Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Succeed at Learning a New Language

We have spoken with many people over the years who have been genuinely surprised that learning a new language requires a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of the learner.  Unfortunately, we just do not have the technology to zap a new language into the brain...yet.  In the meantime, here are some tips for succeeding at your language learning goals.

Step 1:  Set Realistic Goals
Before you register for a language class, take the time to meet with a Program Coordinator at the school.  Program Coordinators are knowledgable about what it takes to achieve language mastery.  It is important for the school to understand why you are interested in learning a language, what your personal expectations and goals are for the course and how much time you can dedicate to taking classes.  Based on this information, the Coordinator will talk with you about the different proficiency levels and can organize a plan to help you achieve your language goals. 

Step 2:  Regularly Attend Your Language Classes
Students who attend language classes on a consistent weekly basis have a much higher success rate than students who have sporadic attendence records.  Our recommendation is to meet 1-3 times per week for at least an hour and a half each session for students with non-urgent language learning needs. 

Step 3:  Participate in Class
To master a new language, you have to practice speaking the new language.  In inlingua classrooms, our students speak approximately 70% of the classtime.  This is designed to help give students the confidence to speak when they encounter real life situation where communicating in the new language is required.  Every student is going to make speaking mistakes while they are learning their new language.  Putting aside your pride and participating will allow the teacher to identify areas that need more improvement. 

Step 4:  Complete Homework & Review Between Classes
Every student needs to review and complete homework outside of class to achieve mastery in their new language.  Students who do not review the materials outside of class have much lower retention rates and spend a far greater amount of time reviewing previously learned material in their class sessions.  Reviewing and completing homework will not only accelerate your rate of learning, but you will also save money in the long run since less class sessions are required to reach their proficiency goals for students who are reviewing in between sessions.

Step 5:  Interact 
If you know native speakers of  the language that you are learning, try to communicate with them.  Most people are flattered (and patient!) when others attempt to communicate with them in their native language.  Try watching a television station that broadcasts in the language you are learning or listen to a radio broadcast.  The inlingua School of Languages offers an internet based pen pal program that allows students to interact with students who speak the language that they are learning.  The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with communicating in your new language!