Road to Language Learning Success Part 3 – Review, Amend & Improve

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We have finally reached the final part in this three part series on how to reach language learning success. If you haven’t read them already go and check out Part 1 and Part 2 to see how I plan my goals and design a bullet tracker to boost your progress. The final stage is where the real hard work begins… you have to study.


Taking Notes

Fitting language learning into your daily life can be very difficult around other commitments like work, family and sleep, but it is possible. Don’t worry if you don’t have hours a day to set aside to learn your new language. Take the Little and Often approach. This is when I use all the little gaps in my day, and week, to quickly built up into hours. 10 minutes of a podcast while washing the dishes, 5 minutes listening to the radio in the shower and 15 minutes reading a book at night. This might not sound like a lot but if you do it everyday it will soon add up. Just these three things will be 3.5 hours a week and a whopping 15 hours a month. We may not all have time to study for an hour but finding 5 or 10 minutes here and there will help you see great results in your learning.

To keep my motivation and positivity high I count a goal as complete when I have actively tried to work towards it on that day; no time limits involved. In the past I used to set very restrictive time frame, requirements and deadlines and I just ended up feeling demotivated and going through a language dry patch… well no more!

One of my previous goals was to listen to a Spanish podcast each day. Some days I would be lucky enough to squeeze in 2 or 3 but even when I could only listen to the first 5 minutes I would still count that as a win for that day. Then when you look at your tracker at the end of the month you will see lots of positive ticks against the goal. Sometimes it is easy to forget how much work you have put in so having your tracker as a visual reference is really helpful.

August Tracker - Complete

With the month finished it is time to conclude your goals and review them. Not every goal will work every time so it is important to take a step back and think about how you can change or improve them in the future to learn quicker, more often or more easily. It is as much about learning how you learn as learning the language itself.

Here are some questions I ask myself for each goal:

Was it too easy?

Having an easy goal, that you can complete everyday, is great for feeling motivated but it needs to also have a positive effect on your learning. If you are too comfortable you won’t be pushing yourself to try and learn new things; which is where improvement comes from.

Manga Phone

I set myself the goal of reading manga each day in Italian. This worked really well as it was downloaded on my phone and I did this everyday without fail. The only problem was that I wasn’t using it to focus on learning anything specific like vocabulary or grammar. So when I choose this in the future, which I will be doing, I will make it more specific around an area of my learning I want to improve so I am actively doing something.

Was it too difficult?

The other side of the coin is that in your excitement you set yourself a target which was wildly ambitious and you didn’t actually complete it at all. Don’t worry, we have all been there. This can happen for lots of reasons but it ultimately means you didn’t learn from it. In this instance I try to break the goal down into a more bitesize chunk to make it more manageable.

Processed with MOLDIV

When I set the goal to record a video in Spanish each day I did it most days but I found it very difficult to use variety as I wasn’t learning new vocabulary fast enough. The following month I joined the IGLC as inspiration to create a video flashcard each day. Taking the word for each day and learning one new sentence which I included lots of new information in. Although it was only one sentence I got lots of practice in speaking, new vocabulary and grammar practice. A much more effective approach that works for me.

Was it boring?

Sometimes you will decide on a task with the best intentions, because you have heard it is what “language people” do and found it insanely boring. But you still struggle on because it must be something wrong with you… right? WRONG! Everyone is different and so we won’t all learn in the same way, and find the same things interesting.

If it is extremely dull try to think about what you wanted to learn from it and then choose another way of doing it. There are almost limitless resources out there for you to choose from so try and find something that you enjoy. If you are into sport why not watch some sport commentary in your target language. A food fan? Find some recipes in the language and have a go at cooking them. Language learning should be fun otherwise it will be a million times harder to do and you will be unlikely to reach your final goal.

Did I learn from it?

The main aim of setting a goal is to learn something so it should be obvious to check that you are actually learning from it. If not, then decide what you need to do so that you are learning something new or practicing what you already know.

German Pokemon

In July, I set myself the goal to watch videos everyday to try and increase my exposure to new vocabulary and improve my listening skills. Unfortunately I didn’t really learn much new vocabulary and found it quite difficult to make time for. So, I decided to change this to listening to music as it was easier to fit into my day and a lot more enjoyable while still working towards the same aim.

No one is perfect so don’t expect your goals to be. The more time you spend learning languages the better you will get at it. If I could go back to the time before I started learning I would do things very differently. You just have to remember that nothing is a waste of time as it is helping you find the yellow brick road on your path to see the language wizard. It might be confusing, frustrating or even a little impossible but if you stick at it you will get there. I have faith in you!

Hopefully with all these tips and tricks you will have a lot of ideas of how to attack your  language challenges and avoid some of the pitfalls that litter the road to fluency. If you have any questions, or need some advice, please leave a comment or send me a message and I will be happy to help.

Ciao for now!

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