Learning a language isn’t just about understanding sounds and symbols. To learn a language, any new foreign language, you need passion, will power and commitment.
Without these crucial traits your language learning will fall flat on its face. We all know how easy it is to make excuses during self study. There’s washing to be done, you could bake a cake, go to the shops, perhaps even hit the gym.
First have to decide WHY you want to learn your language. Is it because you want to visit the country, do you want to increase your cognitive skills, maybe you want to get a job that requires you to be bilingual, or perhaps you just love the culture surrounding the language. Whatever it is, know it, highlight it, and live it.
Next you need to understand your goals. Do you want to be able to speak, read and write? To what level? Conversational, business, fluent? And in what time frame – months, years, before a certain date?
Once you understand your drive and know your goals you can start formulating a plan of action, so you can structure and organise how you are going to reach them.
Creating Your Plan
Having a plan will eliminate the confusion of where to start, what to do next or what has already been done. Your plan can clarify your priorities first and then build the plan around this so you know what is getting covered and when. This takes away the stress and time loss of deciding each day what needs to be done.
Not only this but if you manage to set strict times and mini goals to complete either by day or week then it should keep you motivated and always moving forward to complete each goal.
Having a plan also means you will be studying consistently and regularly which is vital for learning a new language as repetition is key.
It allows you to make time for your other hobbies and activities and have its own dedicated time slot to encourage you not to miss it.
Now let’s look at the elements of your plan.
First you need to prioritise what you want to learn.
As mentioned before you will have goals of what is most important to learn whether it’s speaking, reading or writing, or all three. Is it for conversations, travel or business?
Take a look at our blog on Which Languages Should You Learn for International Business in 2018?
Once this is decided you need to do research to find out what the process of learning each of these will be.
E.g For Japanese learning it is best to start with learning Hiragana, then moving onto Katakana, then Kanji.
Make sure you identify which skill or activity you are working on for that day, week, or month and plan how long you will be spending or need to spend on each activity. Then at the end of the week or month have a goal you wanted to complete and test yourself to see if you have reached it.
Find a list of great resources and discover the way you learn best.
This can either be from textbooks, online, in games or apps, audio etc. Luckily the internet is full of them and there is an abundance of free resources but some might also be paid.
See what is out there and what best suits the area of the language you want to cover.
Write down your daily schedule that cannot be altered. E.g work hours, travelling hours, other hobbies such as sport practice, taking care of the kids etc.
Once this is done you can see where you have your spare time. Most commonly this will either be in the morning, or later in the afternoon or evening. Depending on what sort of person you are (night owl or early riser) you can decide where would be best to slot in your study.
The most commonly agreed time to dedicate to learning something new is in 30 minutes per day. But if you have a goal, or a timeline you want to match then you can of course extend this. However, you don’t want to over do it as your brain can only retain so much information at a time.
Just be realistic with your times. 10 minutes is still better than none.
Do not forget to add in breaks! Along with your stop and start times for each activity you should add in a 5 minute break here and there for getting up and walking around or having a snack. Breaks are also great for motivation.
Check out this great example of a sample study plan from HowToLanguages.com for learning Russian 2 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Immerse Yourself In The Learning
A great way to stay motivated, learn more about the culture of the language you are learning as well as developing the language skills, is to do immersive learning.
This is where you vary your activities from academic style learning to more engaging and entertaining methods and mediums.
- Listen to the current news in your new language
- Watch cartoons
- Play language based games on your device
- Read story books
- Listen to their music
- Watch the original version of a foreign film with subtitles
- Read their comics
- Have a conversation with someone who is fluent
- Play scrabble
It is so important to enjoy learning so you stick at it, so don’t be afraid to mix things up to find out what works best for you.
There are other ways to keep motivated too, just go back to the reason why you want to learn the language and expand on this. Want to visit the country? Create a vision board of your trip and add to it the more you learn. Want to apply for a job that requires you to be bilingual, do regular tests to see how you are developing.
Learning a language isn’t always going to be easy, but you should always enjoy doing it.
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