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Some people have a harder time learning a foreign language than others, but often it’s just the wrong approach. Find out which mistakes to avoid and how to learn a language more effectively with these 10 tips .
1. Pay attention to how you learn and find your method
There is no safe and valid method of study for everyone. To achieve maximum results when studying a foreign language (but also any other subject), it is important that you are aware of your learning style .
Are you a “global” person, who tends to pay more attention to the ” overview ” of things? Or “analytic,” meaning that it needs to analyze the individual details and the various rules of everything you learn? And then do you prefer to memorize words, images or movements? listen or read ?
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If you learn more when you listen , for example, it will be easier to memorize rules or new words with nursery rhymes or songs , because in this case it stimulates the memory linked to hearing. On the contrary, if you need to read to understand what you are studying, sketches, summaries and many readings can help you. If you have a good photographic memory , different colors can help you remember different information.
Pay attention to the way you learn and try to apply the strategies that are most effective for you. If you think that listening does not help you much, instead of watching TV series in a foreign language, it is better to read a book in the original language . Without completely neglecting one or the other language skills, but favoring those that allow you to understand more quickly how the language you are studying works.
2. Don’t start with grammar
Unless it is essential to your learning style , starting with grammar is hardly the best way to learn a language. It is certainly useful, but it must be consulted with judgment.
Our brain works in such a way as to decipher all information initially in a global sense , then analytically. This means that if you read a text, first your brain will understand what you are talking about and only then will it analyze the individual sentences, words and linguistic structures. If you start with grammar, with analytical rules, you go against the natural functioning of your brain.
If you choose a language manual, then, don’t buy a grammar with exercises except to deepen and reinforce the rules you have already learned in some way. Instead, buy manuals complete with texts to read, listening exercises and interactive online activities.
When you study, then, do not progress according to “grammar rules” (for example, starting from the articles, then the nouns, adjectives, adverbs, the present tense, past tense etc.); rather, he learns according to ” communicative functions ” (e.g. how do I introduce myself? How do I ask for information? How do I explain my tastes? How do I talk about a past event? etc.). The subdivision of grammatical topics by communicative function is now very widespread in the most modern language manuals.
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3. Always learn new words in context
It is useless to memorize a list of words by heart; your brain will tend to have a hard time remembering the meaning of new words if you persist in learning them this way. While creating flashcards can be useful for memorizing words for an exam, it’s even better to insert new words into a sentence , creating a context of use that will help you remember what that precise word is for – and therefore also what it means.
4. Learn without stress
Negative emotions can affect learning slowly , because our brains tend to remember information more easily linked to positive emotions and avoid unpleasant ones.
Don’t set unattainable goals and don’t get down on yourself when you don’t understand something. Try to learn only what really interests you (what are you learning this language for?) And to value every little progress .
Even the partial skills in a foreign language are valid, so they’re demoralizing if you know very well, but you do not know how to express yourself with confidence.
5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
This advice is directly related to the previous one. The fear of making mistakes creates anxiety when we have to speak a foreign language, and as a result we become slow , clumsy and often communicate less than we would be able to.
To understand how to learn a foreign language, you need to understand that mistakes can be your greatest teachers – and this is not a cliché. Being corrected by someone when we speak, for example, can mark our memory: the next time we will remember the correction and we will not make the same mistake.
This is why it is important to try to express yourself even when you are not sure how to say something. Try the same; go for it: the worst that can happen is to find out how to say what you can’t express. If you think about it, it means learning something new right away (if you don’t even try it, you’ll be left with the doubt!).
6. Practice the language as much as possible
Whether in chat or with a language tandem in person or online, practicing the language in real communication can make a difference – even once a week.
Don’t rush though: if you don’t feel ready or you have just started learning the language and you are still in the first few months, respect your period of silence . Even young children don’t learn to speak right away; first it is necessary to listen and understand, only then to formulate sentences.
Search for tandem evenings in your city or on social media, or find a language partner online. If you are looking for a teacher to chat with online, you can use the italki online platform .
7. Better a little every day
It may seem strange to you, but it is “useless” to go crazy on books for three or four hours only once a week: your memory works better if you learn with small daily doses , even if you seem to do little. When you study, start with a quick review of the latest things you have learned and then move on to something new. An hour is more than enough, if you apply yourself consistently!
8. Don’t lose motivation
If you are at the beginning and everything is new and difficult , it can seem demotivating, but you have to remember that it is only a phase . Take your time to familiarize yourself with new sounds, grammar structures, words and perhaps even new alphabets.
Slowly things that seem impossible to you will become natural , almost automatic, and you will be able to learn with more serenity.
If, on the other hand, you are at an advanced language level and it seems to you that you are not improving any more, remember that when you learn something new it is normal to see great progress at the beginning and then less and less , but only because at the beginning you have many more things to learn. .
When the bulk is done, around the B2 / C1 level , it is a work of refinement and refinement , which proceeds slowly, but not for this reason it does not proceed.
9. Find alternative ways to learn
You can fully immerse yourself in the foreign language even in moments of relaxation , helping your brain to become familiar with the language. For example with apps , podcasts or audiobooks to fill the dead moments, or watching TV series and films in the original language to relax at the end of the day
Of course, if you can, travel. Go to the country where the language you want to learn is spoken, no matter if for tourism , a study holiday , an Erasmus , volunteering , an internship or even to work .
Clearly, the longer you stay there, the greater the possibility of learning the language in the most spontaneous and effective way, that is, using it every day for everything. But be careful: if you surround yourself with Italian friends, everything will be more difficult!