6 language learning techniques for beginners

Pearson Languages
Woman sat at a desk with a laptop, tablet and open notepads studying

Reading time: 4 minutes

So you’ve just started to learn a new language (or just set up a resolution to learn one), you're not alone; every day there are more people embracing the challenge of mastering a language. It can be tricky to know where to start, and sometimes the biggest learning hurdle.

No matter what language you're trying out (and whatever your native language), there are always solid methods to help start your journey off and help reach your language learning goals. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Chunking technique

Rather than attempting to memorize lengthy lists of words, it's more effective to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. You can group the words by themes or categories, such as food, colors or daily activities. Additionally, you can use mnemonic devices or create associations to help you remember them more efficiently.

For example, if you're trying to learn colors, you could use the acronym "ROYGBIV" and make a phrase out of that, like ‘Richard of York gave battle in vain’ to remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  You can make whatever acronyms or phrases are easiest for you to remember.

This technique can also be used to remember rules or concepts. By associating them with memorable phrases, images or stories, they become easier to recall and apply in practical situations.

Spaced Repetition System (SRS)

Use spaced repetition systems like Anki or Quizlet to create flashcards for vocabulary. These systems use algorithms that show flashcards at intervals based on your familiarity with the words. Review flashcards regularly, focusing more on unfamiliar words to reinforce memory retention.

To create effective flashcards, it is important to focus on quality over quantity. Instead of trying to memorize large amounts of words at once, start with a smaller set of words and gradually add more as you become more comfortable. When creating your flashcards, include both the word and its definition. You can also include example sentences or images to help you remember the word more easily.

The more you practice something regularly the more likely it is to stick in your longer-term memory. You’ll be surprised how much you can retain over time with this technique that’s based on science.

Pomodoro Technique

A classic but essential technique. Divide your study time into short, focused intervals using the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes of concentrated language practice, followed by a 5-minute break. Repeat this cycle and take a longer break after every 4 cycles (2 hours).

This method boosts productivity and maintains focus during study sessions. It is great for those days when your attention span isn’t as sharp as usual. Find an online Pomodoro timer here.

Visual learning aids

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you are trying to learn, creating visual aids such as mind maps and infographics can be a helpful way to simplify complex concepts and make them easier to understand.

For example, when studying a new language, you may find it helpful to create a mind map that breaks down the different grammar rules, verb conjugations and key phrases you need to know. This can help you see how all of the different elements fit together and make it easier to remember them when you need to use them. It can be a great way to also notice patterns, which can be helpful for understanding a concept or language rule.

Vocabulary notebook

Designate a notebook or use digital tools to create a vocabulary repository. Divide it into sections based on themes. For example, you could have a section for business vocabulary, another for scientific terms, and so on. This will help you to organize your learning and make it easier to find and review specific words and phrases.

As you come across new words, be sure to add them to your vocabulary repository right away. Include the word, its definition and an example sentence to provide context. You can also add images or audio recordings to help reinforce your understanding of the word.

The great thing about designing your own book is that you can present it however you want and in whatever way works best for you. Some people find the act of writing their learnings useful to remember what they’ve learned.

Regularly reviewing your vocabulary repository will help you retain the words you have learned and expand your knowledge over time. So make sure to set aside some time each week to review your vocabulary and add new words as you come across them.

Listen and repeat

Find beginner-friendly podcasts, videos, TV shows or audio dialogues in the target language. Listen attentively and pause at intervals to repeat what you've heard. Focus on mimicking the speaker's pronunciation and rhythm. This technique aids in comprehension and speaking fluency.

There are many free resources available online that can help you with this type of listening practice. YouTube is a great place to start, as there are many beginner-friendly clips available in a wide variety of languages; for example, if you're learning Spanish, there are plenty of podcasts available online and on Spotify.

These specific language learning methods, when incorporated into your language study routine, can significantly help aid your progress as a beginner and keep you on track. Experiment with different methods to find what works best for your learning style and stick to it.

Don't forget to try out different language learning strategies, even the ones that may seem weird or unusual. You might be surprised at what you find works well in improving your language skills.

If you're trying to learn English, make sure to read our blog post 6 easy ways to learn English or 3 ways to learn new English words.

Read more about our products for learners and check out our language learning app Mondly by Pearson.

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    A guide to mastering business English writing

    By Pearson Languages
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    Effective communication is critical in the fast-paced world of global commerce. For non-fluent English speakers (or emerging professionals who have just entered their first business careers), crafting compelling work documents can be a daunting task. Mastering workplace writing skills is vital whether you're seeking to close a deal, make contacts, establish a professional relationship or simply make your day-to-day correspondence more impactful.

    Understanding the nuances of business English and applying them skillfully can set your company and you apart in the competitive corporate arena. Have a look at our guide on how to improve your corporate English writing skills.

    What is it?

    Business writing refers to the clear and purposeful use of language in written form within a professional context. It encompasses a wide range of documents, including emails, reports, proposals and presentations, tailored to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues and stakeholders. That can also include writing web content for professional audiences and clients.

