Jennifer Birch

JC Baker is a foreign language teacher who has spent the past 13 years traveling the world. She is also a blogger, and hopes to inspire people to not only travel and see new places, but also engage with new cultures through the beauty of language.

8 Effective Study Methods to Learn a New Language

6/13/2018

Being multilingual is considered an invaluable skill for many reasons. It provides a competitive edge in your career of choice; makes international travel easier; connects you with more people around the globe; improves cognitive function; and helps in broadening your horizons.

Although learning to speak, read, and write in foreign tongue is always challenging, it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Check out these tried and tested study methods you can employ when trying to become proficient in a foreign language.

1- Study a little everyday

As with most things, consistency is key when trying to learn a new language. Langademy is a firm believer that age is not an obstacle when it comes to assimilating new knowledge as long as you put in the time and effort. There are two basic theories that work for most people: the half-hour theory and microlearning. Some experts believe that a 30-minute sit-down with your language materials everyday is the best way to absorb and practice new knowledge. On the other hand, others believe that 2 to 3 periods of 5 to 15-minute sessions are more effective in retaining information. It really depends on what study habits will work for your style and schedule as long you set aside time for learning everyday.

2 - Practice before you sleep

It turns out that what time you study is just as important as how long you study. The optimal time for learning a new language is late afternoon or early evening. In a study consisting of fourteen test groups, the group who worked consistently on learning before bedtime outperformed those who studied at random time periods, who were also the worst performers. Researchers at Harvard explain that the mind is able to stabilise newly formed memories during sleep in a process called consolidation. In unconsciousness, the brain works at creating and reinforcing neural connections that are necessary for memory recall later on.

3- Spaced repetition

This learning hack is not exclusive to linguistics but is used by others who need to memorise a lot of terminology in a limited amount of time, such as law or medicine students. The spaced repetition technique means reviewing information at gradually increasing intervals. Unlike a computer, The Guardian highlights the many limitations of the human brain, one of which is its inability to store and access a limited amount of data at will. You are likely to forget tidbits of information that you don’t encounter or use on a regular basis. Spaced repetition addresses that by keeping those memories fresh and ready to be remembered.

4- Learn cognates

Vocabulary’ in Spanish is ‘vocabulario’ while ‘idea’ is also ‘idea’ en Español. These sets of perfectly or almost perfectly similarly spelled/sounding words that have the same meaning are called cognates. Research has repeatedly found that developing a cognate awareness is a huge factor in becoming proficient in another language. They also provide context clues for people who don’t speak the same vernacular.

5- Chat with a native

Conversation is the best way to put your skills to the test. Chat with native speakers of the language you’re trying to learn when you’re travelling or via the internet. Tell them you’re trying to learn their language so they can give you tips and teach you how to speak in a more conversational manner. With enough practice, you’ll be able to pick up on pronunciation as well as verbal and non-verbal cues that are unique to their culture.

chat with native speakers

6- Learn from online courses

Finding a course or tutor that fits your schedule can be the thing that’s holding you back from learning. However, you can still get formal education from online classes which is especially convenient for adults who juggle full-time work commitments. Aside from flexibility, Maryville University points out that e-learning also gives access to previous lessons so you can review the things you may have missed. Online courses go hand-in-hand with the spaced repetition technique with this feature so your progress will only go in a positive direction.

7- Study through entertainment

Foreign films, the unlikeliest of teachers, are one of the best and most entertaining ways tor really immerse yourself in the language and culture of your wish. Researchers found that watching subtitled films and programmes can speed up the process of foreign language acquisition as a supplement to formal studies. Viewers can learn vocabulary, decipher expressions that add meaning to the words, and even improve the ability to construct grammatically-correct sentences from watching such movies. Increasing proficiency through films can be attributed to the process of inference, an essential element of learning, through informal means.

8- Think in a different language

When a conversation partner isn’t available, another unconventional yet highly effective method is thinking in a different language. You’re still talking, but this time, to yourself which means you’ll still get to practice grammar and vocabulary you’ve recently acquired. Maybe start by thinking about the foreign language equivalent of your household items, then progressing on to describing what you see in phrases or maybe in full sentences in your head. Eventually, you’ll be able to develop more complex and nuanced thoughts until you can apply them in a two-way conversation.

How do you improve your language skills? Share it with the community by leaving a comment below!