Having a moment of frustration that’s driving you mad? Did you fall off the language learning bandwagon? Do you need some extra motivation? Let’s explore options for those of use who really need to get back into the swing of learning languages again.
Let’s start by taking it back to your original reasons for learning your target language. What did you want to get out of it? What was the main purpose you were trying to get out it? Did you actually really want to learn your target language? If not, why are you still learning? What do you still hope to achieve from learning this language? (or these languages). Discover your why. Is your target language apart of your cultural identity and thus, incredibly important for you to learn? Do you plan on travelling to a country or countries that speak your target language natively? What makes the language fascinating to you?
Example: Many learners of Japanese want to be able to read manga and watch animé without having to rely on English subtitles.
This is the reason why many disingenuous manga and animé fans fail to learn Japanese fluently. Their intentions are only based on a fandom which may end up just being a fad in their life or just a hobby. Now I am not tearing down manga and animé fans but, if that’s their only reason for learning Japanese, then they need to find more genuine reasons for learning Japanese. Such as learning about Japanese culture (outside of the pop culture), being able to have a fluent conversation with native speakers about subjects that matter most to them, travelling around Japan without needing English as a crutch, and so on and so forth. Just saying you want to learn a new language is not enough. You need to TAKE ACTION on it. Do it today. Do it NOW! Do something! ANYTHING! in your target language. You get the idea. Preaching aside. Knowing your why is going to be what moves you forward in your target language. Preaching aside.
Get Organised! Or at least have a regular ritual for it!
This is not as hard you think. It could just be setting the intention every single day to devote to your new language(s) for a specific amount of time day. It doesn’t need to be complex. It could be a simple to do list if you wanted it to be. Just have something that’s going to endure that you’re consistently learning your language. If you need to switch it up here and there, do it! If you need a totally new way to approach it, do it! Don’t keep making excuses as to why you cannot do it. I would recommend getting a time management app such as ClearFocus (if you have an Android smartphone) to help you stay on track. Just saying: “I want to learn French someday.” for example is not going to help you get further in your French (or whatever language you are learning) studies. In fact, if you’ll probably give up or not bother trying because you are genuinely motivated to learn your target languages. Write down the steps you plan on taking to get on the eventually journey to fluency. Don’t make fluency itself as a goal as that is simply too broad.
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Review Flashcards and SRS (Spaced Repetition Systems)
Going over vocabulary and phrases you already learned can help reinforce what you’ve forgotten. There are times where I have learnt so many words and phrases at one time and forgot them shortly after. The reason was no reviewing what I had already learned. Spaced Repetition Systems are great for retaining vocabulary and phrases from the point of almost forgetting them. Memrise is a blessing and a curse for this because of it’s user generated content. You can either find fantastic sets of words and phrases to learn and others not so much. I would definitely recommend using the Memrise app if you’re on the go as well. The LingQ app is great for reviewing not just 1 set of flashcards but 4! That provides you with 4 different ways to strengthen your capacity in the language of your choice. Review what’s relevant to you and what you’re going to use. Rather than random words and phrases that don’t serve a purpose to you. You can also use FlashSticks too!
Practise Your Speaking on Verbling, GoSpeaky, HelloTalk or italki
If you desire to get out there and speak your new language. Why not try booking lessons with tutors/professional teacher on italki or Verbling? You can find someone who matches your goals and needs to help take you to where you want to be. Certain languages won’t have a vast selection to choose from when it comes to tutors and professional teachers. The reason could be either that there aren’t enough people who signed up to teach that language or there aren’t any members that speak that particular language. Even less popular languages like Catalan, Estonian, Finnish, or Indonesian have native speakers who teach on italki. I can’t speak for Verbling as it’s not a site I use but I know it’s a good alternative to italki from what I’ve seen. I personally prefer to use italki. Speaking the language will help you build your spoken fluency in the language and speak it more naturally. Just take the plunge and start speaking the language. Select a tutor or teacher that best fits your needs and go with them.
What’s great about italki is that there’s also a notebook section where you can get your writing corrected as well. So after you’re doing speaking with your tutor or teacher, why not write about something you’re passionate about in the target language and get it corrected? It’s a great way to better express yourself in writing by doing it more naturally. LingQ is also great for this as well.
Write It Out!
What do I mean by this? Make the most out of your written skills in your target language. Post on niche forums, write blog posts, poetry, make grocery lists, etc in your target language. Make it a part of your everyday life. Consistently writing in your target language will help you better express yourself and think in the target language more naturally. You can also visually see where you need to improve your language skills when you get your writing corrected. You can see where you are still lacking. Does what you write come naturally to you? Or do you have to constantly look up everything in the dictionary just express yourself at a basic level. Just write about topics that resonate with you authentically and then get them corrected by native speakers. Because writing alone without corrections isn’t going to help us learn from our myself. Both italki and Lang-8 are great for finding native speakers to correct your work.
Listen While Reading At Same Time
LingQ is fantastic for this. Their content is based on reading and listening at the same time. What I love about LingQ is that you can listen to authentic content while learning new vocabulary and phrases. The lessons are designed to highlight text you don’t know, save it and create a “LingQs” for it. Then you can review what you learned with 4 different sets of flash cards as I mentioned before. You don’t have to be a member of LingQ to do this. You could do this any audiobook as long as it has a transcript go along with it. Listening and reading helps improve your comprehension and what’s being said to you in conversations. This will help you understand native speakers whilst you practise speaking. I found that I was able to understand what was being said to me much easier because I devoted time to reading and listening before I began speaking the language. That way I don’t always have to constantly ask the native speaker to repeat themselves over and over again ad nauseam. Having the listening and speaking comprehension can also boost your writing skills as well.
What do you think? How do you get back on track with learning languages? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!