12 hacks to ease your foreign language learning

12 hacks to ease your foreign language learning

Simplify your learning process and keep motivated to master that foreign language you've been battling with. Working on your language skills can take a lot of hard work, but once you get it, speaking a second language can improve your multitasking abilities and provide all kinds of rewards, from personal achievements to professional promotions. So leave the frustration aside and check out this list of simple language learning hacks:

1. Have a 'Word of the Day'.

You can get overwhelmed by trying to learn all at once, so keep it simple. You can do this one of two ways:

a) Keep a running list of words you’d like to learn and designate one to be the word of the day.
b) Wait for new words to come up organically in conversation, and then try to use the new word several times.

2. Listen to foreign language radio or TV, even as background noise.

Part of learning to speak a foreign language properly is learning the intonations and rhythms of the words. Try to hear the pacing of the words, how they’re pronounced in different contexts, and what the different intonations are in different emotional states. By listening to the language in the background you can pick up information on how the language is spoken in a variety of situations.

3. Look up words you don’t know in a monolingual dictionary.

Translating concepts can be tricky since direct and accurate translations don't always exist. Even Google Translate and Wordreference can get lost in translation. By looking words up in a monolingual dictionary, you can make sure that the word or phrase you choose actually means what you think it does.

4. Speak the language as much as you can.

The best way to learn how to speak a language is to actually speak it, so don't get stuck in the "not-good-enough" mindset 'cause your speaking won't get better if you don't actually do it. Force yourself to speak and make an effort to communicate with native speakers or higher-level speakers.

5. Start with high frequency words and phrases.

For most languages, there are 300 to 500 words that make up the bulk of the written and spoken language. Therefore, you should start by learning those words. For example, the 10 most common written words in English are:

the /  of  / and / a / to / in / is / you / that / it

In addition, if you’re about to take a trip to a country that speaks your target language, you can add Dr. Paul Nation’s Survival Travel Vocabulary to the list of words and phrases that you’re going to learn first. 

6. When you make a mistake, immediately try to correct yourself.

If you misspeak, and catch your mistake, immediately correct yourself by repeating the sentence correctly. It will help you program your brain to avoid making the same mistake again, and solidify the grammar rules in your mind.

7. Focus on language content that is relevant to you.

You’re more likely to learn vocabulary that’s related to your interests, than you are to learn stuff that you don’t care about. If you don't see how what you're learning can be applied, your brain will filter out the information.

8. Carry around a notebook and write down new words you learn.

Keep a record of all the new words you catch from a conversation, this way you can assemble lists of useful vocabulary and have a direct reference of the context it was used. It can be overwhelming at the beginning since you'll be learning new things all the time, but will become harder in later stages. As long as you use the language, you'll always be progressing.

9. Use flash cards.

You can improve your recall vocabulary with the old-fashioned (but efficient) index cards method. Take a stack of cards and, on each one, write a word that you’re trying to remember on one side, and the English translation on the other. Then, every so often, look through your flashcards.

10. Get creative.

You can immerse yourself in your target language (TL) by approaching to it in diverse ways:

- Watch TV series and movies in your TL.
- Read books in your TL (even if you start off with children’s books).
- Listen to music in your TL.
- Frequent restaurants where you can order food in your TL.
- Read newspapers from your TL online.
- Label a few objects in your home with their names in your TL.
- Try making friends with people in your town who speak your TL and hang out with them whenever you can.

11. Use the 'Diglot Weave Technique'.

The diglot weave technique is a vocabulary learning method. It involves inserting foreign words into a sentence of a language you already know. Write them and read them aloud so that the words stick in your mind.

For example: The weasel went for a walk after minuit (midnight in french).

12. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Allow yourself to make mistakes, you are learning! The fear of making mistakes won't take you too far. No one speaks a new language perfectly from the get-go. You need to relax and move forward, one step at a time.


Sources: Lifehack and Daring to live fully

Published on: March 2016
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