Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Top 5 Tips For Language Learning

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These tips can be applied to learning almost any language.

1. Internal or external motivation

To begin with, there are different types of motivation. If you are externally motivated- your boss is forcing you to learn, you have to do it because it’s a requirement to graduate- that is what I call outer, external or imposed motivation.

The other type of motivation is internal or inner motivation. This is the case where you simply have a desire to learn the language. You like the culture of an English-speaking country, you like language/languages in general, and so on. Internal motivation is much more useful in terms of moving your toward fluency in your target language.

2. Truthfulness in motivation

I have noticed endless English students who happily proclaim that they are very motivated to learn the language. I talk to them about internal and external motivation, and they point to internal motivating factors as being their primary reason to learn English. After some more extensive conversation with them, it turns out that they are highly motivated to know English, but they aren’t very interested in learning English. What is the difference between wanting to know Spanish and wanting to learn Spanish?


Wanting to know English skips all the hard work that is required to meet that goal- learning English implies a learning process that will be work.

When evaluating your motivation, you need to be very honest with yourself. Really examine what you really want. Do you want to be able to speak English or do you want to pass through the English learning process. These are two very different concepts. You must decide.

3. Interest in grammar

Many linguists prefer a grammar-less approach to language learning (language acquisition), but grammar can give you a shortcut to a language in some cases. If grammar does not scare you, if it’s something you’re interested in of its own right, then directly studying the target language’s grammar can be helpful. In many cases grammar can (unconsciously) raise a barrier to language learning, since its a topic that’s not widely appreciated or studied. Of course learning a language is more than grammar. As we translators know, language is also culture - food, music, habits, beliefs, etc. Grammar is a good base to explore the entire language. However, learning grammar can be made fun to ease the pain!

4. Attention to detail

Attention to detail can be quite helpful too. There are many aspects of a language (grammar, pronunciation, usage, vocabulary) that elude the learner, because they are not meaningful parts of the learner’s native tongue. If you have a special attention to detail, you will begin to pick up on some of these things. At first the language may appear a dense forest. As you explore deeper into the forest, a bigger picture emerges and one begins to "connect the dots" between grammar, speaking, writing and listening to the language.

5. Interest in the culture of the target language

An interest in other cultural fields related toEnglish can help you to continue learning the language to help you better understand the cultural interest you have in the people or country. This is a good example of using language for meaningful communication, something that will mature your understanding of the language. Visit an English-speaking country. Read news in English about these countries. Language is culture as we mentioned above.

Now go do it. Explore, learn, and enjoy English!

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