Tips from the Tutors: How to be a better language learner

When I was researching a recent talk called "Getting Started in Any Language", I had the pleasure of gathering ideas and tips from many local tutors and instructors. From experienced German teachers to truly engaging Zumba instructors, these are some of their best pieces of advice for staying a happy learner.

Think positive

That glass is half full!

That glass is half full!

Remember that old myth about children being the better language learners? There's something in it which stems entirely from attitude and can make the world of difference.

Successful learners refuse to be frustrated by the things they can't do. They are too excited about learning a language, about picking up new words and having fun with them. Don't scold yourself for mistakes and forgotten words! Positive thoughts like "Yes! I'm doing it! I'm still going after months of learning!" will spur you on and keep you motivated.

Study little and often, not a lot before your next lesson

This one is all about getting a little routine going. If you attend a class, make sure you do your homework as soon after the class as you can. This will consolidate the new knowledge in your mind and help you put it to use. If you are a self-taught learner, try and write yourself a weekly schedule including an exercise one day, a few sentences another, a video another and some speaking practice too.

Use good reference materials

And know how to use them. A great grammar book, dictionary, verb table and an orderly set of online resources will be worth their weight in gold. You don't have to memorise everything straight away, but you have got to know where to look for it. Carry a small dictionary everywhere. Start seeing patterns in your verb tables. Don't let things go unexplained. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, if you've got 6 hours to fell trees, spend one of them sharpening the axe.


Map out some goals

We know goals, society is full of them! In Weight Watchers you set up to lose 5% of your current weight, and in formal education you work towards tests. So why not put a structure into your language learning and set yourself small goals? You may want to ask your tutor, teacher or a friend to help you with the goals.

I set myself quite a few goals for the next 3 months back at New Year's. I want to become a tutor and blogger inspiring everyone to learn a new language, and obviously this isn't going to happen overnight. So instead I focus on what can be achieved in 3 months. After the end of March, I can sit down and write it down, have a think about what I want and what a small step towards it will be. I risk being over-ambitious, but the 3 month deadline means I can review things regularly and it's not the end if I don't get to all of my goals.




Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr

Mens sana in corpore sano

That phrase is in Latin and means "a healthy mind in a healthy body", and you can interpret it in your own personal way. The message is this: You can't always just sit around and work and study. Be kind to yourself for the healthy mind, and make sure you get some fresh air and healthy food for the healthy body. If you're feeling happy in yourself, your brain will be a lot more accepting of the new stuff you're trying to put in there.

Have you got any other tips that help you learn? Share them with everyone in the comments. And if you enjoyed this article, please do sign up for my monthly Language Learning Newsletter!

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