Tips on Studying a
Learning another language is not easy, but
most people can learn a second language IF they are willing to put in the
necessary time. Here are some practical suggestions for studying effectively,
overcoming anxiety, and learning the grammar and skills necessary for success
in foreign language classes.
READING and WRITING a foreign language are analytical skills. You may be good at these if you
are a logical person who attends to detail. Train yourself through practice
to notice and remember details such as accents and gender agreement.
STUDY EVERY DAY! A foreign language course is different from any other course you take. Language
learning is cumulative: you cannot put it off until the weekend. Study
1 or 2 hours for every class hour if you want an A or B.
DISTRIBUTE YOUR STUDY TIME in 15- to 30-minute periods throughout the day. Focus on
a different task each time: vocabulary now, grammar next, etc. Get an overview
during the first half hour: spend 10 minutes reviewing dialog, 10 minutes
learning new vocabulary, 10 minutes learning new grammar...so you'll at
least have looked at it all. Approximately 80% of your study time should
be spent in recitation or practice, including practice in the language
ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE
IN EVERY CLASS--even if you are not well prepared. Class time
is your best opportunity to practice. Learn the grammar and vocabulary
outside of class in order to make the most of class time. Spend a few minutes
"warming up" before each class by speaking or reading the language.
MAKE YOURSELF COMFORTABLE
IN THE CLASSROOM. Get to know your classmates, so you will feel
you are among friends. Visit your instructor during office hours to get
acquainted: explain your goals and fears about the course to your instructor.
LEARN GRAMMAR IF YOU
DON'T ALREADY KNOW IT. Grammar is the skeleton of a language,
its basic structure: you must learn it. Review a simplified English grammar
text. Compare new grammatical structures in your foreign language to their
PRACTICE FOR TESTS
doing what you will have to do on the test. If the test will require you
to write, then study by writing--including spelling and accents. If you
will be asked to listen, then practice listening. Ask for practice questions;
make up your own test questions. Invent variations on patterns and forms.
Over-learn: study beyond the point of recognition to mastery.
DEVELOP A GOOD ATTITUDE. Have a clear personal reason for taking the class. Set personal goals for
what you want to learn. Leave perfectionism at the door; give yourself
permission to make mistakes and learn from them.
GET HELP IF YOU NEED
IT. Talk with your teacher. Form study groups among class members.
Use tutoring services. Don't wait!
READING SKILLS TIPS:
WRITING SKILLS TIPS:
First, read the vocabulary list for the assignment.
Next, read the questions about the reading. Then read all the way through
a new passage two or three times, guessing at meaning from context. Avoid
word-by-word translation. It is a waste of time!
Isolate new vocabulary and study it separately.
DON'T write between the lines! Make flash cards. Carry them with you and
recite them several times during the day at odd moments. Overlearn them
until they are automatic.
Isolate new grammatical forms and study them
separately. Write the pattern on a flash card and memorize it. Write out
and label a model sentence. When you encounter the form while reading,
pause and recite the pattern to recognize the form.
Pay attention to detail: notice accents, order
of letters, etc. Compare letter-by-letter different forms (singular, plural,
gender, etc.). Write out conjugations of verbs, declensions of pro-nouns,
etc., and check your endings. Memorize irregular verbs.
To master spelling, have a friend dictate 10
words to you. Write them out and immediately have your friend spell them
correctly aloud while you look carefully and point at each letter. Repeat
until you get all the words right.
Write (in your own simple foreign vocabulary
words) a story you have just read.
SPEAKING are performance skills. You may do well at these if
you are naturally outgoing. Students in foreign language classes often
have difficulty hearing and speaking because they are anxious about making
mistakes. It's OK to make mistakes! Have fun trying to speak!
Frequent the language lab. Read the exercises
in your book first; then listen and read together; then listen without
looking at the print. Say aloud/write what you hear.
Participate silently in class when others are
called on to speak. Focus on the task; don't worry about how you'll do.
If you feel nervous, relax yourself physically
by taking a couple of slow, deep breaths. When called on, pause, relax,
and give yourself time to respond.
Listen while a friend dictates to you and write
what you hear. Check for accuracy.
Practice: join language clubs, watch foreign
TV, listen to foreign radio.
Study out loud! Mimic the sounds of the language.
Don't mumble. Although most people feel embarrassed making strange sounds,
the language will soon feel more familiar to you.
When called on in class, say something, even
it it's wrong: you'll learn from it. If you need a moment to think, repeat
the question. If you don't know the answer, say in your foreign language,
"I don't know" or "help!"
Practice with a foreign student who wants your
help to learn English or with another class member.