Laying the Foundation for Learning a Language – How to Learn a Language on Your Own (Part 1)
You probably have felt this burning need inside to learn a new language once or twice in your life. But there's a good chance that you didn't know where to start.
It's like standing in front of the dark forest. You know that you have to get through it in order to get what you want.
But it's scary and lonely, and you're hungry, and... look! What a mess! I must clean my room and do some other ... stuff. The point is - not knowing the way is probably one of the biggest obstacles on the way to master the language.
And that's the ultimate goal of this series of articles - to show you where to start, what to do and what to avoid. Each part of the series is devoted to a different issue.
You will learn how to tackle every component of learning a language - including notoriously gruesome grammar and vocabulary.
I really do hope that it will help you get started.
I've learned 8 languages so far and I know one thing - if you can't create the system which emulated what you do, there is a good chance you have no idea what you're doing.
Without further ado:
0. Choose The Language
I assume that you already have a pretty good idea which language you would like to learn.
If you're still on the fence - check
This is where it all starts. Sure, other things are important as well. But ask yourself this - why do I want to learn this language?
There are no wrong answers. The reason should be valid for you, not for others.
Do you want to get a new job? Impress your wife? Visit some country? Be able to read Manga?
Remember - if your motivation is flimsy there's a good chance that you'll drop your project as soon as some obstacles get in your way. You definitely don't want that to happen! Can you imagine the surge of anger after you realize that you put hundreds of hours into the project which is a flop?!
You'll probably punch some nice, old lady to vent! That's why you should make sure that your motivation is strong enough to pull you through your darkest hours.
Your desire to learn is a foundation - cherish it.
Let it be a constant reminder of why you do what you do. Reinforce right motives as often as you can - they will be your shield against all the distractions and temptations
Your initial momentum will help you break down all the barricades.
But can you increase your motivation or is it something constant? Well, great news everyone! You can. If there is something I've learned about learning, in general, it's that: the faster your progress is the more and harder you're willing to work to see even more impressive results.
So how can I increase my progress? Read on. We will get to that. My personal favorite to boost my motivation is betting.
How does it work?
Bet with someone that you'll learn, let's say, 300 words in 2 weeks (set a deadline). If you lose you have to suffer consequences - e.g. pay your friend 200$. If you win - great, you've achieved your goal. It's worked wonders for me!
What are other great ways to keep yourself motivated?
Read the Forbes article.
2. Change Attitude Or Die
Another pivotal part of laying the foundations is getting rid of the mental barriers you've been cherishing up to this day.
One of the most widespread (and harmful) beliefs concerning languages are:
I believe that they are terribly destructive (and obviously not true) and seriously impair your learning ability if you do not become aware of them.
That's why you need to become more mindful and
learn how to overpower your inner demons of procrastination and laziness.
So go ahead - slap yourself every time when you catch yourself having these thoughts. The words which you use to describe yourself shape your reality. That's why you should remove all the negative terms from your vocabulary, as well as the word "can't".
Way too many people are stifled by their own preconceived beliefs about what they can and can’t do. Don't be one of those people.
3. Set a Goal
But why? Do I have to? Nope, you don't have to do anything. But if you're vague about what you want to achieve, you 'll probably never do it.
You have to see the target to be able to shoot it! Remember, your goals should be SMART.
So what is a good goal?
I believe that determining an initial level of language which you want to achieve is essential. It has a great impact on the learning methods you should choose and as well on the scope of material.
Be as specific as you only can. You can, of course, learn a given language without purpose if you're passionate about it but most people will simply give up after some time.
4. Get The Right Resources (and not too many of them)
Let's start with basics and explain why you shouldn't use too many learning materials. The reason is simple - having too many options paralyze our
That's why I typically provide myself with the three following things:
A pocket dictionary
Why is it indispensable? Think about it...that's right! The smaller the dictionary the more useful words are included there.
Don't waste your time and money on any big dictionary at the beginning (or at all). The good dictionary should include the most important meanings of a given word.
If you can see only one meaning for each word - skip this dictionary and look for another one. Another quality of the great dictionaries is that they always contain the most popular phrases including given words.
And finally! Pronunciation! Always check if a dictionary has a phonetic transcription of words. Don't worry if you don't know how to read these strangers symbols right now. It's not that difficult.
A good grammar book
Usually, any which is not dedicated to advanced learners is just fine.
A phrase book
It shows in a very neat way frequently used phrases and sentences.
That means you can memorize them and use them right away!
5. Set a Deadline
If you think you shouldn't set one then you're not serious about your project. Even if you don't achieve exactly what you wanted in the given period of time - that's ok. The world hasn't ended. Draw conclusions and move on.
Six things about deadlines by Seth Godin
GET TO WORK!
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, or maybe some other burning problem, drop me a message. And don't forget to subscribe if you enjoyed reading this guide.
Read Other Parts of the Series "How to Learn a Language on Your Own"
- Do’s And Dont’s Of Learning Languages – How To Learn A Language On Your Own (Part 2)
Active And Passive Learning – How To Create The Winning Combination (Optimize Your Language Learning – Part 3)
- How To Learn Grammar Fast – How To Learn A Language On Your Own (Part 4)
- How To Improve Listening Skills In A Foreign Language – Learn A Language On Your Own (Part 5)
About the dictionaries, do you think the Linguee is a good online dictionary to use as a pocket (Linguee doesn’t have the phonetic transcription)?
It’s decent but I would look for sth else if I were you (unless you don’t have a choice).
Hi, can you suggest one grammar book. I know you said any which isn’t dedicated for advanced learners. But then there are just generally so many, that choice doesn’t feel simple.
Hi! For English, it would be Murphy’s Grammar in Use. That’s a classic for all the good reasons.
I have a few issues with language learning. I think the main one is motivation. Every language blog I read says you must have this and I agree but I can’t seem to find one for any language beyond the superficial. I have been writing in Spanish every day to get corrected and listening to tapes but it’s a real slog. However I can’t imagine feeling happier with any other language. I feel though that if I found the right reasons, I could get through it. Although maybe this whole thing isn’t for me… What do you think, sir?
Motivation is, as you could read in this article, important in the beginning of your language learning journey.
You should not count on it later. Actually, I have a catchy saying I tell my clients – motivation is for suckers.
After the initial phase of learning, you should base your studying on habits.
Habits don’t require much energy or cogitation. You just follow them day in and day out.
Another problem you might have is that your learning is not fun enough.
Drills can be helpful but they are not for everyone. Try to find something you might enjoy in your target language!
Thank you for your useful guides. I will do it right now. And I hope that these things help me achieve all my target language.
I hope so as well. Good luck! 🙂