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Advice on Language Learning

Online Advice from the Lingualearn Network of Experts

You may obtain general advice on any aspect of language learning from the large network of language professionals at Lingualearn.  Just complete the online request form and try to formulate your question(s) as clearly as possible.  There is no obligation and we will send you back a quotation by email.  The minimum order for this service is currently £200 + VAT

It is not possible to answer very long or highly technical questions using this service, nor questions about technical installations and equipment.  For more complex issues, please see our consultancy service.

Different Ways of Learning a Language

Different people learn in different ways.  There is no best way to learn a language, just different ways that suit different people.  Here are three of the main ways:

1. Naturalistic Acquisition

Some people prefer to 'pick up' the language naturally by immersing themselves in the culture, by reading books or magazines, watching films, visiting the country where the target language is spoken, etc.  They learn the language the way we learned our mother tongue as children.  They focus on the meanings of words and don't worry too much about the language forms used.  This method often suits children if they find themselves in a foreign country or with foreign friends.  They just play together and pick up the language quickly and effortlessly.  It is also a method that can work for some adults.  Some students who go abroad to learn a language spend more time chatting with the locals in bars, and end up learning more of the foreign language and culture than their classmates who attend all the lectures!  However, this approach does have its drawbacks and it doesn't suit everyone.  If you spend your time chatting in the foreign language that is what you tend to get good at.  If your aim is to become good at writing essays or letters you'd better practice that too.  If you think that this approach is for you and you already have a good grounding in the language, try clicking on the links to books, magazines, newspapers, games, music, films, radio and TV on one of the language pages.  If your language level is not good enough to use these links you could try a tutored course or a self-study package.

2. Tutored Learning

Probably the most common way to learn a language in the UK is in a classroom with a teacher.  The teacher can provide small snippets of language that are easy to digest, explain difficult words, give guidance, provide extra motivation and feedback on progress, set a structured programme, and manage the whole experience.  Unfortunately, some people do not have very pleasant or successful experiences of learning a language in the classroom.  Language learning does not have to be like this; it can be great fun and very rewarding.  With a well qualified and experienced teacher, a group of highly motivated students, and a good selection of learning materials, the learning can be rapid and very satisfying.  Lingualearn can arrange a wide range of courses in different locations, at various times, and to suit different budgets.  It is also possible to travel abroad and study at a language school or university in the country where the target language is spoken.  This is a particularly effective way of learning a foreign language as it combines naturalistic and tutored learning.  See the study abroad links for futher details.
For those people who find it difficult to attend a course at fixed times, and require extra flexibility, Lingualearn can arrange one-to-one distance courses in a range of languages.  Using a personal tutor you can select your course content and arrange a very flexible system of tuition.  This means that if you have to go away on business or you are busy at a particular time you can still arrange to have your language tuition at a time that suits you.

3. Self-Study Packages & Methods

With recent improvements in modern technology, it is now possible to purchase a wide range of multi-media materials for learning a language.  You can learn a language on your own using cassettes, videos, CD ROMs, books, and any combination of these.  This approach is well suited to students who are self-disciplined, well organised and highly motivated.  It is also an approach that tends to assist with the development of reading and listening skills.  If you want to become fluent at speaking and writing the language, you'll also benefit from some interaction with other users.  There are many ways to achieve this, depending on your situation and location.  One relatively easy way is to try to arrange some type of tandem learning, either face-to-face or using email.
See the section on penfriends, keypals and chats for some ideas.  When you are studying alone you might find some type of dictionary useful when you come across a difficult word.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

The "Good Language Learner"

We know from research by Rubin (1975) that the Good Language Learner:

1. is a willing and accurate guesser
2. has a strong drive to communicate
3. is often not inhibited
4. is prepared to attend to form
5. practises
6. monitors his own speech and the speech of others, and
7. attends to meaning.

So what does this mean?  Although this research is a bit dated and culture specific, we can still learn a few lessons from it. 

Language Learning Strategies

Another researcher (Naiman et al. 1978) identified five major strategies for language learning:

1. active task approach (Good Language Learners actively involve themselves in the language learning task)
2. realisation of language as a system (Good Language Learners develop or exploit an awareness of language as a system)
3. realisation of language as a means of communication and interaction
4. management of affective demands (Good Language Learners realise initially or with time that they must cope with the affective demands made upon them by language learning and succeed in doing so)
5. monitoring of performance in the target language.

The most frequently used techniques (Naiman et al., 1978) by Good Language Learners were:

1. having contact with native speakers 
2. listening to radio, T.V., records, movies, commercials etc.
3. reading anything: magazines, newspapers, professional articles, comics, etc.
4. repeating aloud after teacher and / or native speaker 
5. making up bilingual vocabulary charts and memorising them 
6. following the rules as given in grammar books or text books 
7. having pen-pals.

Study Skills

If you're going to learn a foreign language, you might need to brush up your general study skills first.  This means you should attend to issues such as:

  • managing your time effectively
  • making good notes
  • planning out your studies
  • collecting together the resources you need
  • making sure you have a suitable place to study
  • brushing up your IT skills
  • trying a few memory exercises
  • developing your own confidence-building techniques.

Please see the Liverpool Hope University and Sussex Language Institute sites for some tips. Also see study skills packages to help overseas and native students with essay writing and studying. In addition, Clarity have two useful products Study Skills Success and Report Writer.

General Tips for Language Learners

The BBC has a few useful tips. The EU Europa site gives more tips, asks some useful questions about why you should learn a language, how to learn a language, your reasons for learning, and gives some information on study skills.

You may also benefit from our pages on motivation and what to expect on a language course.

Dr M I Freeman

Useful books (click on the images for our latest prices and availability):

The Complete Guide to Learning a Language: How to Learn a Language with the Least Amount of Difficulty and the Most Amount of Fun
by Gill James

Mind Your Language!: A Practical Guide to Learning a Foreign Language
by Remo L. Nannetti

also

Breaking the Language Barrier (Paperback)
by Georgina Howard

ISBN-10: 0954120302

This colourful and user-friendly guide to language learning will inspire people of all ages and abilities!

Drawing on her long experience as a linguist and language teacher, Ms Howard sets out to challenge our linguaphobia, and demonstartes that languages are well within our grasp.

RRP: £4.99

and a couple of video clips from YouTube:

 

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