Learning a language in lockdown? Read our top tips.

With the coronavirus shutdown, millions of people have found themselves at home searching for creative ways to use their increased leisure time and focus on something productive and positive.  

For a country supposedly unenthusiastic about speaking other languages, a study has found that the British have been turning in numbers to learning a language.  One popular language learning app has claimed increased usage of more than 200%, while we have experienced a rise in new enquiries and take up of our online courses.  Our client’s remote teams have discovered language learning as a fruitful way to spend time together.

Well, we all know learning a new language is not an easy task even though the benefits of learning a second language are well documented. So if you've made language learning a new hobby over these last few months, I offer you some hints to help you achieve your goal.

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  1. Plan of action. Becoming fluent in a language realistically takes many hours of study but you can aim for a pretty good level of the language, enough to communicate basically, in a relatively short time. For example, you can learn to count to 100 in a week or conjugate 7 verbs in 7 days. Don’t set the bar too high. The more achievable your goals, the easier you will reach them, which will keep you motivated. Break your language resolution into mini-goals that can become part of your everyday routine. Successful language learners focus on goals that have three month time limits (about an academic term). Throughout the year these all add up to the focused end goal rather than a vague aim of learn French/Spanish will ever achieve.
  2. Pick the right method. There are a range of language learning tools out there including software, podcasts, online classes and apps. Choose a private teacher if you can afford to, especially if you have a high motivation level and a need to learn the language (but then I am biased!). Plan your budget and set milestones for what you want to accomplish with your language learning to make the most of your money and time. Consider using apps to supplement your learning and build vocabulary. In addition, since you’re the one paying, ask your personal language teacher to cover the content and concepts that are directly relevant to help you stay on track with your goal.
  3. Try not to worry about making mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes at some stage, especially beginners. Try to view mistakes as a means of finding your way through the language path, by trial and error. Don’t get discouraged and give up on your plan, but pick up from where you left off. Try to expose yourself to the sounds and patterns of the language with YouTube videos and podcasts. Slowly you will start to recognise individual words and patterns and this will help you predict what comes next. Predicting what will follow is what we naturally do in our native language, so try to get into the habit of doing it in the foreign language. Similarly, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to understand every single word to understand the whole meaning of a text. Sometimes when you read in your mother tongue, there are individual words that you may not fully understand, but you read around them to get the general meaning. You should try to get into the habit of using this technique of guessing words in the foreign language too. So even at an early stage in your learning you shouldn't be afraid of trying to glean some information from a newspaper in the target language.
  4. Monitor your progress. Even though tests can be stressful, it’s crucial to keep track of your achievements. A lot of apps (and our classes) have assessments that you need to pass before you move on. If you are studying on your own, there are also various free tests online that will help you assess your language level along the way. If you don’t want to be tested, another technique is to go back to the content of the first few lessons and review how far you have come. Also, tell your friends and family about your goals – share regular updates with them, and soon they’ll be checking in and monitoring your progress.
  5. Find a conversation partner. The best possible outcome of speaking a language is to have a simple conversation with someone – a huge reward in itself. Reaching a goal like this early on will make you stay motivated and keep practising. Don’t worry about frustrating people by speaking their language poorly. If you start your conversation with “I’m learning and I’d like to practice….” most people will be patient and try to oblige. It also makes them feel like you’re making an effort and promotes goodwill all around.
  6. Treat yourself. Each time you reach a mini-goal, make sure you treat yourself! The key to your language success is realising that fluency isn’t going to happen overnight, in the next week or maybe even the next year but this is perfectly okay. We tend to focus on the end goals rather than the small and significant steps we take to get us to that goal. This is why it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate when you reach a mini-goal. Think about what you enjoy the most and do this each time you complete a step. This could be anything from treating yourself to a meal from the country whose language you are studying, a new book or DVD. Finally, reflect back on the path you have taken, write down your successes and put it where you can see it every day.

Inspired to get started?  To learn more about our online interactive lessons with a native-speaking personal tutor, drop me a line at sue.curry@babelgroup.co.uk.

 

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Online Learning During the Corona Virus Outbreak

During the Corona virus disruption, we have expanded our online offering so that your employees can continue to learn while working from home. Our experienced trainers can provide inspiring sessions and webinars live online. These include and are not limited to: virtual classrooms for foreign and English language training, international assignee briefings, country-specific cultural briefings, unconscious bias and virtual culture coaching. Please contact us if you would like to discuss these options on 020 8295 5877.