How To Learn A Language

Part One: Helping Yourself


Explore Your
The chapter begins by outlining fifteen key areas in effective language learning. Each area has nine statements of good practice. What you have to do is read each statement carefully and consider to what extent you do the activity described. There are three possible answers: always, sometimes, never. After working your way through all 135 statements you will have a precise picture of your individual strengths and weaknesses. (If you find that a particular statement doesn’t apply to your own learning situation then ignore it and go on to the next one.) You are then shown how to interpret your results and construct an action plan to deal with any areas of concern.

If you prefer, you can skip the self-evaluation and read the entire book from cover to cover, or just dip in to those sections that most interest you. In this case the page references or hyperlinks that follow each statement of good practice will take you directly to those parts of the book which contain further information and advice on your chosen topic.

Manage Your
It’s no use trying to learn a language if you’re in the wrong frame of mind. A positive mental attitude is vital for success. The chapter starts by asking this question: How motivated are you to learn a foreign language? You are then asked to identify the various factors determining your level of motivation. For example, if you are already highly motivated and focused on the task in hand, then great - you may find that you’re already doing many of the things recommended in the chapter. But if you’re not, or you feel you need to increase your self-motivation, then read on.

The chapter looks in detail at important motivational issues such as target setting, building up self-confidence, approaching difficulties positively, and enjoying your learning. Effective communication techniques are outlined, and advice is given on how best to review and reward your own progress. Put all of this into practice and you’ll find that you make greater and faster progress in language learning.

Improve Your
The environment in which we learn a language is vitally important. The best one of all is being in the foreign country, but for many of us this is not always possible. It may be that you are attempting to learn a language all on your own, but  you are probably part of a class being taught by a teacher at school, college or university. If this is the case, then you have to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the experience. It’s no use attending classes if you’re not maximizing your effort and involvement in them.

This chapter gives you practical advice on doing just that. The main areas looked at are pre-class preparation, anticipation of what the teacher will be doing, how best to participate, questioning strategies and after-class reviews. Students who apply these techniques consistently make quicker progress and achieve greater success in their language studies. Make sure that you are one of them.

Organise Your
Good organisation is the key to effective learning. Students who are well-organised find the whole learning process much more straightforward, and are more likely to succeed. Research has shown that the process of learning a language depends on many things: your own natural ability, your self-motivation, your self-confidence, the time you have available, the opportunities you have to practise, and so on. However all these things are made very much more difficult if you lack good organisational skills.

The chapter describes in detail the practical organisational skills and techniques needed to learn a language. Extensive guidance is given on the following areas: forward planning, time management, presentation of work and storage of resources. Organising your work can take up a lot of time in the initial stages, but once you have a system (and stick to it) the time savings in the long run can be tremendous.