Language Learning Tips for Beginners: How to train your brain 🧠

I spent 5 years learning Spanish in my secondary school and in all honesty, I learnt less than what most children in primary school learn these days. The issue was primarily, that I was not invested, not engaged and the ‘talking at’ method we learnt was just not effective. We also had several teachers over those years, which meant that there was no consistency and truthfully no passion for learning. After school, I didn’t even think about speaking any Spanish for a few years. It was a subject I had taken for granted. That was until I decided to learn for myself.

The love for languages has always been there when I think deeply about it, from a fascination with hieroglyphics as a child, to excitement when were going to be watching a theatre play in French in first school, to studying body language as a teen- I love the way that people communicate and the differences in the way that we do it. I was going to be moving abroad for the first time in my life, so I decided to pick up back on the Spanish and dedicate time to it. In two years of self- taught methods, I admittedly learnt more than I ever learnt in five years of schooling.

What made the difference?

Well first of all, you have to be engaged and invested into learning the language. That means investing time into language learning, making it a part of your daily routine and practicing regularly. You have to have the passion to learn languages in the first place. If you are learning for the sake of learning, I suggest that you find a way to fall in love with the language itself.

How to fall in love with a language?

Expose yourself to a variety of resources. Texts, stories, podcasts, movies and shows in the native language, language games and songs. Creating meaning between visual and audio image with the word- will help to cause a connection in your memory. This is why I can see the effectiveness of flashcards that are used in language learning as a small child, because the word and the picture create a joint meaning.

Repeat a lot, until you remember.

This will help with you getting comfortable with speaking the language and improve your pronunciation. If you learn verbally, then this a great way to also retain information. Learning where to place your tongue when speaking a language is just as important as knowing the word as this will help with the pronunciation of different sounds. If you forget easily, you can make up songs to remember or little rhymes or create a story to connect everything in your mind.

Create memory visual tools

Mind Maps that connect categories to one another are the perfect way to learn word association, strengthening the connection between the words and phrases. You can also put post-its around your house for everyday items or use flashcards and word banks.

Try and learn frequency words

These are the words that are most commonly spoken, which will help you understand the basics of the language and engage at a beginner level. Once you have the basics, you can then develop into more complex words and phrases.

Don’t be afraid to speak and make mistakes often.

One thing I have to overcome when learning a language is embarrassment of getting something wrong. This led me to being able to read Spanish pretty well, but struggling to speak any of the language myself. If you find yourself talking to somebody in the native language you are studying, try not to be embarrassed- you may fail the first couple of times, but once you practice enough you will soon improve your pronunciation and develop proper sentences.

Don’t forget the grammar!

Grammar can be difficult and confusing, it is my least favourite part of language learning because although I loved writing growing up, I never knew where to place a comma or the difference between indefinites and types of verbs. But it’s true that grammar actually teaches us the structure of the language. At first, I would not focus too much on being grammatically correct, but if you want to develop your language into fluency, it will be necessary.

Keep Practicing!

If you stop speaking a language for a long time, then you can definitely end up forgetting some of the information needed to communicate. Admittedly this happened to me, having spent the past couple of years in Cyprus, I did not spend a lot of my time practicing Spanish. When I found myself among some Spanish locals, the language did come back to me to an extent. However, I was no way as strong at communicating or comprehension as previously. So I suggest if you really want to be fluent, keep practicing and always give yourself a little bit of a refresher course when you feel like you have lost some of that ability.

So what’s next for Language Learning and me?

The big focus this year, is developing my swedish language skills- for both career and personal reasons. So, I will definitely be following my own advice when it comes to developing the language. My three main points are:

. Immerse yourself in the language. (Change your netflix language to the practice language, add the keyboard to your phone, spend time in a country where the language is spoken)
. Make mistakes often when speaking: This will only lead to your pronunciation getting better over time and you feeling eventually more confident in speaking the language.
. Keep practicing if you want to be fluent in the language.

Have you got any language learning tips? Let me know down in the comment section.

RESOURCES USEFUL FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING:

1. DUOLINGO: This is a really popular app when it comes to language learning and for good reason. You can learn hundreds of frequency words on this app for several languages, which really helps to increase your overall vocabulary. It also has a free program option, which I think makes it more accessible for those on a budget. The only thing is, the translation is quite literal and it can sound sometimes unnatural speaking in the way that you are taught in countries where the target language is spoken. Overall a great starter application.

2. ROSETTA STONE: This application reminds me a little bit of the TEFL method of learning a language where you are immersed totally in the language, with minimum translation. I think if you rely on visual connection to speak a language, this is a great program and helps you to be focused on the target language and avoid translation errors. It does come at a price, so I think you have to be really invested in learning a language for paying for the subscription.

3. LINGVIST : This app is another subscription-based app to help you learn a language. It focuses on frequency words and also the use of these words within sentences, while getting you to be conscious of grammar.

4. Scholarly workbooks: Having your own workbook can give you tips on grammar, structuring sentences and becoming a better reader of the language. I definitely think it is worth having a language textbook, even for reference.

5. Netflix: Hear me out, Netflix can be used for language learning. Yes you can change your language into the target language, but to learn more effectively with Netflix ensure you watch shows which are made in the target language, rather than audio- du

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