Almost every language course being sold talk about their “guaranteed successful” methods. While we understand the need to hype a product in the prospect’s eyes, you should take such claims with a grain of salt. There are no guarantees when studying anything — we’ve seen people speak impressively in six months and others struggle after years of study, all while using the same language program.
If you want to guarantee success, the material you use is only one part of the equation. Your environment will also affect you, as well as the experiences you end up having. The bigger chunk, however, rests upon you: the extent of your natural ability to pick up new languages, the attention you’re able to give to the endeavor and the effort you eventually end up putting in.
Real talk: it’s going to be difficult to guarantee success even if your heart is 100% into it. There are just way too many variables that play into your results. However, there are ways you can stack the odds in your favor, maximizing your chances of seeing positive gains in language learning.
While good language learning material is key to learning, using the consensus best software or enrolling in the most highly-recommended school won’t always guarantee your success. What they do is further increase your odds of successfully learning the foreign language, though, so choosing language resources that suit your requirements is very important.
Whether you bought that Language software or enrolled in a course, make a point of sticking to your material. Too many heads can literally spoil the pot in this case, especially when those different resources have different ideas about how you can best learn. Instead of hastening your progress, going that route will likely impede it.
We can’t stress this enough. You see those guys in the gym with ripped bodies, six pack abs and muscles where you didn’t think people can have muscles in? Those aren’t the guys who go to the gym three times a week for a 45-minute workout like you see mentioned in every other fitness article. In reality, those guys are the gym rats who spend upwards of three hours in the gym six days a week all year round. Seriously.
Language learning is the same way. If you confine your lessons to twice a week classes or thrice a week sitdowns with a language software, you’ll get some results, but they’ll be nowhere near the fluency that you’re hoping for.
We’re not telling you to make language learning the center of your day. However, be prepared to give it a good chunk of your time every single day if you really want to guarantee success.
Take notes during your lessons and review them. Set aside some time every day for this purpose alone, preferably separate from your daily lessons. Going over your past lessons, even just by reading through them, will help etch concepts in your mind, maximizing your chances of absorbing the information.
This will be especially important once you’ve gone over a big chunk of material. You’ll likely forget a lot of things, so these review sessions can be your only chance of restoring the knowledge bank.
Before jumping into the pool, try lingering around the poolside a bit. That is, don’t dive directly into language lessons your first time. Instead, devote one or two weeks before that to developing your passive skills.
Listen to the language being used in songs, movies and other readily available content (the internet is your best friend). Pick up a magazine in the target language and flick through the ads, acquainting yourself with the written words. While you may feel like you’re gaining no useful skills in doing these, you’re actually picking up bits and pieces of the language that will come in handy later on.
Doing this makes the transition to learning a foreign language a little less drastic, since you have a bit of exposure to it. You’ll have some idea of how sounds are pronounced, how people pace their sentences and other important elements that will make actual lessons a lot less troublesome.
Don’t rush it. The basics create the foundation of your skills in the new language, so take the time to learn them properly. The stronger your foundation, the easier it will be to build upon it further down the line. Do all the early lessons and perform all the suggested exercises. Try to avoid going forward without completing lessons in their entirety — that’s the best way to ensure your basics are tight.
Goals give you a target to work towards, allowing you to turn your focus towards something that’s tangible and specific. Without goals, it’s like walking without a specific destination — you could end up going around in circles just wasting time.
When you have goals, your activities gain some structure. You immediately have a filter when deciding whether to do something or not. If it will further your goals, then go for it. If it won’t, then why bother?
There will be points during the process that you’ll question your own progress. Sometimes, your growth will be rapid. Other times, it take on a tortoise-like pace. That latter one is crucial — find ways to keep encouraging yourself during those down times, so you don’t end up throwing in the towel.
Devote lots of time for practice. If you’re not in a foreign country, use the internet to meet and chat with people who speak the language. Many times, you’ll be able to find people who will practice with you in language learning forums, often as an exchange deal — help them practice their English and they’ll help you practice on your target language. Take advantage of these situations.
The more practice time you can get, the faster your progress will be. Count on it. People who sit through lessons all day without applying what they learned will have a hard time truly integrating it into their available skills, so consider practice a required course, rather than an elective.