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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.
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.
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.
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.