Have you ever wondered why the methods you use to learn a language just don’t seem to work?
Have you ever had someone tell you they learned a language a certain way and when you tried, you just couldn’t made any progress?
Do you think you are the kind of person who can’t pick up languages easily?
I have good news for you. There are a thousand ways to learn a language. Anyone can learn a language. What works best for you really just depends on you.
There are four different styles of learning, known as VARK (Visual, Aural, Reading/writing, Kinesthetic). If you are not familiar with them, you can find out some more information here, and then I recommend doing this questionnaire to figure out which is your learning style. I’ve also mentioned the learning styles in my post about why you cannot learn a language fast.
In short, if you are aware of which type of learner you are, you will be able to learn much more efficiently (not just languages, but anything!).
There are few learners who are concretely ‘one’ style of learner. You might find that a combination of more than one learning style works for you. The idea is to learn in the way that works for you, not what your teacher, friend or anyone else thinks will work.
These learning styles, when translated as language learning methods also roughly correlate to the four tiers of language learning: reading, listening, writing and speaking. If you are looking to improve a certain skill in your target language, looking at the learning style correlating to the skill you’re working on is a good way to start looking for ideas to improve.
Once you’ve figured out which learner you are, here are some creative ways to learn your language:
Visual Language Learning Methods:
Watching videos and using pictures are the main ways a visual language learner will retain information.
- Make post-it notes for the names of household items in your target language and stick them on each item around your home. If you can, do the same with school or office items.
- Look up Youtube videos explaining grammatical concepts and native expressions
- Write vocab lists and draw pictures corresponding to each item
- Make colourful charts reminding you of vocabulary or grammatical structures and stick them on your bedroom wall, on the back of your toilet door, or anywhere you often look at
- Watch movies or TV shows with subtitles in your target language
- Watch the news in your target language
- Use post-it notes and highlighters to colour-code your study notes
Recommended language learning programme: Fluent U
Fluent U uses video-based learning. From cartoons, to news stories to music videos, you can learn by watching short clips in your target language, and you can choose if you want subtitles or not depending on your level.
Aural Language Learning Methods:
Listening to music and observing native speakers are the key learning points for aural language learners.
- Watch movies or TV shows in your target language with subtitles in your native language (until you get to an advanced level where you don’t need subtitles)
- Listen to podcasts. Pay attention to new words and find out their meanings. Listen at a slow speed at first and then when you get used to them, speed up to a natural speed.
- Listen to music. Look up the lyrics to songs that you like. Listen to the song again until you understand all the words. Sing out loud
- Listen to native speakers talk naturally and take note of the expressions they use and the way they pronounce words. If you can’t be around native speakers in real life, watch documentaries or the news in your target language so you can hear people speaking. (This was a big part of how I learned a language fluently).
- Record yourself speaking or saying words and listen to them or have a native speaker critique them. Record again until it is right. Listen to yourself on repeat. Keep a record of your progress over time.
- Make up or find mnemonics, acronyms or songs to memorise words or structures and repeat them to yourself or listen to them on repeat
- Listen to audio books or read books aloud.
Recommended language learning programme: Pimsleur
Pimsleur is a primarily audio-focused language learning software. Learn by listening to words and phrases and repeating them.
Read/write Language Learning Methods:
Read/write language learners work best with thorough explanations and understanding the reasons why things are the way they are.
- Write out vocabulary lists and their translations in your native (or bridging) language. Cover the translations and write the list again to see how many you can remember. Write the list over and over until you have remembered all the words
- Chat to native speakers via messaging apps online. Look up any new words that come up in the conversation
- Write a diary in your target language. Look up words or expressions when you don’t know how to explain yourself. Bonus points if you can get a native speaker to correct your writing
- Read novels in your target language. Start from books targeted at children and work your way up to more complicated stories.
- Read the news in your target language
- Get a grammar textbook or find a good website which explains the grammar of your target language. Do exercises and self correct your mistakes
- Get a pen pal from your target language and write letters to each other
Recommended language learning programme: Rocket Languages
Rocket languages works by systematically teaching you grammar with written explanations and giving you exercises to practise. It is ideal for the type of learner that thrives reading and writing.
Kinesthetic Language Learning Methods:
Kinesthetic language learners will thrive travelling to the country where the target language is spoken or being immersed in the language.
- Have face-to-face or video call conversations with native speakers. Make sure to always request that people correct your mistakes when you talk
- Practise doing practical things such as ordering food or buying train tickets in your target language
- Join a class or a club in your city where the language of instruction is your target language
- Use the language whenever you need to do something in day-to-day life. Need to look up a new recipe or find out information about a certain topic? Bored and need entertainment? Search for whatever you’re after in your native language and use it whenever practicable
- Put your phone, computer and social media accounts in your target language
- Try to make friends with native speakers and do activities you enjoy with them – whether that be hiking, partying or sharing a meal
Recommended language learning programme: MosaLingua
MosaLingua is based on scientific evidence about the best way to memorise information, and keeps your brain active, doing different activities to learn and remember vocabulary.
If you’ve been stuck on where to go next to continue improving your foreign language abilities, hopefully this post has inspired you with a few more ideas to keep your language learning on track.
➢ Which learning style are you? Which of the language learning methods suggested works best for you?
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