There are good ways and not so good ways to learn a language. Here are ten things that you should avoid and some advice about what you should do instead!
1. Don't be unrealistic.
You can't go from beginner to advanced level in three months, unfortunately. You can't learn 500 new words a day. You need to be realistic about what you can achieve. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you will quickly feel disappointed and demotivated. Don't let other people put too much pressure on you either. And don't try to move up through the levels too fast. It's important to have a good understanding of the basics before you move on to the next level.
2. Don't use the wrong level.
You don’t want to use something that’s too difficult. If a beginner watches a film in English, he probably won't learn anything from it. You don’t want something too easy either because that might be boring and you won’t learn anything new. The right level for you is something that you can mostly understand but with a few new words.
3. Don't worry about making mistakes.
Try not to be too shy or afraid of getting it wrong. Most of the time, people will understand what you mean even if it isn't perfect, and communication is the most important thing. Also, you can learn a lot from your mistakes so your mistakes can actually help you to improve.
4. Don’t forget to review.
Don't look at everything once and think you know it or expect to remember it. Grammar rules need to be practised many times before they become automatic. New vocabulary needs to be seen many times before it stays in the memory. It's important to take notes and review new language regularly.
5. Don’t just read the vocabulary book.
Don't just try to learn lists of vocabulary without any context. I've seen students work through vocabulary books which are just word lists with translations. There are many reasons why this is not a helpful approach. Firstly, it's boring! Secondly, it's easier to understand and remember words if you see them in a more natural context. Thirdly, you need to practise using what you learn in order to remember it. Reviewing your word lists and doing vocabulary exercises are good things to do but they aren't enough on their own.
6. Don’t just read the grammar book either.
Don't just work through a grammar book. As in the previous point, grammar exercises are a good thing to do but it shouldn't be the only thing you do. Doing a variety of different things with your study time will make learning more enjoyable and help you to learn faster. Also, don't forget to practise using what you learn. Try to use the grammar points in your speaking and writing.
7. Don’t forget to look after yourself.
Don't stay up all night playing games and looking at social media and then try to study when you're half asleep! This might sound like an obvious thing to say but I've seen students do it many times. Getting up late and missing breakfast is another problem for some people. You can't concentrate if you are sleepy and hungry and you won't learn much. Exercise is probably helpful for learning too. A healthy body gives you a healthy mind, ready to learn!
8. Don’t forget to take a break.
Don't study for hours without a rest. This won't help you learn faster and it might even slow you down. It's important to take regular breaks.
9. Don’t be a passive learner.
If you're in a class, don't rely only on your teacher to do it all for you. You will learn faster if you study and practise on your own between lessons as well. Teachers are very helpful but they can't put the language into your head for you. You have to do some work yourself. If you are teaching yourself, are you just watching movies and waiting for English to magically stick in your brain? Are are you checking new words and practising using the language. Active learners learn faster.
10. Don't stop!
If you stop using the language, you will forget it and then all the hours of study will be for nothing! I know this from personal experience! I learnt some French and German at school, and Polish more recently, but I really struggle to communicate now because I can't remember it all. So sad!
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