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5 things you need to know when learning a language

I've often been asked to give dvice in my three-decade teaching career on how to learn a language more effectively. Here are my top 5 picks:

#1. HAVE A CLEAR GOAL. You cannot imagine how many people start learning a language without a clear objective. They “just like it”. While enjoying it is an important prerequisite for learning, it is not a guarantee for success. What if you get bored after a while? What if it gets too difficult? What if… life gets in the way? It is important to know that ENGLISH IS SIMPLY A TOOL that will allow you to reach a specific goal in life, such as being admitted at university, doing research, landing a new job, receiving a promotion, moving to a new country, writing your own blog in English, promoting your business internationally, expanding your social circle, etc. WHY YOU’RE LEARNING ENGLISH will determine how motivated you are and how successful the outcome will be.

#2. IT TAKES TIME TO LEARN A LANGUAGE. There are no shortcuts! Do not beat yourself up for not being there yet. Be kind to yourself and make room for gradual, CONSISTENT GROWTH. Believe in yourself and be patient. Celebrate your small progresses and only compare yourself… to yourself.

#3. MEMORIZING VOCABULARY from wordlists is not as effective as NOTICING VOCABULARY in context during EXTENSIVE EXPOSURE to naturally occuring language.

Use English to read and listen to things you’re interested in every day. Make language learning MEANINGFUL and RELEVANT. Through English, learn about the world around you. Trust me, in the meantime, you’ll be acquiring a lot of English vocabulary and grammar structures too.

Keep in mind that you need to have seen/heard a new word/expression around ten times before you remember it, so make sure you also REVIEW new items once you write them down.

#4. Being CONSISTENT is more important than being MOTIVATED. There will be days when you won’t feel like studying English (and that’s okay!). On those days, remember that a little bit done on a regular basis creates a habit, and a habit is what produces long-term results.

#5. You CAN, but you DON’T NEED TO be doing the work all by yourself. Having guidance and on-the-spot feedback from a qualified teacher will accelerate the process of learning a language. Can you do it on your own? Certainly, after level B2, you can, but the risk of letting your errors become “fossilized” due to lack of error correction or losing motivation and giving up altogether is practically non-existent if you invest in a professional tutor.

What is the best language learning advice YOU have been given? Let me know in the comments.


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