Learning a language is hard. But there’s no reason to make it harder for ourselves.
Unfortunately, many of us seem to do just that. We waste a lot of time on learning methods that don’t work as well as they should.
What’s more, there are many things that we don’t do that we should. As a teacher, I’ve noticed that a lot of English language learners avoid the methods that are really helpful when learning English as a foreign language. These ideas are useful for any other language, too. Here are 3 things related to learning a language that everyone should be doing.
- Keep a Learning Journal
A learning journal is where you write down and keep track of what you’ve learned, what you need to learn and what you’re doing to learn it. It doesn’t have to be a paper journal- a word processor or even spreadsheet file will work just fine, too.
I like to write in mine every day, but other people might find it more useful to write in it once a week, twice a week, whatever.
I write about what I have learned that day in my target language (Bulgarian), how I learned it and what I need/want to study next. I also write down what methods I used to study, and how I might improve them next time. (we actually have a course on how to improve study methods like that, which you can find here (insert link).
Learning Journals are great because it keeps you focused on learning your target language, so you don’t slip and forget to practise. Having to write “I didn’t learn anything today” in my journal makes me motivated to go out and try to learn twice as much tomorrow!
They’re also useful to see how your study methods are working and how you can improve them. If you’re working with a teacher, you can even show it to them so they can help you even further.
- Speak Every Day
If you’re not speaking in English (or whatever your target language is) every day, you’re not making your brain work. Speaking every day forces your mind to make efforts that it isn’t used to making, so you create more and better connections relating to the language you want to speak.
If you have a friend or someone else you can talk to who is a native speaker/ bilingual in the language, that’s perfect! Talk to them every day about as many topics as you can.
If you don’t have anyone around who you can talk to, talk to yourself. Just practising using the language in a normal context- outside of the classroom- is so useful, and it also boosts your confidence when the time comes to actually talk to people in the real world.
Remember: the more time you spend speaking in your target language, the easier it gets.
- Enjoy Yourself!
This is a really important point, but it’s one that so many people forget. As an English teacher, I do my best to make my students enjoy learning English as much as possible. This doesn’t mean making jokes all the time (although a good joke in a classroom is always welcome). Rather, enjoying learning a language means liking and enjoying the process of learning itself.
Learning is wonderful- it’s one of the most amazing things people do in their entire lives, and we get to spend our whole lives doing it. But if you don’t enjoy learning, what you’re really doing is teaching yourself to hate it.
Just think about it for a moment. Are you more productive when you feel forced to do work, or when you really want to do it?
That’s why enjoying learning English is vital if you want to get really good at it.