5 Tips for Learning a Language! Alternative methods to improve your language skills

Through teaching English and learning a new language myself, I have chosen 5 of my favourite methods for learning a language that you can apply to your own studies! I fully support textbooks and exam material but if you’re looking for something a little bit different, read on…

· Find material that interests you.

There’s nothing worse than struggling through a text on something you have no interest in when you’d much rather be reading an interview with your favourite actor or artist, or even a news article on the discovery of a new underwater species! So, take a trip to your second hand bookshop, trawl the Internet or search on YouTube to find something that you can get your teeth into. You will find that you are able to retain and learn so much more about the language by reading, listening to or watching something that you have genuine interest in. If you’re watching or listening to something play it again if you don’t understand everything. It is also a good idea to make notes!

· Word Maps

Word maps are a great way to learn new vocabulary on a topic or revise an old one. Start with the main topic word e.g. travel, work, transport, and write it in the middle of your paper. I’m going to demonstrate with a basic example: ‘House’. Branching off from ‘House’ I’m going to list all of the rooms of the house e.g. Bathroom. Branching off from ‘Bathroom’ I’m going to list all of the things you find in the bathroom. If you like, you can colour-code different sub-topics to make them stand out on the paper more. Soon, you’ll have dozens of mind maps and a vast vocabulary mind-bank! You can write your word maps using books to help you or even better, from memory.

· Make up your own examples

I learnt this the hard way whilst studying Spanish. When learning a tough new grammar point it is not enough to simply write down the rules, the formation and when to use it. By writing your own examples (try writing examples in reference to your own life), you’re actively thinking about when you can use such things in conversation and which situation, e.g. writing, speaking etc. and you will start to encounter it more and more and be able to use it successfully in day-to-day life!

· Note down ‘mysterious’ common phrases and idioms

I’m sure there are many things you hear native speakers say in everyday conversations that you might not know the meaning of or are unsure of when to use them. I’ve found that writing these phrases down is incredibly useful especially if there isn’t an appropriate moment to ask at the time. If you don’t have the opportunity to hear native speakers there are many other options available such as the radio, television series, movies, documentaries, or real-life dramas where you can pick up common phrases.

· What do you think?

This is a great task to practise with a friend, fellow language-learning buddy or even your English teacher. I like to scroll through the news section and pick out certain articles that I find interesting and present the topic to someone I know. This is linked to my first point about finding something in another language that you have genuine interest in, and this is a great way to generate conversation and debate about new and exciting current topics. You don’t even have to refer back to the article; you can just use it as a starting point. Relax and let the conversation flow!

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