When practicing a language, you want to make sure you are as productive as possible. Here are 5 tips to ensure that your time is worth it.
You should practice regularly and often
So you've decided to learn Spanish! You download today's trending language learning app, and start to crunch the levels, putting in 2 hours of efforts in one sitting. You feel great, but exhausted. After one week, you still haven't reopened the app, and all the vocabulary and grammar that you have learned is long forgotten. Needless to say, this is not the best way to get to fluency.
In reality, it is preferable to practice for shorter amounts of time on a regular basis. For instance, studying one hour, three times a week for several months will have a huge impact on your level. The best thing is to find a way to fit your studying into your schedule, and stick to it.
Don't be scared to make mistakes
One of the great things I have found about learning a new language, is that natives and people in general don't judge you when you make mistakes. On the contrary, they will often appreciate the effort of you trying to speak their language. You are a learner after all, and no-one expects you to speak perfectly.
Making mistakes is actually a part of the learning process. Without mistakes, there is nothing to improve, and so there is no progression.
Get someone to correct you when you make mistakes
This one is often forgotten, but it makes a great difference. Too often when we speak with natives, they will manage to make out the meaning of what we are saying, in spite of grammatical or vocabulary errors. The problem with this is that we will continue to make the same mistakes repeatedly without having the opportunity to improve.
There is a right balance to strike between constantly correcting a student and letting them make basic mistakes without any feedback. Experienced teachers will know what can be expected of a student, they will adjust the amount of correction to their level as to keep the flow.
Take notes and review what you previously learned
It might seem like an obvious thing but reviewing your notes is a very important step in the learning process. Your brain might be able to hold some knowledge for the duration of the lesson. Unfortunately, if you don't revisit your notes, you won't retain the information in the long term.
There are many learning techniques based around this concept. Some like spaced repetition, others use mnemonic to help your brain into retaining knowledge. In the core though, they are all based on the same principle which is to get you to try and retrieve information that you previously learned.
Have fun and talk about anything
What makes learning Spanish so beautiful is that the language is very much alive. There are hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers, their conversations being as varied as you might think. Are you passionate about a sport? Do you enjoy discussing books or movies? Or are you interested in current social causes? Learning a new language shouldn't be restricted to asking directions or asking someone about where they are from.
Ultimately the purpose of learning a language is itself to be able to communicate. Talking about things which are dear to you will greatly help with motivation, it will engage you in the conversation beyond the simple need to learn the language.