Updated: May 14
Tips for everyone wishing to learn or maintain a language
from my own personal experience!
Διαβάστε το άρθρο στα ελληνικά εδώ: Συμβουλές για το πως να μάθετε μία ξένη γλώσσα
Learning a language is not a simple #task. It is not as difficult as some think but also not as easy as some consider it. My mother tongue is #Greek, I also speak #English, #German, #French, and I am currently learning #Russian. Along the following lines, I will give you some #tips on how to learn or maintain a language effectively based on my own experience and the methods and ways I have personally adopted and I am still using to learn and/or maintain a language.
Before I start, I would like to clarify the following: You never really stop learning a language, language learning never stops, it is a #lifelong learning process, which will change you as a person all the way through. Remember this!
“A different language is a different vision of life”.
1) Have a clear goal.
This might sound a bit cliché but it is the absolute truth. If you really want to learn a #language for a specific purpose (not just for fun), you really need to remind yourself of this specific #purpose regularly. That way you will be able to determine what level you want/need to reach in that language. For #example, I started learning German at school when I was 12 years old; I had to choose a foreign language on the first three years of High School. I remember back then finding it difficult and I was not sure whether I wanted to carry on with the language or not.
As time passed, I have slowly became aware of my #love for languages and the fact that I was seeing #progress and I was able to #communicate with #native speakers motivated me to carry on. I then decided that I wanted to study in a German-speaking country. From that moment onwards, I tried to immerse myself in the language and #culture to be able to achieve my goal. I had to achieve my #goal!
#Remember that each one of us has different goals and purpose, which means a different #approach to language learning. For example, since I wanted to pursue a #career as a translator and interpreter, my language #skills required a different level compared to someone who worked with tourists and only needed to communicate effectively in their language. Define your goal!
2) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! This is a golden rule.
When I was a student in Austria, I remember telling my Austrian friends to correct me every time I was telling or pronouncing something wrongly. I had a small #notepad and I was noting everything down. I was noting everything that impressed me or thought was #useful. I was going through my notepad at the end of the day. It worked!
Don’t be afraid to make #mistakes even if you are talking to strangers, they know that this is not your mother tongue and you are making an #effort to speak to them in their language. Don’t discourage yourself even if you find people that won’t appreciate your effort. Always remember that, talking a foreign language you have learnt or are currently learning, having put a lot of effort and #commitment to it, is something to be appreciated and as they say “speaking in a foreign #accent is a sign of #bravery”! I never let myself down because I was making mistakes while speaking; I just carried on and on and tried to figure out my mistakes. If I didn’t, how would I be able to get it right the next time?
3) Read and watch something you like! But how watch or read?
Try to watch or read something you like, do not only watch the news in your foreign language. But the thing is, how you watch a #film or read a #book. When I watch a series on Netflix, I am always tempted to write down new #terms from a crime series or a political thriller, since not only I have heard the term, but I have also most probably understood it since I am seeing it taking place in front of my eyes in a real situation, even though it’s actually fictional. Of course, sometimes you just want to lay back and relax but some other time you can try it out. It helps a lot! You are more likely to remember these terms and #vocabulary because you have visualized them, either while watching a series or film on Netflix, or while reading a book.
4) Listen to podcasts and the radio
I personally find podcasts a fantastic way to #practice your #listening comprehension skills, learn new vocabulary and get used to different accents. I mainly use Spotify and Stitcher. The great thing about podcasts is that they are ideal for people, who do not have a lot of free time for language learning, they do not have the time to read or watch something in the language they are learning, or they want to maintain.
You can listen to a #podcast anytime during the day, while driving, cooking, washing etc. That way you make the most of your ‘dead time’. And you don’t need to be 100% focused on what you hear. You will pick up many things for sure, even unconsciously. But you have to do it systematically. Try to do it 2-3 times a week. Most podcasts last between 20-40 minutes and you can find any topic you like! If you are a beginner, you can even find News in slow, where they talk slowly and clearly and help you grasp everything! Type “News in slow –language-”on Spotify and try it out!
I also listen to the radio, mostly on Tunein. It’s great because you can find any radio station on the planet you want and you can search by language, country and region!
5) Language learning apps
I personally use Duolingo for practicing #Russian. I think it’s a fantastic app, which motivates you daily and helps you practice effectively. However, I do not believe that such an application can replace a real #lesson with a #teacher. A #professional in language teaching knows how to deal with your specific #needs, how to explain #grammar and will give you practical tips and methods. These cannot be replaced by such application. I am convinced of it.
Don’t get me wrong, Duolingo is a fantastic way to #practice a language you are learning or you are trying to #maintain and it can be a really helpful additional #tool but it cannot provide you with the education a teacher can give you.
