Did you know that our world has about 6,500 languages? Yes, 6500 languages. The 6,500 beautiful languages we have in our world are a gift, and they are here for us to use. But, how many people do we know who can speak more than 2 or 3 languages? You can count them in one hand, right? If you want to look at the pros, learning a foreign language is not just an extra skill to add in your resume, it opens a door to a wide range of possibilities for you and on the lighter end it gives you a perspective about different cultures across the globe. But, how do you go about learning a language. Just picking a book or opting for a course won’t make you proficient in any language. Following a comprehensive, well-rounded and step-by step language learning plan of action helps you build momentum and take ownership of your learning.
Goal is vital.
First thing which you should do as a learner is to honestly determine what your objectives are. Do you want to learn enough to travel? Is it that you want to learn enough to understand various texts (professional documents or leisure reading)? You might want to learn how to speak with friends, co-workers, contacts from different countries? Do you want to be able to teach? Or do you just want to prove to yourself that you can? Your specific approach needs to be customised for the objective(s).
Goals are important, but, having a language learning plan is obligatory.
French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And you can turn your wishes into reality with a successful study plan. Making quantifiable progress and learning to speak like a native are some of the major obstacles you must overcome. Thus, you need a language learning plan which will not only help you cross these hurdles but also keep you motivated at the same time.
Resources, resources and more resources.
Now that you have set your target you need to determine what your resources are. Your resources should cover areas of Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading, Speaking, Writing.
Mother of all resources – The Internet.
The best source of knowledge today is the internet. There are different sites and applications where you can find detailed material and create digital flashcards that fit your language learning plan.
Here are some options you can start with:
→ Rosetta Stone which is an interactive program that teaches users how to speak, write, and read in a new language. Their teaching method is based on how children learn their first language.
→ Pimsleur gives you more options depending on how intensively you want to learn a language. If it’s just to get by on a one-week trip, you can probably make do with their Quick and Simple lessons. For almost native fluency, you’ll need to purchase a course level or two.
→ Online communities – There are many foreign language communities online. Participate in several language groups on Facebook, which give you access to free learning materials.
(For more details on how the internet can help you learn any language click HERE.)
Choose your books, workbooks, and recordings very carefully.
If you’re planning to start and continue your learning from books, work books and recordings, you need to do it very carefully. Most of the language courses on the market today are simply too easy. You need to add something to your language learning plan that is going to make serious demands on your cognitive abilities if you want to improve.
You have to look around, since no one company has everything. Collect multiple courses over time, from different publishers, and work through all of them. Your resources for learning should contain many dialogues for a variety of situations: basic social situations, a visit to the doctor, work, employment, renting a place, music, dating, repairing a vehicle, discussing politics, health, education, current events, etc.
There must be recordings with the materials, because books with no recordings are only half as helpful. You need to hear the dialogues and memorize them. Repeat them aloud. Converse with yourself. Repetition is critical, and you need to hear yourself speaking. I prefer courses that employ the “natural language” method: only the target language is used in instruction. No English is used. You need to begin training yourself to use the language right from the beginning.
Native speakers are your teachers.
Getting out there and struggling in the language and making friends will serve you better in the long run. Even if you don’t live in the country where the language is spoken, there are now many options for language exchange today that makes your current location irrelevant for learning a language. A platform you can add to your language learning plan is Bilingua.
Bilingua offers you a simulated immersion environment by connecting you with native speakers who can expose you to your target language in its perfect form. Beyond this, you’ll also pick up informal expressions, slang, idioms and many other language features that are in use today, around the world.
YES YOU CAN.
Always believe in integrative motivation, which comes from one’s desire to integrate oneself into a new culture. Examples include wanting to communicate fully with a friend who’s a foreigner. Research shows that integrative motivation usually encourages better fluency and long-term success, even if you make a few mistakes in the beginning.
Bilingua is one such platform. It’s a language exchange platform where two or more people who speak different languages practise and teach each other through conversation. Most often, this is done by two native speakers teaching each other their native language.
Bilingua also provides you with opportunity to play games with your partners and even with Shiro the bot to improve your language skills! This makes your language learning fun and at the same time keeps you at your motivational high.
Never forget – the biggest thing is to be motivated. Don’t learn a language without inspiration. Find something you love about the language, but don’t learn the language just because you need to. It only makes you hate the language. Find something you love about the language and I guarantee you that your next hobby is going to be called “foreign languages”.
Keep in mind that motivation isn’t a static, rigid factor in your learning process. The key is to maintain a healthy balance between the two.
Make a realistic schedule.
So, you know what to learn and from where to learn. Now, you need to decide on how much time you have to learn. Decide on how much time is available every day that you can dedicate to learning and divide that time into different slots for different activities. These are the foundations of a language learning plan.
Make sure you identify which skill(s) you are working on with each activity and dedicate enough time for each based on your language priorities. You also need to make sure that your schedule is free of distractions. This should be time that you have set aside solely for language learning.
A flexible schedule makes it easy for the learning to flow without friction.
Another thing that got to keep in mind while creating a language learning plan is that it should be fluid and not inflexible because there might be days where you must forego the schedule for some higher priority work. Thus, you need a time table you can work around on if required. Never ever go against your existing schedule, make one to go with it. (For more information on building a fluid schedule refer this link.)
For example, you decide to start your study at 5.00 PM, then your one day time table can go like this:
5.00 PM – 5.30 PM Vocab
5.30 PM – 5.40 PM Snack
5.40 PM – 6.10 PM Listening Practice
6.10 PM – 6.25 PM Shower
6.25 PM – 6.55 PM Reading
6.55 PM – 7.05 PM Break
7.05 PM – 7.35 PM Bilingua – an interactive session with your native speaker friend
But now, if an everyday activity doesn’t occur at a pre-set time, you simply keep working until it does. If your snack isn’t ready at 5:30 PM, you simply put an asterisk in front of the snack time block and continue with the next one until you can eat. When you return 30 minutes later you adjust the times of your schedule for that day.
So, in a nutshell you need to develop rules for interruptions as well while you create your language learning plan. Without rules for interruptions, they could drag you all over the place. Some days you won’t even go back to your language learning activities! With the rules in place, there’s little chance for that to happen.
Respect your plan and stick to it.
So, once you have successfully created a realistic language learning plan for yourself you just put it together and start your learning. Just remember one thing, always respect your plan. Procrastination is your worst enemy if it comes to learning languages.
So, that’s how you can go about learning a language keeping one thing in mind:
“The more languages you have, the more worlds you belong to.”
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Also published on Medium.