In this post, I would like to share some tips that I find extremely useful when I learn a foreign language. And I will divide this post into three main parts – tips for beginners, intermediate learners and advanced learners.
Tips for Beginners
At this phrase, a foreign language is still totally new to you so your task at this moment is to try your best to get familiar with this new language in terms of pronunciation, basic grammar points, sentence structures, survival words and phrases, etc.
My suggestion is if the language that you are learning is extremely similar to your mother tongue (first language), you can probably just self-study. Go to bookstore, find some materials that you like or suitable for your needs and study them on a regular basis. On the other hand, if the foreign language that you are learning is very different from your first language, I will suggest have some classes or online courses to help you out so that you will not be too frustrated or helpless about getting started. Certainly, you can still self-study while having classes or courses which will make you progress even faster. That is because, chances are your classes or courses are not efficient enough (the learning hours are too limited) for you to make huge progress in a very short period of time.
Note that for some languages with very difficult writing systems, such as Thai and Mandarin, Chinese, I will suggest that you start with listening and speaking, instead of writing and reading at the very first beginning. Chances are you will feel overwhelmed and easily give it up. But if you are so passionate about the writing system that you do not wait to wait at all, that will be another story.
Tips for Intermediate Learners
After having a grasp the foreign language, the next step you would like to do is to expose yourself in that language as much and often as possible. At this phase, you can either attend classes that use more than 80% of the target language (the language that you are learning) or find yourself some materials that you can understand more than 70% of the content and that you find interesting. Repeat this for six months or longer to build yourself a solid foundation on vocabulary and listening comprehension. (So far, I deeply believe that listening comprehension is the key to the success of learning a foreign language).
At this time, you will start to get in touch with lots of vocabulary with abstract concepts, more sophisticated grammar points and sentence structures. But at the same time, your command of that language is getting better and better. During this stage, you should be starting to deliver basic to intermediate level speech lasting for 3-5 minutes. You will be able to discuss some in-depth topics, such as gender inequality, society, culture etc with limited vocabulary and sentence structures.
In a word, I would say your task at this stage is to expose yourself as much and often as possible to materials communicated in the target language and start practicing giving 3-5 minutes speeches on various topics. This phase will also be a great time for you to communicate and interact with native speakers and learn from them directly. Also, enjoy the fun and a sense of achievement of speaking a foreign language simultaneously.
Tips for Advanced Learners
At this stage, you have had a pretty solid foundation of your foreign language. You start to feel comfortable speaking in this language and pretty much can express yourself clearly (might still have some mistakes though). Now, you will not encounter too much difficulty in communication in daily life. Most of the learners will choose to stop learning at this phase as they cannot see their own growth anymore and the new vocabulary, phrases, expressions are not as commonly used as those learned in intermediate level. If you feel like you would like to continue learning, you will want to focus more on expressions, idioms, slang, proverbs and vocabulary in different specific field (academic field, business world, etc).
You will be learning lots of vocabulary and expressions that are not commonly used in daily life at all but might be commonly used in newspapers, news, academic filed, or any other specific field. At this stage, you will need to work more on your formal and written languages which you will need when you write a composition or an essay. Also, work on languages that you will be using in a formal setting, such as seminars.
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About Ben – who am I and what languages I have learned/ studies so far.
Any Feedback Or Thoughts?
In a nutshell, these are some advice that I find extremely useful (at least for myself) when I have been learning foreign languages. Hope they are helpful to you all as well. If you have different opinions or cannot agree more, do leave a comment or your thought below. Thank you for your time. Hope you all enjoy your journey of learning a new foreign language. Have fun and good luck.