A lot of people ask me how I learn languages. What are the first steps that I take? Well, in this article I want to tell you how exactly I go about my sweeties.
1. I make sure that I’m motivated and that I like the sound of the language. If this is not the case, I will probably quit, so it’s important to know why you’re learning a language. Maybe I have a friend that speaks the language that I want to learn. This, for example, can be a major boost. Always know why you’re doing something, and then all hell’s going to break loose, in the good sense! 😉
2. I get hold of a language course and listen, read, work through the textbook and do grammar drills. I want to stress the fact that I do little grammar, I prefer listening and speaking.
3. I learn the most basic verbs to get started and conjugate them. For this I usually buy a book where I can find all the conjugations I need. I write them down and combine them with other words I’ve already learned.
4. I listen an awful lot. This helps me to get used to the rhythm of the language. For me that’s a key factor. I learn grammar by listening, mostly, I don’t like strictly grammar based approaches. When we learned our first mother tongue when we were children, did we do grammar exercises? No, we listened and through this activity we learned grammar. I listen to podcasts, YouTubers, interviews and other sources of audio input.
5. I make a lot of mistakes. Now, you might strive for perfection, but in language learning perfection doesn’t exist. There’s always more to learn. I myself strive for perfection, but to reach such a high level you have to make an awful lot of mistakes. It takes years to get to a level of perfection. I’d say after having lived 15 years in a country, you might have reached a native like level, unless you’re a beast and learn extremely quickly. But for most people, it takes years. It is impossible to not make mistakes. Let’s suppose your learning Japanese. Japanese has a completely different word order, so you will automatically make a lot of mistakes, although you’re trying not to. The language you’re learning is not yours yet, you’re not familiar with the grammar rules, so you will end up making mistakes and run across disappointments. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, it will happen and it’s absolutely normal. I try to make as many mistakes as I can. Of course, I don’t want to, but it’s a natural process. The more mistakes you make, the better you’ll get.
6. I revise the words that I’ve learned on a daily basis. I like to use a little book where I write them down and before going to sleep I read them out loud. Not only do I jot down words, no, I always like to see words in a context. So instead of just writing down the raw words, I create sentences. Luca Lampariello, my greatest inspiration, talks about the fact that only uttering or learning just one word is not the way it works. You have to see the word in a context. ,,Context is absolutely king in language learning”, he says. He also stresses the fact that reading is extremely important when it comes to learning a language efficiently. By reading you don’t only focus on one word, no, you see the whole and you’re basically applying the technique I just revealed, which is to see words in a given context. Check out his blog, you can read the article in English and German.
7. When I completed half the language course, or earlier, depending if it’s a language of the same language family as my mother tongue or to a language that I’ve already learned, I start talking to native speakers. At that stage, I’m still working with the book but mostly I spend time talking to native speakers or asking them how you could say this or that. I write down sentences and words that I think are important.
8. I vary my activities. Not only do I learn with books, no, with audio input, watching YouTube videos, watching movies, reading but most importantly I talk to people in their language, even though I make a lot of mistakes. I might also play Habbo in various languages, which is a virtual world, basically like Sims, where you can chat to improve your skills.
That’s it. It’s as simple as it seems. Happy language learning everyone! 🙂