Three ways to optimise your language learning

Learning a second (or third!) language is a fantastic experience, and opens the door to a host of experiences you otherwise would have missed. But the learning process is both tough and time-consuming. So, unabashedly revelling in my economist nature, I’ve got three tips for you to optimise your language learning – saving you both time and effort.

  1. Doch indeedGrab yourself a frequency dictionary early on in the language learning process. As implied by the name, a frequency dictionary lists the most commonly used words in a language, enabling you to focus your attentions on increasing your vocabulary in ways that will quickly yield big dividends. Do note, however, that a frequency dictionary is not a substitute for a normal dictionary – you should definitely buy both.
  2. Speak the language you are learning. Find as many opportunities as you can – with a native speaker if possible. Meetup.com is the perfect place to look for fellow language learners, and universities often have casual conversation groups you can attend. One vital piece of advice, though: it’s not enough just to go to the group and listen to other people. You’ll start seeing big gains only when you step up and join in the conversations yourself. And yes, that means you are going to make mistakes – that’s an unavoidable part of the process. Plus, although those gaffs are slightly embarrassing at the time, they make for great stories later…
  3. Practice every day. It’s tempting, particularly for the time-poor among us, to think that putting in an hour of practice twice a week will be much better than doing 15 minutes per day. Unfortunately, two things work against this: diminishing returns, and human nature. Diminishing returns means that your ability to concentrate on language learning will decline after about 15-20 minutes – so it’s better to do a lot of short, separate practice sessions rather than one long stint. And humans like patterns and routine – it will be a lot easier to stick to a commitment to practice every single day rather than a more flexible schedule. To help me with this, I use an app called Streaks – it’s amazing what lengths you find yourself going to in order to avoid breaking your perfect run of days!

Hopefully those three points help take your language learning to a whole new level! If you liked this post, Lingholic also have a list of the best language self-study methods available.

3 Replies to “Three ways to optimise your language learning”

  1. Which frequency dictionary do you use for German? I had a small German/English, English/German Langenscheidt. When I started learning, I used to love reading the German to English section at random pages. I liked the fact that because it was small, it contained only the most common words.

    1. Mine’s called “A frequency dictionary of German” by Jones and Tschirner – has the top ~5000 words, with a short translation and an indication of the relative frequency. I’m with you – good fun for short forays into German in quiet moments 🙂

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