How to keep the fun in language learning!
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  • 25 tips for language learning

    Posted on March 23rd, 2009 Mairo Vergara 14 comments

    helpful_tips_language_learningI summarized 25 tips for language learning from Teach Yourself a Foreign Language Podcast episode six. I hope you like it!

    1. When first starting out, try to just listen to your target language as much as possible without attempting to speak it. This helps you acquiring an ear for the language.

    2. Develop a deep desire to learn the language. Without a desire you won’t get far.
    3. Use time for you language learning which is ordinarily wasted. Standing on line, waiting for an elevator, etc., are all opportunities not to be missed.

    4. Think in terms of phrases and not individual words. It’s easy to remember a phrase like “a breakfast of bread and butter” than it is to remember each word in isolation.

    5. Use your imagination. Visual images can help you remember words.

    6. Invent stories using as much of your new vocabulary as possible. Any words you can’t think off in your target language use your native language and then look up those words later.

    7. Listen to internet radio broadcasts and podcasts as much as possible.

    8. Likewise, watch videos. (http://youtube.com/)

    9. Utilize the BBC for news broadcast and lessons in your target language. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/aprenda_ingles/)

    10. Utilize flashcards or small notebooks to review vocabulary words and phrases.

    11. Invent funny or silly mnemonic phrases to help you remember new words or concepts.

    12. Use a bilingual dictionary often, not just to look up specific words, but browse through it.

    13. Draw columns on paper, words in your native language on the right and target language on the left. This allows your eye to easily scan to one column to the next and it helps your brain absorbs that word.

    14. Write a simple children’s book in your target language. Make it silly and utilize simple concepts as though a child was actually going to read the book.

    15. Learn the past tense before learning the present tense, and save the future tense for last.

    16. Practice unfamiliar sounds in your target language in the shower or in the car. Example: the English “th” sound. Say it over and over.

    17. Use computer programs and free online dictionaries. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/, http://www.merriam-webster.com/)

    18. When reading, read more slowly and deliberately than you do in your target language. Later, as you progress, your speed will increase to normal levels.

    19. Read bilingual books or books in the target language that you are already familiar in your native language.

    20. Read comics and cartons in your target language

    21. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

    22. Read your grammar books.

    23. Think in your target language

    24. Put stickers in everyday life items until you’ve learned their names.

    25. Take an occasional break or a day or two off to let your mind sort out your new vocabulary words.

  • Revolutionary approach to learning languages!

    Posted on January 28th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 6 comments

    revolutionary-article-on-language-learningKatz just twittered (can use twitter as a verb? “to twitter”) about this great article: Revolutionary approach to language learning. By the way, you can follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/mairov.

    “Teachers should recognise the importance of extensive aural exposure to a language. One hour a day of studying French text in a classroom is not enough—but an extra hour listening to it on the iPod would make a huge difference,” Dr Sulzberger says.

    This kind of article makes me think that someday in the not-near future, students will receive iPods when enrolling on language courses, play RPG games to improve their reading abilities, use SRSs, and set up blogs in their target language (just like me…).

  • Key principles in language learning

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 1 comment

    language-keyOn a previous post I talked about how there isn’t a single method for language learning and how you have to find out your own method. Although the method varies depending on you, some key principles for language learning are universal. I can tell you these principles, or you can find them by yourself just by studying and trying different languages and methods.

    In this text I’m going to talk about some of the principles, but it’s very important that you study, notice, and understand these principles by yourself. Once you have understood how language learning works, you certainly will succeed in your studies. Also notice that there are many principles, so I’m going to talk just about some of them (actually three).

    Exposure is key!


    Principle number one is really simple: the more time you spend with the language, the more time you learn. Exposure is key. However, you need good exposure. Classrooms often offers bad exposure, because you have to read texts made for language learners and listen to your classmates bad accent and intonation. The unique good exposure is probably the teacher (although sometimes even the teacher has a bad accent). Good exposure means to listen to real content, read real texts, books, and magazines. Speaking can also be a good way of expose yourself to the language, but only if you can speak to a native or someone with very good skills. Remember you learn more when listening to the other guy than when speaking to him. Listen to music, play games, watch movies, chat on MSN, etc. All these things counts as exposure. Again, the more time you spend with the language the more you learn.

    Input over output!


    Input means listening and reading. Output means speaking and writing. Keep in mind that Input is much more important than Output. Don’t let teachers bother you with the “you need to practice what you’ve learned”. Listening and reading are real practice! I’ll give an example: I started writing on Lang-8, because I wanted to improve my writing skills (and I’m still doing it). After a while I notice my mistakes and writing patterns were always the same. I could polish my writing and correct some errors, but it was just a little improvement on my writing skills. So how I can really improve? Reading, my friend! I have to read more, to read books, to read well written English. If I read a lot, and after that write again, I will probably come up with something new, with new words and expressions. It’s the same for your native language. If you want to be good at writing, or want to became a writer, you have to read like a crazy. You have to devour books! Speaking works in the exactly same way. You can practice and improve your speaking skills. But in order to go further, to talk and impress other with your super cool accent, you have to listen a lot. You need thousands of hours of listening. You need to put that language inside your head so that you listen to the sounds and the rhythm of the language even when you’re not listening. You need to know by heart the books, the phrases and patterns. That’s input! It’s like a big box inside our head. If you need words or phrases, you go to the the box and get it. But you’re not going to get it if the box is empty! So fill up the box! Once you have enough input, output will just be a consequence, it will come naturally.

    Regularity: keep going, just keep going!


    Don’t study seven hours on weekends. Don’t go to the super intensive two weeks English course for only $3000. Instead, study one hour everyday. Regularity is what will make you succeed. You can go hardcore and study 8 hours everyday, but assure to to it every fricking day! And don’t compare yourself with others. Just do it every day and keep going! Katz said “I’m going to act Japanese and I’m going to keep acting Japanese until it’s not acting any more“.In other words; you do it until you don’t feel your actually doing it anymore. Until it becomes part of you. But do it right, OK? Combine good exposure, tons of input, a little bit (just a bit) of output, and keep going, keep doing it every day. If you do it, you will succeed.