    What's an example of business writing?

    One example is a formal email to a client:

    Subject: Proposal for Partnership

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    I hope this email finds you well. I'm writing to present a partnership opportunity with XYZ Corp that aligns with your company's goals for expansion and innovation.

    [...]

    I look forward to your response and the possibility of future collaboration.

    Warm regards,

    Jane Doe

    Why is effective business writing important?

    Effective business writing is crucial as it reflects the professionalism and credibility of an individual and their organization. It ensures that the message is understood as intended, which is pivotal in decision-making processes and maintaining positive business relationships.

    Clear writing improves workplace communication by minimizing misunderstandings, saving time and enhancing productivity. It facilitates seamless collaboration between teams and departments and aids in developing and maintaining a positive professional image.

    Key elements of professional English writing

    When crafting business documents, several key elements ensure your workplace writing is effective and well-received. These elements include:

    • Structure and organization: A well-structured document with a clear introduction, body and conclusion makes your content more understandable and engaging. Use headings and bullet points to break down information and guide the reader through your message.
    • Tone and formality: The tone should match the context and purpose of your communication. While a business proposal might require formal language, an internal email to colleagues can be less formal. Understanding the nuances of tone can greatly impact how your message is perceived.
    • Purpose-driven writing: Every piece of corporate writing should have a clear purpose. Whether it's to inform, persuade, request or confirm, keeping the purpose in mind ensures that your writing is focused and achieves its intended goal.
    • Attention to detail: Precision and accuracy are paramount. This includes correct grammar, punctuation and spelling, as well as ensuring that all facts and figures mentioned are accurate. Errors in your writing can diminish your credibility and confuse the message.
    • Cultural sensitivity: In a global business environment, it is crucial to be aware of cultural differences and avoid culturally sensitive phrases. This sensitivity can prevent misunderstandings and foster more harmonious business relations.

    By focusing on these elements of workplace writing, you can enhance your business English writing and ensure it's both professional and effective.

    How can I improve my professional English writing?

    Improving your business English writing involves focusing on clarity, conciseness and appropriateness. Here are a few strategies to get you started:

    • Immerse yourself in business language: Read a variety of business-related materials such as reports, emails and articles.
    • Practice regularly: Engage in writing exercises that mimic real-world business scenarios.
    • Get feedback: Have your writing reviewed by proficient English speakers and incorporate their suggestions.
    • Brush up on basics: Reinforce your understanding of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation.
    • Utilize technology: Take advantage of language learning apps and online courses that offer business English modules. These tools can provide interactive learning experiences and immediate feedback.
    • Join professional networks: Participate in forums and networking groups where business English is used. Observing and engaging in discussions can enhance your understanding and application of business terminologies and conventions.

    Practical business writing tips

    You've got a writing task to start but you don't quite know how to approach it. Here are some actionable steps to help you:

    • Start with a clear purpose: Define the objective of your document and stick to it.
    • Organize your thoughts: Use headings, bullet points and paragraphs to structure your content logically.
    • Be concise: Use straightforward language and eliminate redundant words.
    • Use an appropriate tone: Maintain professionalism and consider the cultural context of your audience.
    • Revise and edit: Always revise your work for errors and clarity before sending it.

    Bad corporate writing

    To illustrate what to avoid, here are a few examples of bad writing:

    • Overuse of complex vocabulary leading to confusing sentences.
    • Long-winded paragraphs that bury the main point.
    • Casual or inappropriate language and words that don't fit the business context.
    • Writing that lacks a clear call to action.
    • Ignoring cultural nuances and making assumptions based on one's own cultural context. This can lead to misinterpretations or even offense, undermining the purpose of the communication.

    A bad example

    Applying the points above, you can begin to see how this message uses some of these examples, this could be perfectly fine for written conversation with a friend but not on a more serious, professional level:

    Subject: Quick Hello and Ask 

    Hey!

    Hope this message finds ya in good spirits. Wanna catch up real quick this Thursday on a lil' something I've got on my mind? Got an idea that might just be up your alley - think major game-changer vibes for both of us. Let's make it happen. Excited to hear your thoughts!

    Cheers!

    Alex

    The effects of poor professional writing

    Poor business writing can have far-reaching repercussions that can significantly impact an individual's career progression as well as an organization's reputation. Ineffective communication may lead to misunderstandings and loss of opportunities, eroding trust between parties and taking a toll on professional relationships. It's not just about immediate confusion or delays; the long-term effects can include the potential loss of business, as clients and partners may perceive inefficiency and lack of professionalism.

    English for effective business writing

    Mastering workplace writing is a continuous process that demands dedication and practice. By focusing on clarity, structure and an audience-centered approach, you can craft messages that not only inform customers but also influence them.

    Keep refining your skills, taking feedback positively, and staying updated with trends. Your written word has the potential to make a real impact in the business world, so wield your pen (or keyboard) and write with confidence and precision.

    Unlock your full potential in the business world with our comprehensive Business English courses. Also, check out our post '5 ways to politely say no in business English' and other language learning posts

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