17 Jul These 5 Hacks Will Help You Learn Any Language Online
Whether you’re learning in a classroom or online, you want to make sure that it’s worth the time and money invested.
These may seem like common sense, though through my decade of experience in engaging language learning, these are the most common pitfalls for learners that may hinder progress.
1. Ask questions
As easily overlooked as it is remedied. I’ve seen many people become disheartened because the topics of the course did not interest them.
If you’re not interested in the topic, ask for another. If the example doesn’t mean anything to you, request another. If you don’t understand, check and check again. Your instructor is there to support your personal learning style, not slavishly plough through the content or curriculum.
Communication is the cornerstone of a successful relationship, including the one with your language instructor.
2. Speak with the natives
This is often shared, rarely elaborated. Here’s what’s important:
– Native speakers are not teachers (unless they are)
Don’t expect your Italian friend to be able to cite grammar rules on command – in truth as a second language learner, you may know these better than they do. For native speakers in any language, the grammatical construction of a sentence often depends on how it sounds to them. They know how it should sound for it to be correct, without necessarily knowing the exact grammar rules and conditions. You need not quiz them over a morning coffee as to when to use the indefinite article “Uno” (Pro Tip: it’s typically before masculine nouns beginning with the consonants -s, -z, -gn, -ps).
– Speaking doesn’t have to mean a lot:
Regardless of the solipsist view that native speakers are there to be plundered for their knowledge, it’s worth keeping in mind that they are real people too – and have real lives that they live… like… real people. Despite this really wandering into the realm of emotional intelligence, keep in mind that your Arabic friends, as happy as they are that you’re learning their language, may not be able to lavish you with hours of supportive patience correcting your pronunciation of Abu Dhabi (Pro Tip: the Dh is actually the Arabic ظ, pronounced as you would the definite article the in English – but with an ‘a’ instead of the ‘e’: THA).
Use your time wisely, practice and drill the most practical parts of the language, greetings, introductions, basic civility etc. Once you get the hang of it, try shorter but more complex conversations. Brief yet regular practice will help you better remember the words and sentence construction in context.
3. Apply in real life situations (contextualize)
You know how a smell can take you back to a certain time, or a song can instantly bring back memories? Or how when you catch a scent of Chanel Mademoiselle you remember how much you miss her? Oh.. I already mentioned smell? I miss her, man.
This is because many neural networks are engaged when we use more of our senses creating cross-references. You can repurpose your biology and use it as a neat trick to help you learn a language more quickly.
Find situations to apply what you’ve learnt as you would in real life either through conversations or situations. This creates associations in your brain that assist in the recall of language. Another idea would be to label items with post it notes in the target language. Next time you pick up a pen while learning Spanish, you’ll think bolígrafo, instead of pen. Or gato, instead of cat.
It appears obvious when typed out, but it’s easily overlooked. This of course is not practice in the class; I mean intentional deliberate practice with structure. Deliberate practice is a highly structured activity engaged in with the specific goal of improving performance. It is different from work or simple repetition of a task. Specifically it is:
– aimed at improving performance
– designed for your current skill level
– combined with immediate feedback
Learn 10 words and their definition in your target language. This simple exercise branches out your vocabulary remarkably quickly.
5. Make use of technology
– I’ve written a piece on how and when technology can support language learning, especially through apps. It’s a bit of a meander through theory and you’re here for quick tips so the TL;DR version is: test yourself at increasing intervals!
– When studying with an instructor online, Google Docs can be used for real time correction of your writing (Who writes anymore, anyway.) Open up the document and share it with your instructor; you can both work in real time on the same document and see changes happening live.
– Need a quick on-the-go refresher with your instructor? Slot in a LiveOnline session, accessible anywhere in the world. Live video-based learning provides convenient access to knowledge, among many other benefits, as and when you need it.
Language learning might take longer than we wish, but it’s totally worth it. Remember to watch this space, I’ll be sharing more language learning tips, facts and hacks.
I would love to hear from you. What are your top tips? Do you have any questions or feedback? Which perfume brings back memories of the one that got away? Send me a message. I’m a great listener.
About the author: Developing language to instill confidence in service or powerful language for diplomacy, Mark Abi-Aad has helped hundreds of organizations across the private and public sectors improve their communication.