How to learn a language succesfully?

31 May 2017
door Regina Coeli

Two of the most frequent questions we get at Regina Coeli are: Can you really learn a language proficiently from scratch in a week? And, how do I maintain and continue to improve my language skills? 

The answer to the first question is ‘no'. Even children, who are the most intuitive language learners, need years of constant practice and of making mistakes to become proficient. Admittedly, learning a language as a child is different to learning it as an adult. However, like any other skill, such as playing the piano or honing your golf swing, it takes years of practice: ideally about 10,000 hours to become really good at something.

So, what can you do to become successful at learning another language? In order to help you on your way, We’ve adapted some of Richard St John’s Ted talk

1. Set long term goals, break them down into manageable ones and focus

English has over one million words. It’s impossible to learn all one million of them, so focus on the words and phrases you really need in the short term. Once you’ve learnt those, continue to expand. For example, if you need vocabulary to describe your company, start by learning vocabulary to do with the company’s organizational structure. Then learn vocabulary about your company’s products. By breaking down your learning goals into smaller ones, psychologically, it becomes more manageable and you are more likely to continue learning.

2. Persist and work hard

Like anything in life, you have to persist through the self doubt and the criticism. Continue working on your skill at regular intervals. 

3. Push yourself

Put yourself in a foreign language situation that you are deliberately uncomfortable with at least once a week, fortnight or month. If you have to give presentations in English this year, in your diary, write down the number you want to give and when you want to give them. (Research has shown that writing down your specific goals with a specific time in mind, makes it more likely for you to achieve them.)

4. Create a routine

Just like doing sport, it’s easier if you have a routine for learning. Set aside some time every day, preferably at the beginning of the day, so you get it out of the way.

5. Learn in short intervals

Linked to the previous principle, learn in short intervals of 20-30 minutes. A 20-30 minute routine is psychologically easier to deal with than studying a whole hour without a break.

6. Passion: Have fun in what you do

Motivation is the key to learning anything. One way to stay motivated is to have fun and be passionate about what you are learning. So read and listen to items which you are interested in or are relevant to you. Don’t start reading about astrophysics in a different language if you’re not interested in it in your own language. Changing language won’t make it more interesting.

7. Play to your strengths by knowing how you learn

How do you remember information? For example, if you’re attending a presentation, do you take notes (kinesthetic), do you listen intently (auditory) or do you need to read the handouts (visual)? Once you’ve identified your strengths, find material to match your learning style. For example, if you are an auditory learner, listen to the radio. If you a kinesthetic learner, write down new vocabulary when you are listening to a video in English. If you are visual, make drawings associated with a new word.

8. Make silly stories or associations

The brain tends to remember more in terms of associations.

9. Be willing to make mistakes several times and possibly feel like an idiot

Van Gogh said, “Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.” Everybody makes mistakes. Learn to accept that you will make mistakes, that you may offend people when trying to master the language, but remember to learn from them without beating yourself up about making them. Nobody was born speaking perfect English – not even native speakers.

A language boost with a training at Regina Coeli

The Regina Coeli method ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. Our highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation so you can immediately start communicating in the language.

Do you require more information? Please contact us!

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