quite difficult but if you have the motivation, this is an effective method. This is also a very important aspect, especially if you’re to speak the language. This forces your mind to translate from your language into another. If you keep at it, you’ll be comfortable and confident when the time comes for you to speak in that language.
There are several more tips than what I enumerated. However, I find that the best approach is to choose a method that you are comfortable with for the most part, such as when learning the basics. But when you want to advance in your language learning, then you have to get out of your comfort zone, which means putting yourself in a situation where you will be required to read, think and speak in the language you are learning, like in tip #7. If you do not do that, you’ll just keep coasting along, studying a bit here and there when you find the time. Often, you’ll forget what you have learned earlier.
I know of some people who were like that. They were enthusiastic at first, eager to learn and raring to go. For a few weeks they kept at it, then their presence in class became less frequent until eventually they never showed up at all. They’ve lost the motivation. They said they found the language too difficult to learn; they do not have a speaking/learning partner; they’re busy; and that they will eventually learn it another time.
What I found effective when studying a foreign language is learning not to be too focused on it. I mean approach it as naturally as you can while being diligent. Practice speaking with your peers to have interactivity and to get feedback. Personal interaction is better than just reading books or listening to recorded conversation. The bit of competition present when you engage in conversation with your peers helps in your language learning. You can even try to find online friends to help you along. Inject fun into your learning routine. What are your interests? If you like listening to music, download some in the language. Repeating the lyrics is a good way to learn. You can also do language puzzles.
Stressing over your learning progress is detrimental. Know that it is all right to make mistakes, as this can help you to learn. Most of all, take your time. Remember that you’ve learned to speak your native tongue since you were a child, so it will also take time (but not a lifetime) to learn a new language. Break your lessons into smaller pieces and allot the time you will use for your language lessons each week, but do keep to your routine. Best of all, think of the time when you’ll be fluent in the language, which is your end goal in the first place.