Learning a foreign language is not a matter of reading some grammar rules and memorizing
some vocabulary words-- although those are important activities, not to be ignored. Acquiring a
language is learning a
, not a body of information. It's as much like learning to swim or ride
a bike as it is like learning about the Revolutionary War. That is, you must not only understand
the ideas and concepts, have information at hand, but you must also make your body accustomed
that information in physical activity: in this case the physical activity involved is
speaking, listening, writing and reading.
You need, then, not only to memorize and understand, but also to
Here are a few brief suggestions on effective practice/study techniques. See your instructor if
you have questions, or need help in developing an effective study technique.
Make your mouth or hand do what your mind is learning
Study out loud.
DO go to
the lab or do the lab activities online several times!!!
Study with a friend, thus involving
yourself in speaking and listening. Try to write sentences or a short paragraph using the
skills you have practiced orally.
If you study by reading silently, you draw only upon your visual memory.
If you study out loud, you double your efficiency by adding auditory memory
make your mouth work, helping with pronunciation and speech.
Augment your learning potential even further by writing what you have read and spoken.
Study day-by-day. You cannot get by in a foreign language course by cramming at the
last minute. You may be able to `learn' vocabulary items that way, but you cannot teach
your mouth to use them in sentences. (Can you cram for a swimming test or a piano
Occasionally go back and review `old' topics and vocabulary. Language learning is
cumulative. You learn new skills on the basis of old ones. The more you `recycle'
familiar information and skills, the better you will be able to integrate new ones.
Instructors usually present and test new language skills in a somewhat segmented,
chapter-by-chapter approach, as a matter of administrative convenience. However, actual
learning is not segmented at all, but cumulative. You add new information and skills to
the old without superseding them. Your instructor will incorporate `old' information and
vocabulary in the presentation of new skills; you will benefit from doing the same thing
when you study. (For example, practice new grammar concepts with familiar vocabulary,
we well as with new words.)
Don't be afraid to make mistakes
. Self-consciousness can be a mighty obstacle to
learning a language. Perhaps part of the reason small children readily acquire languages
is that they are not afraid of making mistakes: their egos do not restrain them from acting
like `little clowns'.
If you are prepared to goof from time to time, or even frequently, you'll feel much less