When choosing a foreign language and how to learn it, most people ask themselves the question: “How to study a foreign language most effectively?”. It is possible to meet a lot of rules and advice on this subject, but for the most part they are quite individual. Therefore, for each person there will be both general and special rules of effective foreign language studying.
The golden rule of learning foreign languages is as follows: “First practice, then theory”. This does not mean that it is necessary to forget about the rules and textbooks, but the practical use of a foreign language has a greater impact on the quality of its learning.
TOP-5 basic rules of effective foreign language studying
But, what kind of practice do we need, and most importantly, how do we start talking if you don’t know anything at all? A few basic rules can be noted.
Rule 1: Listen to information in a foreign language more often
In 2016, a study came out in which linguistic scientists showed that we learn to speak simply by listening. So, simply immersing ourselves in a language is better than cramming words and doing assignments in a textbook. In language learning, practice trumps theory.
According to the theory of Stephen Krashen, the world’s leading linguist, you can only truly learn a language if it is acquired unconsciously through absorption of incoming material. Moreover, in his recent research, he has not found a single polyglot who has learned languages otherwise. That is, everyone who knows many languages is constantly immersed in them, which is a large part of their practice. Of course, they don’t avoid textbooks, but they don’t make them the basis of their learning, either.
Rule 2: Immerse yourself in a foreign language
A big part of the process is experiencing the language. Surround yourself with it so much that your brain is “forced” to learn it.
But how else can you immerse yourself in a language? Well, for example, watch subtitled movies in the language you’re trying to learn. According to a 2016 study, we improve our language skills by 17% this way, but if subtitles are in the native language, the improvement is 0%.
Rule 3: Do imitations
So, most of the time you spend learning a language should be spent immersed in natural speech. But, of course, knowing a language isn’t just about understanding what you’re being told, you also need to be able to speak it yourself, pronunciation is very important. That’s why there’s a second part of practice – try to repeat.
In 2015, a study came out confirming that imitation techniques are the most effective to improve pronunciation, especially for beginners.
Rule 4: Learn new words and phrases all the time
Finally, the third part of the practice is learning theory and memorizing new words. This is an important step, but it is the last one in importance. At this stage, all the techniques of learning languages are involved, many of which can be extremely useful. For example, practice different kinds of exercises at different times of the day and use the interval repetition technique to memorize words. According to a recent study, this is the most effective way to memorize.
Rule 5: Use special apps to learn foreign words
It is important to note that language apps can just help you learn the language, but won’t do it for you. That’s why we advise you to pay attention to flashcard apps – they can really be your vital companion tool in the study of a foreign language.
The Langavia Personal Dictionary app allows you to create extensive language cards that include images, pronunciation, and multiple translations (with context). And all of these cards are conveniently combined into a single dictionary. Memorization of words is arranged on a game basis. You learn the words you’ve added to your personal dictionary through playful practice without cramming or overwhelming yourself. As a result, the words are remembered much better.
TOP-5 learning mistakes you should never make to learn a foreign language effectively
Mistake 1: Learning too many new words at once
It is difficult to remember ALL the words in a foreign language.
Native speakers use an average of 2,000-3,000 words. An adult native English speaker may have tens of thousands of words in their head, but you only need 3,000 to understand most modern English literature.
Also, when you learn a specific list of words by interspersing them with other words, you are unfocusing your attention. Because of the large volume of material, you may lose motivation or your brain may throw out useful words altogether due to overload.
Be careful to focus only on the words you need first. This is the only way you can study the language effectively.
Mistake 2: Learning all grammatical rules at once
Grammar is a must.
Non-native speakers almost always have trouble with grammar (and even native speakers sometimes, too). All those gerunds, tenses, infinitives, and exceptions will help you write articles, research, and emails. Basic grammar is required for effective speaking and writing.
If you want to have a conversation, plan a trip, or understand the basics, don’t stress about it. Trying to learn all grammar rules at once is boring and useless.
Students don’t like grammar and avoid practice. Don’t procrastinate. While learning grammar, watch movies, sports, or music videos in the language you study. Daily use of the language is preferable to cramming the rules.
Some teachers advise starting with full immersion in the language and not reading any textbooks until you’ve mastered the basics. Try it!
Write daily. Write blog articles, diaries, shopping lists, and notes for yourself. This kind of grammar practice helps.
Mistake 3: Forgetting about listening
When we learn a language, we pay excessive attention to vocabulary and grammar. We practice reading, writing, and speaking. But we forget about listening.
Listening is the key to knowing and communicating in a foreign language. A student can speak a foreign language but not perceive a native speaker. Daily listening practice is very important. Watch movies or TV shows, listen to the radio in the language you are learning, play video games, etc.
Mistake 4: Learning purely from textbooks
Learning a language only from textbooks is a mistake. A textbook teaches you the essentials.
For instance, french textbook audio files. They speak decent French, but they’re weird. They read from a student-friendly script. You’ll never hear a native speaker speak like that, but it’s great for learning the basics.
They don’t teach slang, idioms, humor, regional dialects or pop culture at school. Learn the local lingo.
Textbooks are not useless because of this. Modern textbooks have a number of advantages. They are well-designed, contain useful material and a roadmap for learning, give a lot of practice, and usually include audio recordings.
Use them for language learning, but not exclusively.
Mistake 5: Thinking that the language school will teach you the language without your efforts
This is a common mistake when learning a language. “A school will teach you the language without your efforts” means two things:
- pinning all your hopes on the course;
- blaming the course or the teacher if something goes wrong.
A good language teacher can just help you learn a language. Languages cannot be taught by force. Only self-study is beneficial.
If the curriculum at school doesn’t work for you, make up your own. Do it.
Do your homework, study, and don’t stop halfway through. Read and listen to the language every day, speak it, join language exchange groups, make friends with native speakers, etc. Language learning should become a daily routine.
At school, you should only seek support, not complete language learning for you. Control your emotions and be cheerful.
Prepare for tests or don’t take them at all (if you can, of course). Try to speak more if you read and write well but have a strong accent. Teachers can help you with that.
Remember, you are self-taught. This is the only way you can learn the language effectively.
Be independent. Only this kind of learning will help you study a language effectively. Always look for something new for yourself and do not overload yourself with huge amounts of boring information. So study foreign youtube, watch movies with subtitles, go to voice communities like discord and read foreign websites.