What NOT to do when learning a language

how not to learn a languageLearning a new language is really exciting when you first start out. Once you start learning the first few phrases and are understood by native speakers, it is a great feeling. As you progress you may start to wonder if you are learning in the best way. Some people develop habits whilst studying a foreign language that do not give the best results. In this blog post we will go through some of the things you should avoid doing when learning a foreign language.

1) Focus on mistakes

Many people that I have taught are really hard on themselves whenever they make even the smallest of mistakes. People who tend to be perfectionists come under this category. Learning a language means making mistakes. Learning a Language Means Making Mistakes. With languages, little mistakes are not so important because normally they do not hinder the overall understanding. Even if you make tiny mistakes, such as adjectives with the wrong ending or missing an “s” if it should be plural, you are still understood just as well as if it was 100% correct. This is the great thing about languages. You can still maintain a conversation and be understood even if you say a sentence full of little mistakes.

2) Translate word for word

Every language is different. Each has its own structure, idioms and certain way of saying things. Sometimes you can translate word for word but not always. If you want to say something in a foreign language you need to be aware of the common structures, the order of the words, the prepositions used with certain verbs to be able to say it correctly in the target language.

3) Rely totally on your teacher

When you take lessons with a tutor or a teacher, you need to realise that the time with them is not enough to learn a language. A good teacher will teach you how to continue learning the language yourself between the lessons. A teacher cannot teach you everything about the language. When I studied Spanish in school and university and even living in Spain, much of the language that I know now, I found out for myself. This was through activities such as keeping a diary, writing to Spanish friends, keeping in touch, watching films, reading Spanish books – whereby often you need to check out words and how to say things yourself. This is the best way to learn.

4) Stick to one resource

If you just use one textbook, one CD, one language learning app you will not only get bored eventually, but you will also limit the language that you acquire. The best thing is to use a variety of resources and styles of language so that you learn both formal and informal language. For example, you might mix intensive learning of grammar with a textbook or online exercises such as StudySpanish.com with more informal learning such as watching a Spanish TV show or film with Spanish subtitles on or skim reading an online magazine of a subject you are interested in such as sport, cooking or music. This way you keep up-to-date with the language used in different contexts.

5) Study when you are not in the mood

When you first start learning a language or even after a few months, you may set yourself a goal such as studying for one hour each evening. What often happens is that you may have a bad day or a busy evening when you just cannot fit in the time or are just too tired to study and take anything in. Instead of forcing yourself to do the hour when you are not feeling like retaining new information, it is much better to miss that evening’s session and come back to it the next evening when you are in the right frame of mind for learning.

6) Only use an app

Language learning apps like Duolingo and Busuu are very popular and highly addictive amongst language learners these days. These apps are really good for learning vocabulary and certain set phrases. However, what a lot of people who have used them for a while have told me is that they do not help them to use the language in the sense of begin able to form their own sentences and to understand how grammar works. Apps are only good up to a certain extent. To learn a language fully you need to mix these up with other methods. Read “Why you CANNOT (and SHOULD NOT) learn foreign languages using apps – YouTube

So here you have a summary of how NOT to learn a language. Hopefully you will know to avoid these things if you are planning to start learning a language soon or maybe you are already learning a language and after reading this have found some of these familiar!

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