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10 Tips for Language Learning Success

<<< Previous | Tips for language learning, #8-10 | Begin >>>

8. Maximize your language exposure

If your ultimate goal is language fluency, as it is for many students learning a language, then it is important to know that you will become more fluent more quickly if you increase the amount of contact you have with the language. You can start by simply practicing the language with a classmate outside of class. You can befriend native speakers in your community or attend a local foreign language conversation hour, if one exists. Rent a movie in the target language, or listen to authentic audio or video online. (Many foreign television and radio stations have streaming or archived audio and video programs).

Remember that you won't be able to understand everything, and you might not understand much at all at first. Nonetheless, these experiences will make you increasingly familiar with the sounds, rhythm, and intonation of the language. Increased exposure to and active practice with the language will help you develop skills more quickly.

9. Spend time on task

Use the time you have in class each week to work on your language skills. This means not only attending and paying attention in class. If you finish a partner activity early, use the time to try conversing with your partner in the target language on a related topic. Or work on your written homework. Or study the weekly vocabulary. If you finish a lab activity early, attempt trying some supplemental activities, work on the week's written homework, or explore some cultural sites. If you are in your language class, you should be doing something language-related. Make the most of the time you have to maximize your learning.

10. Communicate with your instructor

Take responsibility for your learning. Communicate with your instructor any problems that may be interfering with your learning or any specific difficulties that you are having with the material. Seek help immediately when you need it. You might be surprised how easily such difficulties can be resolved. Also, be proactive about making up missed work. Not only your grade, but also your success at learning depend on it.

Additional Resources

Visit our 15 Language resources page for more tips and hints on learning a foreign language.

If you are looking for more in-depth information about how to go about learning a language, you will find the following books helpful:
How to Learn Any Language, Quickly, Easily, and On Your Own, by Barry M. Farber, 172 p. (1991)The author provides not only some useful tips that apply to learning any foreign language, but even presents a systematic, step-by-step approach to learning a language and being successful at it. This book is especially useful for those language learners who just don't know where or how to begin.

Why You Need a Foreign Language and How to Learn One, by Edward Trimnell, 236 p. (2005)After convincingly demonstrating why a knowledge of English alone is not enough to compete successfully in the global marketplace, the author spends 11 chapters fully discussing and evaluating several approaches a learner can apply in learning a language through independent study. This is the newly revised and expanded version of the 2003 edition.

How Languages are Learned, by Patsy M. Lightbown, Nina Spada, 3rd ed., 252 p. (2006)This book is meant specifically for language teachers and would-be language teachers. Its content is based on the results of current second language acquisition research without the use of technical jargon and without getting caught up in the details and statistics of research. What this book conveys -- the knowledge of how students learn languages -- is essential to becoming an effective teacher.

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