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How to be a good language learner

How to be a good language learner

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How to be a good language learner

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  1. How to be a good language learner

  2. Think about your native language – it’s probably English. You were a fluent speaker before you even started school. You probably never had to learn it from scratch in class. You think it ‘comes naturally’, unlike Maths or Science, which you have to LEARN and STUDY.

  3. So how do you LEARN another language? Just as you learn other subjects:

  4. Imagine you are learning basketball. If you’ve had a few lessons at school, and then have practice once a week, you’ll be OK, but you’ll never make a real team. When learning a language, you can sit through lessons, and do the minimum homework you are told to do. You’ll probably pass most tests, but you won’t be able to USE the language in a real-life situation. You have to be independent!

  5. If the only time you use the language is during class time, and only when you’re forced to, you’ll never learn it well. You have to be responsible for your own learning. You have to make the most of the opportunities around you, both in and out of class. You have to be independent!

  6. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid or making mistakes: give it a go! Don’t be afraid to talk. It is impossible to learn without making mistakes, and the best learning comes from making a mistake and analysing where you went wrong. Ask your teacher about embarrassing times he/she has had when learning a foreign language! Ask lots of questions! Ask your teacher to explain, to check that you’re on the right track, to correct your work. When you’re in class…

  7. Speak to your teacher and classmates in the language. Find ways of using the words you learn immediately. Treat new words as a challenge, with you as detective. Can you make intelligent guesses about what they might mean? Always keep your trusty dictionary nearby. When you’re in class…

  8. Your textbook gives brief explanations of rules, but they won’t be enough. Write out your own notes and summaries, and make them as detailed as possible. There are lots of useful grammar help pages on the Web. Language learning means team and pair work. Be a good partner to work with by keeping a positive attitude and taking the initiative. When you’re in class…

  9. When your teacher corrects you, say or write the correct words immediately. Don’t think you can translate English word for word and in the same order into the other language. Always look over your work before handing it in. Check your writing carefully for mistakes in spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Have your textbook and dictionary nearby to help you do this. Practise using your dictionary effectively. When you’re in class…

  10. Say new words and phrases aloud, and often, to remember them. Write out new vocabulary, and keep a special vocabulary folder, divided into topics. Even if you don’t get formal homework every day, you need to set aside ten minutes every day to say and write words and sentences in the language. It’s all about self-discipline: no-one is going to check up on you, but it’s still worth it. Homework and revision

  11. Teach family members the words that you learn…whether they like it or not. If you like keeping a journal: write some parts in the language. The Internet has lots of free websites with language games and help pages, and even learners’ forums. Buy or borrow CD-ROMs with exercises for practice. Homework and revision

  12. There is great software out there which allows you to make and then play your own language games. Most textbooks have checklists at end of each chapter: test yourself on what you have learned. Make posters and charts to pin up in your room. The vocabulary you see every day will stick in your mind. Homework and revision

  13. Study with a partner. Use the language with your friends. And if they don’t appreciate that, find friends who do: find yourself a pen pal to exchange emails, or like-minded people in forums. Homework and revision

  14. Ask your teacher to make recordings of him/herself. Download them to your MP3 player, so you can practice listening and repeating. Ask your teacher for a copy of any CDs and tapes she uses in class, for listening at home and pronunciation practice. Practise listening for specific information or practise note-taking. Watch TV programs in the language if you have access. You can access live radio on the Internet. Homework and revision

  15. Hire DVDs in the language if you can, and ignore the subtitles! Watching films and TV programs helps you practise comprehension and lets you note good pronunciation and appropriate body language. Can you find native speakers in your local community? Be brave and exchange greetings with them…they may be willing to look over your homework one day! Homework and revision