General Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

If you want to learn a new language, then there are definitely a few tried and true strategies and tips that you can take advantage of to enhance your success and even have a bit more fun in the process!

Attending in class
Even if you are not well prepared, class time is your primary opportunity for practice. The more you speak the language, the easier it will become. There’s no way to make up oral participation and practice by reading the book.

Daily learning
Athletes and musicians know the importance of practice. You also must practise a foreign language every day. Be realistic in your expectations: learning a new language takes time and effort. You will not be able to speak fluently after only one semester, but you will know a lot more and be more proficient than if you had not invested the time and effort. A foreign language course is different from any other course you may take. Language learning is cumulative: Study 1 or 2 hours for every class hour to be a successful language learner.

Learning new vocabulary
Make flash cards. Write the foreign word on one side of each card and the target language on the other. Learn the gender of all nouns (masculine or feminine) as you go. The best way to learn vocabulary for keeps is to practise using it right away.

Getting a good dictionary
Once you get serious about learning a foreign language, you need to invest in a decent dictionary (40,000 entries or more). Learn how to use it! Try not to think too literally and don’t just accept the first translation you see. Just as in English, most words can mean more than one thing.

Grammar, Grammar, Grammar
Grammar is the skeleton of a language, its basic structure: you must learn it. Learn the basic grammar terminology – know what verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, direct objects are. When you learn new verb conjugations, practise writing them out in full – learn them like they are new vocabulary, and ensure you know their meaning and how to spell them. This is especially true for irregular verbs.

Facing with mistakes
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while participating in class, but learn from the mistakes that you do make. Your first objective is to communicate, not to speak perfectly. Remember that no matter how many mistakes you make, wherever you go in the world your sincere attempts to communicate in the native language of the country you visit will almost always be appreciated.

Studying out loud
Talk or read aloud while you are studying. You double the efficiency of your learning ability if you say the words while reading them. Studying out loud also will improve your pronunciation, your listening skills, your retention, your self-confidence, and it really doesn’t take much longer.

Understanding how you learn
If you learn better orally, use listening tapes, CDs or videos to help you learn, and speak up as often as possible. If you are a visual learner, focus more on the textbook, make flashcards, take notes in class and write in the target language regularly.

Practicing outside of class
Join a language club, watch a movie on SBS or read a newspaper or magazine in the language you are trying to learn. Look up foreign-language websites – many are suggested in your text. Practise with a foreign student who wants your help to learn language or with another class member.

Thinking in a foreign language.
Incorporating a new language into your lifestyle entails functioning in that language without translating everything from your native language. Translating is time-consuming and ineffective in real-life language exchanges. You can start by periodically naming the things that you see during your daily activities. For example, when you shop, name the items that you buy. Silently practise small talk and imagine conversations with others.