When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. -Seneca
Knowing your goals for learning the language will go a long way toward helping you remain committed to mastering the language and provide the direction you’ll need to stay the course. Setting specific targets allows you to craft a better plan that focuses more clearly on getting you to where you want to go.
Take some time to define what you want to be able to do in each area of the language: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Determine what you think is important in regards to learning about the culture and history of the nation where your language is spoken.
By doing these you can begin to take specific actions to achieve your goals.
As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a lot of talk about what method or program is the best to use to learn another language. Everyone seems to have a favorite, the one they swear by and to have a select few that receive regular doses of their wrath.
The reality is though that we are each individuals and will all learn in different ways with different methods and programs. We would do well then to focus on principles. What are the principles behind effective language learning? Here are a few I can think of:
1. We need massive amounts of input.
2. We need to stick with it over the long haul.
3. We need to make connections with native speakers.
4. We need repetition and practice.
Nearly any method or program can help us in part to connect with these principles.
Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being selective – doing less – is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest. -Tim Ferris, The 4-Hour Work Week
I’ve made a practice of trying lots of new activities, ideas, programs and tools for learning languages. I do this so that I can report honestly about what I like and don’t like about these resources and make well informed suggestions to readers.
In doing all of this experimenting, I have come to find that some activities work better for me than others. They give me more bang for my buck. I should then spend more time doing these activities and less time doing less productive activities.
But then I read on another language blog about how important something else is and I think I should add that to what I do. But why? It working well for them is no guarantee it will work well for me. Just because I think handcrafted audio is important doesn’t mean it will be a great activity for every other language learner.
Find what works well for you and stick with it.
A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. -Anthony Trollope
This is probably the most important quote on this list for the everyday language learner. I’ve met very few people who made a conscious decision to quit learning another language. Most don’t decide to quit, they just fizzle out. One week they are going gangbusters, the next week they are loosing momentum and then they find that, unbeknownst to them, they have’t worked at learning their target language in over a month.
Determining to do something – no matter how small – everyday, will do a lot to keep the ball rolling in the right direction and help you reach your goal to master another language.
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. -Psalm 39:4-5
Life is short. I have a nine year old and a seven year old and it seems only yesterday they were in diapers. I am turning 40 this fall.
Where does the time go?
They say the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is TODAY. If you are waiting for the ideal time to really dive into mastering another language, you aren’t going to find it.
Get started today applying yourself toward the dreams and goals that are important to you. If learning another language is one of those, now is the time to begin.
It is never too late to be what you might have been. -George Elliot
So you’ve wasted a few years. You’ve fritted away golden opportunities. You’ve cast off a dream in order to live a safe, secure life and now wonder if you made the right choice. You’ve put off beginning to learn another language until you have enough money to travel overseas where you can be “immersed.”
What’s past is past. You can always begin again and you can always begin right now. Today.
Did you pass up an opportunity to study abroad in college? Did you miss the chance to sign up for a language class? Did you chose the secure job rather than the volunteer opportunity overseas?
Today is a new day. Start working toward your dreams now. Step by step, one day at a time, you can make it happen. (Tweet that)
[The link to The 4-Hour Work Week above is an affiliate link. I've been reading it lately and have found all sorts of useful information and ideas in it. Highly recommended.]
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