Everyone with an average intelligence can learn a language. Not to say that all language learners can become hyper polyglots, but with enough dedication, one can master just about any language. The reason why people attempt to learn a language and fail, is not that they are not talented, but that they have poor goal- setting skills or they are being unrealistic.
How many times have you heard someone say: “ I’ m going on holiday to Greece and I need to learn Greek in 3 weeks“, or: “ I like anime and manga and would love to learn Japanese, but it’ s just impossible“. People have vague language- learning goals. They do not know what they want to accomplish or how much time does it actually take, so they end up underestimating or overestimating their target language. It is similar to the process involved in working on assignment – one needs to plan every step of the way.
Grammar or not Grammar
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for every language learner is deciding how to approach grammar. Should you settle for the equivalent of: “ I does not speak language good“ in your target language? Or should you lock yourself up in the room and spend months with your grammar book, trying to memorize all verbs and declensions? The answer is no- to both questions. While it is true that one can get his point across while butchering grammar, it is hard to claim to know the language without having mastered that important aspect of every language. For one thing, you do not want to be laughed at, right?
In a similar vein, trying to cram grammar into your head can backfire and lead to a fast burnout. That is why the best thing to do is to learn in context, painlessly. One interesting way to learn grammar is to use subs2srs and import files for Anki ( which is a memorization software using intelligent flashcards ) based on one’ s favorite movies.
Context- based learning and repetition will do wonders and what is the most important- it will not be boring.
Be Specific About Your Goals
You need to ask yourself this question: “ What do I want out of my language-learning?“ . If you only want to dabble in a language, it is fine to get a phrasebook or use something like Duolingo in order to get a feel for the language. But if your ultimate goal is to achieve fluency, it will require a lot more effort. The next thing you will want to know is whether you want to achieve native- like pronunciation or you just want to be able to speak effortlessly while keeping your native language accent ( not too thick of course). If you are striving for native-like pronunciation that will require a lot of phonetic training and a good ear for languages as well as a couple of months of immersion in the language’ s country.
Make a Schedule and Stick to it
This is one of the biggest problems language learners face- making a schedule and sticking to it. It’ s important to be consistent and do at least one hour of language study each day. You may think it is too much, but it really is not if you do it in- between your regular activities. You read newspapers regularly and like to listen to the music? Do it in your target language. Set smaller goals, measure your weekly progress and divide your workload into smaller chunks. That way it will be easier to stay motivated. It takes years to become fluent, so if you do not learn to set the right pace, you run the risk of losing your breath and giving up.
One of the best language learning strategies is to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and time- bound. Setting vague goals or not knowing what to expect is likely to result in frustrations and is the number one reason why a lot of people give up on learning a language. On the other hand, knowing exactly what degree of language knowledge one wants to achieve is a recipe for success.
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