Language Learning Tips - ISI Dublin

Language Learning Tips

June 17, 2016

Learning a new language can be daunting and initially it may feel like you are fighting a losing battle. This list will give you some helpful tips on how you can use your time and resources most efficiently in order to make real and rapid progress.

News on the Radio: With internet radio you can follow real and current news in any language from anywhere in the world. One of the main advantages with this is that you may already be familiar with the news stories, making it easier to understand and therefore more enjoyable to listen to. If you are stuck you can always check the news in your own language and then go back to the radio.


Newspapers: Like radio, the real-world relevance of newspaper stories will automatically make them more engaging  and interesting for you. Reading is a huge part of language learning and it is the best way develop your vocabulary. Mark words that you notice appearing repeatedly and look them up after reading an article. If you don’t want to buy newpapers you can print the stories from the news websites and go through them with a pen and highlighter. Reading newspapers as well as listening to the radio will arm you with the necessary vocabulary for discussing current affairs and provide you with a welcome break from generic reading comprehensions.


Language Settings: Switch the language on your phone. You will still understand what is going on through familiarity and you will learn important new words. If you are a social media user you could pick up some valuable phrases by changing your language settings there too. You will know what most of the words mean simply by their placement on the website.


Cooking: If you enjoy cooking, reading recipes and cooking instructions is a great way of consolidating vocabulary related to food, numbers, verbs and the imperative tense. It will also be easier to remember these new words because they will have more of a real-world context in your memory.


Duolingo: The free language app Duolingo is an excellent way to get started with any language and is a relatively pain-free way of building your vocabulary. In fact, you may find yourself enjoying the sound effects that go with levelling up and collecting ‘lingots’, the duolingo currency used for unlocking extra content.


Podcasts: Another great way to develop your listening is by listening to podcasts during your idle hours. Although it is improtant to have some downtime throughout the day, you could use your commute as an opportunity to improve your vocabulary or take a walk with your headphones and actively learn the language. There are literally hundreds of lanugage learning poscasts available for free download on the iTunes app store.


Post its: Another way of familiarising yourself with basic and everyday vocabulary involves covering your living and/or workspace with words scribbled on post-its. If you don’t know the word for a particular object or item, grab your pen and post-it and stick a note on it. After having looked at it a few times you will have internalised the word almost subconsciously. Try sticking notes wherever your eyeline usually drifts. Doorhandles, cabinets, windows and mirrors are popular choices.


Notes: If you carry a smartphone you will have a notes application. This is the perfect place to keep track of new words or phrases that you come across but don’t have the time to look up while you are out and about. Simply take a note in your phone and soon you will have a list of new words to look up in the dictionary next time you get a chance. If you don’t use a smartphone you can do the same with a pocket-sized note pad and a pencil (so no excuses!).


Language exchanges: In every city you will find language exchanges. These are causal meet ups where people help each other to learn a new language. Here’s how it works: Suppose for example you want to learn Japanese, while meanwhile there is a Japanese person living in your city who wants to learn English. Language exchanges provide people like you with a place to meet and help each other out. Participants usually divide the allocated time evenly between the two lanuages and you will both get an opportunity to practice as well as teach. Everyone’s a winner.


Fear not: Making mistakes is normal. In fact, it is in doing so that we learned our mother tongue as children. It is impossible to suddenly become fluent in a new language so be prepared to be wrong. Many times. Remember your errors and learn from them. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. Stay positive, enjoy the silly moments and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you make a mess of a sentence. A good sense of humour is important no matter what language you’re speaking.


All things considered, the best way to learn any language is through total immersion, and it always requires a concentrated effort. Don’t be surprised if you feel exhausted. Your brain is working much harder than usual and although you may feel like you are making little progress it is important to keep pushing yourself to learn more. If you do this, eventually you will reach a breakthrough point and you may look back on the early days of post its and podcasts with fondness. 


Photo taken in ISI Parnell Street Cafe by ISI student Wooseok Suh (Woody)

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