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The first step of learning any language effectively is making a commitment to the process. How often have you started a new hobby, only to drop it a few weeks later?
Learning a language, like anything, takes time and dedication. We believe anyone can do it if they really want to! Here are our top ten tips for making the progress you want when learning English.
1.Identify why you're learning
The first thing any learner needs to do is understand the reason behind your desire to study another language. Do you need it for work? Is it for your next holiday? Will it be helpful for your studies? Is it just a personal challenge? These are all great reasons, and identifying the purpose will really help you to stay on track.
If there is no specific reason, try and find an end goal to work towards. This could be an exam, a holiday or even just updating your CV.
2.Identify what you’ll actually need- grammar, speaking, writing?
Once you’ve decided why you’ve made this decision, you need to think about it in even more depth. “Learning another language” is quite vague and sets you up to fail… Do you want to learn to be able write emails to your colleagues at work? Do you need it to enter your chosen university course? Do you want to go on holiday and order yourself a beer?
It’s really important to understand what skills you’ll need most (writing, speaking, listening or reading) as well what your target level is. The goal of “learning another language” can easily be replaced with “I want to be able to comfortably talk to my colleagues in English” or “I just need to be able to order food and drink when I’m travelling”.
By setting yourself goals with clear outcomes, you’ll be able to track your progress much more effectively!
3.Be realistic with your time
It takes time and patience to learn a language, and progress isn’t always linear. This can be very frustrating, but make sure you give yourself enough time to study effectively. If you want to go from beginner to advanced in three months, be prepared for a shock!
Your classes will be fantastic sources of vocabulary and grammar, as well as providing you with strategies to improve the different skills, but what you do after your lessons is also really important. Allocate some time for self-study, and also make sure that you are resting enough. Students with very ambitious language goals sometimes forget the importance of sleep when processing new information and committing things to memory. A good night’s sleep can be just as important as a long study session towards your progress.
4.Think about how will you be able to practise actively
Self-study and class time are both important parts of learning languages, but what about active practice? Try and find ways of connecting with people who want to also practice their active language skills. Our social programme activities (both face-to-face and online) are excellent ways to use the language from your classes to really communicate. You can also look for language exchange opportunities- there are so many online communities for language learners that even a global pandemic doesn’t need to slow your progress 😊
5.Find resources which you love
Studying grammar and vocabulary is important, but so is finding real life usage of the language you’re studying. Find TV series and films that you love in your target language. Streaming services often have the option of changing the audio to a different language, so if you’re a fan of cartoons or programmes and films that are normally dubbed in your mother tongue, try switching to English. You can then kick back and relax, knowing that you’re actually helping your skills to progress without even noticing!
6.Get the right support
Our schools are here to help you. When you’re preparing to study, think carefully about your language learning goals and make sure to tell the Academic Teams in your school when you start studying with us. This will mean we can do our best to meet your academic needs and can advise your teacher of any particular focus you might have. Our teachers want to see all of our students make great progress, so ask questions when you don’t understand and make sure to always try your hardest in class! This way your teachers will be able to really make sure their classes will help you to make the best possible progress.
7.Little and often
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and this is the best way to really start yourself on an effective language learning journey. Before starting your course with us, look at what’s out there to start this learning habit. There are plenty of apps which encourage you to do just 15 minutes of study a day. These are fabulous at helping to build your vocabulary and confidence before arriving at your school. Try to keep up the habit, and this will help you to recycle all of the language you encounter in your day-to-day learning.
These will also help when your language course ends, but you want to keep your skills active. Remember a little everyday will keep language alive in your memory, so really think of ways to build this into your new routine.
8.Don’t be shy
A big problem for language learners is finding ways of practising when you’re in your home country, either before or after your language course. Think about all the ways in which you can practise- are there any tourist areas in your city? Any bars or clubs where English is spoken by many people? Do you have any friends who are also trying to improve their language skills? Get together and have an “English night” when the whole evening takes place in English. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become and the more you will be able to help each other.
Effective language learners are inquisitive. When you’re studying, either in class or at home, look for patterns and connections, and if you think you identify one, check with your teacher. If something is unclear, ASK questions! Don’t think it’s silly; I always tell my students “any question is a good question”! If you’ve finished your course, use the internet to try and find the answer. There are many forums for language learners, and I’ve always found people to be surprisingly helpful.
10.Find what works for you and keep going!
If writing things down helps for you to remember things, do it. If singing helps your pronunciation, do it. If saying the word out loud ten times helps your memory, do it! We all learn in different ways, and at different speeds. The most important thing is to try different ways, and question how effective these strategies are for you.
When I was learning Portuguese, I labelled my entire bedroom with sticky notes with the object’s name and would test myself on the words before going to bed. It might have looked crazy to my housemates, but I could remember the words within a month. My bedroom was also quite colourful for a while!
Good luck with your language learning journey, and remember that it’s exactly that- a journey! However important the end destination is, getting there can also be really fun 😊