5 Tips for self-studying a foreign language
In a previous post here at Vagablogging, I wrote about what tools you can use to self-study a language. While your choice of tools will determine the success of your program, your approach to studying can make the learning process easier and more enriching. Here are some things you should keep in mind while you’re studying on your own:
Learn everyday. You don’t necessarily have to take on a full-blown lesson each day, but by spending just a few minutes learning something new, you’ll spend less time reviewing in the future. If considerable time passes between lessons, you can’t learn as fast and whatever you learn will be easy to forget.
Acquiring a new language isn’t just word substitution. You can’t expect to just grab a foreign language dictionary and literally translate English phrases. The syntax, usage, and conjugations among languages vary greatly. There are unique rules for different classes of languages, and you need to know those rules before you can do accurate translations.
Know why you’re learning the language. In my experience, just ticking off a language from a list isn’t motivation enough. Do you want to learn Russian because you’re obsessed about Dostoevsky’s work? Are you interested in speaking Italian because your grandparents came from Umbria? Having a deep motivation can work wonders, since you’ll be inspired to go through even the toughest lessons.
Find a partner. If you can, find someone who wants to learn the same language as you do
Also, you should look for a native speaker to practice with. This shouldn’t be too hard given the web sites, chat rooms, and online communities at your disposal.
Have quantifiable goals. How do you measure your fluency? Will you take a language test? For my self-study program in Spanish, my goal was to have a 10-minute conversation with a native speaker and to translate at least 5 of Pablo Neruda’s poems. Make sure your goals are measurable so that you be certain whether you’ve achieved them or not.
Learning a new language by yourself is never an easy task. It requires constant patience and discipline. But if you keep the above tips in mind, your lessons will feel like steps towards personal fulfillment, rather than a chore you have to check off from your to-do list.
Have you ever self-studied a foreign language? What advice would you give those who are trying it for the first time?