Another fantastic application I am currently exploring is LingQ, created by Steve Kaufmann, Internet polyglot who speaks 17 languages. You can find online lessons, podcasts, listen to texts while reading the text and listening to a native speaker at the same time, you can track your progress and choose anything you want and you like! And it's free!
If you are not flexible with your work and if you cannot attend a regular lesson on a fixed time, why don’t you arrange an online lesson with a teacher? I have continued my Russian lessons with my teacher throughout all the time in quarantine due to Covid-19 and it works absolutely fine!
6) Interact with native speakers
You have surely heard this before. It is absolutely true. As mentioned above, when I was living in Austria and wanted to master the language, I was not only noting down everything I was been told it was wrong but I have also been listening to #conversations between native speakers. I had ‘shadowed’ my friends, without them really knowing or caring, while they were talking on the phone with each other, how would they order something, how would they talk on different occasions and what #expressions they used each time. Then I tried to put into practice the #phrases and #words I had heard from them. I did not memorize things; I took up things because I had heard them in real #life situations.
If you do not live in the #country, where the language is spoken, you can still interact with native speakers in many ways. For example, there are many Facebook groups, where you can find a #tandem partner (someone with whom you can do language exchange meet ups and practice or learn each other’s language). There are also groups of #people coming from the country, where the language is spoken, who live in your country of current residence and meet up regularly in ‘table #discussions’ or #meetings.
I used to do these when I was a student to practice my #French. I was meeting with my Tandem partner every week. Each week we were choosing a #subject to discuss and explain to each other how we express certain things in our languages. We wrote everything down on a ‘protocol’ and went through it after the session. It was not a lesson; it was more of a pleasant #chat with a friend! I also joined some ‘conversation tables’ and ‘language cafes’ where you I had the chance to meet up with native speakers to discuss.
Global Tandem Language Exchange groups
Groups for German-speaking people in Cyprus
7) Visit the country and immerse yourself
When you visit the country, make sure to try to get the most of its people and culture. Go to a supermarket, a flea market, somewhere where you can see how locals interact with each other. Only then will you understand how the language works! A language is shaped by the people who use it!
8) 4 effective ways to learn vocabulary and remember it. They do work!
1. No time? Record yourself!
When I am busy and do not find time to learn the new vocabulary from my previous lesson, I record myself pronouncing the words I want to learn and I am listening to the #recording while driving. I cannot #read or #write, but I can #listen to the words! I have tried it and it works! I did find the time even though my day was crazy!
Flashcards are a fantastic way to learn and #memorize vocabulary in a foreign language, it helps you focus and you can do it anytime from anywhere. You can create your own #lists of terms or find some already available. They are ideal for those with #visual memory. This is an app I use: Quizlet.
3. Facebook groups
There are some great Facebook groups, which post #tables and #pictures with #explanations and #examples of grammar rules and vocabulary. They usually categorize vocabulary and give clear examples, which help you in memorizing and grasping ideas. If you join a group or like a page, you will bump into some really useful stuff while scrolling through your feed.
Learn German with pictures
Deutsch lernen mit Grammatik
Language Advisor: Online material for both students and teachers
4. Make to to-do-lists and shopping lists
Try to write your to-do and shopping lists in the language you are learning or you want to maintain. I do it since many years and it helps! You are forced to come up with #words, which are going to be repeated on your next #list, and that way they will certainly stay in your #mind! Try it out and you’ll see the #results after 1 or 2 weeks!
9) Take lessons
As I already mentioned, in my humble opinion, a lesson with a professional #teacher in language teaching cannot be replaced by any other method. All the above can only #enhance and support your learning. From my own personal #experience, you need to trust your teacher and don’t be afraid to tell if you think that a #method does not work for you. Your teacher will specify your #needs, explain #grammar until you fully grasp it, will give you additional #material depending on your gaps and needs and will #motivate you all the way through your language #journey. I owe a lot to my language teachers for their motivation and #persistence in helping me to #achieve my goals!
ALWAYS have these in mind!
1) Learning and maintaining a language is hard work and requires commitment and consistency!
2) Activities can be merged with your daily activities, you will find the time for it!
3) Everyone has a different purpose and thus a different approach to language learning!
4) Always remember your goal!
5) Practice! Practice! Practice! But make it fun!
6) It’s never too late. NEVER!
7) If there’s a will, there’s a way!
I highly recommend this book. It contains practical tips and strategies for language learning and maintaining for all tastes!
All the above tips are based on my own personal experience with language learning and I invite you to try them. However, each person requires a different method in language learning and not everything works for everyone. You should find your own methods and ways, which work best for you and no one else.