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How to learn languages like a pro

Learning languages
There are three essential parts of learning a language. If you keep these three things in mind, learning a language can be a breeze. Firstly, you have to build up a good base of vocabulary. Secondly, in order to use the vocabulary properly, you have to study and understand the grammar that goes with it. Thirdly, to internalise a language, you have to spend time with it.

1. Learning vocabulary

Speaking is one of the most difficult skills when learning a language. It's common to struggle in conversation due to a lack of vocabulary. Learning words and their meanings is something absolutely essential when learning a language because if you don't know words, you can't express yourself. There are various techniques for picking up vocabulary, but everyone has to find out for themselves which method works best for them. Some learners are able to quickly absorb vocabulary lists by heart without much effort, while others prefer to use dictations or learn best with their senses.

Here are some tips for learning vocabulary effectively:
  • Visualisation of words
  • It can help to write the words you need to learn on index cards of different colours, or to use coloured pens, for example to be able to better distinguish the part of speech or to classify different word types. If you are an auditory learner, you can try thinking up a melody or a rhythm which helps you to memorise the vocabulary.

  • Put the vocabulary in context
  • Contextualisation is an important keyword when learning vocabulary. You can give the vocabulary you are learning tangible meaning using mind maps. You can write one keyword in the middle of a piece of paper and surround it with all the words you know about this topic. In this way you create a context in which you can use the words you have learned.

  • Reminders
  • Mnemonic devices and memorisation techniques can also help. Find out which method works well for you, or keep switching between different methods to make vocabulary learning a little more fun.

  • Repetition
  • Repetition and regularity are very important when learning vocabulary. If you want to make quick progress, you should spend about 15 minutes every day learning vocabulary. Keep repeating the words that you have trouble remembering or that have particularly difficult spelling. If you've got a vocabulary test at school, don't stop practicing your words when the test is over. Keep practicing them to store them in your long-term memory.

    It's worth noting that positive emotions help you remember what you have learned! Make sure you study in a comfortable and quiet environment. Keep in mind that learning vocabulary is an essential part of language learning and will help you massively. If you approach things with a positive attitude, you will learn faster and more sustainably! For more tips on how to effectively conquer learning vocabulary, check out our other blogs.

2. Understanding grammar

In order to understand a language properly and also be able to make yourself understood, it is important to be familiar with the structure of the language. Grammar helps you express yourself in different tenses expands your ability to effectively communicate.

Without studying grammar, you might be able to make yourself understood for the essentials, but your communication would be quite monotonous and limited to very few topics. Your conversation partner would also have to interpret a lot more to be able to understand you, which in turn increases the risk of being misunderstood.

3. Spend time with the language

This is the greatest part of language learning! It allows you to broaden your horizons and get a new perspective on the language and the culture that goes with it. Going on a trip or an exchange to another country is the best way to spend time with a language and to make rapid progress.

However, since this is not possible for everyone, the following three tips give other ideas for ways you can comfortably spend time with the language you want to learn at home, on a hike or even on the go on the bus or the train:
  • Watch films and series in the foreign language
  • Watch a film or series in a foreign language with English subtitles. If you can understand most of what's happening, you should switch the subtitles to the language spoken in the film; so you improve your reading and spelling at the same time as your listening skills!
  • Listen to radio and podcasts in the foreign language
  • In contrast to films and series, there is no visual context when listening to the radio or podcast. This means it is a lot more difficult, but also more effective! Of course, it also depends on the level of difficulty of the programs or podcasts. It's better to start with something simpler like a children's program or something on a topic which you are particularly interested in. The sense of achievement you can get from spending time with the language in this way can motivate and encourage you. The great thing about listening to podcasts or the radio is that you can do it while you're on the bus or train.
  • Reading
  • It might sound a bit old-fashioned, but reading is of course very effective when learning a language. Books, newspaper articles, magazines, whatever you can find and interests you will do. By looking up unfamiliar words, your vocabulary will expand rapidly.

    Don't be tempted to look up every single word you don't understand though so as not to interrupt the flow of reading too much. As long as you are understanding the gist it doesn't matter if you don't get every single word. For words you end up looking up more than once, create your own vocabulary list and try to memorise them. Words that you had to look up several times show that they occur frequently and are therefore important. If you understand this vocabulary, you save time when reading further and disturb your reading flow less and less. In addition to expanding your personal vocabulary, you will also learn grammar through reading. By focusing on the content of the text, you subconsciously internalise the structure of the language.

By spending as much time as possible in the language you want to learn, over time it will become less and less taxing. You quickly get used to it, until at some point you no longer even notice that you are, for example, watching a film in French. Not only do you expand your vocabulary and memorise the grammar, but you also learn to deal with not understanding absolutely everything. This is an important skill that will make learning a language a lot more palatable for you!

Bonus tip: For greater immersion in your target language, set your phone in the language you want to learn! In this way the language will creep into your subconscious and your everyday life and you'll also pick up some vocabulary that you surely haven't encountered yet.
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