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How to become a successful language learner

20/05/2021

Do you want to learn a new language? Or perhaps improve your command of a foreign language you speak already? Visit Galicia Unveiled for all your needs in English, Portuguese, Galician and Spanish 🙂

First, the naked truth: Your success in learning a language depends on you.

You may think that some people are just ‘good at languages’, but the greatest factor in your success is how much time and effort you are prepared to put in and how effectively you can direct that effort.

Breathe in, breathe out…
Be patient and keep on going!

Learning a language is a long-distance race that requires lots of patience. Just like practising a sport or learning to play a musical instrument, it’s all about doing a bit everyday and going step by step. Practice (repetition) makes perfect!

Sometimes you may think you are not improving, but you are. It happens that, as you are improving, you also realise there are more things you didn’t know, yet the constant effort does pay off when you compare your command of the target language in a time progression.

So remember: Be patient and keep on going. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (and don’t be shy!). Practise, practise, and then practise some more. Every little helps.

How do you do this exactly?

Babies learn to speak by being exposed to a language all the time. In a way, if one wants to learn a new language one needs exposure to that language. Ideally you’d spend some time in another country but, if that’s not a real possibility, you have to create a “bubble” in that other language where you can “live in” for a while, everyday.

Yes, but how?

→ Attending classes: language classes are essential. Use the classes to ask questions, solve doubts, learn about grammar and general rules that you’ll later “see” everywhere. Actually, you don’t have to take lots of classes if you make good use of your time off-class, but take advantage of your time in the classes by preparing them beforehand.

→ Listen listen listen! Listen to the radio in the target language, watch films in the original version (first with subtitles in your own language, then with subtitles in the target language), listen to music while you sing along (follow the lyrics).
Any auditory input will help in familiarising yourself with the rhythm, intonation and sounds of the language. Each language has its own “music” and it has to become familiar to you. Do not worry too much about understanding everything while you’re doing this. Pay more attention to the voices, the accents, the words and sentences you do understand and how they are saying them.

Talk to yourself in the target language. Actually, you can even record yourself and then listen to the “sounds” you make!

→ Imitate: Like a parrot! Yes! Repeat those apparently weird sounds. If you feel ridiculous when you’re doing that it probably means you’re doing it alright, for you are pronouncing following the patterns of the target language and abandoning the comfort of your mother tongue.

→ Read: You don’t need to read a 500-page novel on the first day, but you can look for information on the internet on topics you like, maybe one of your hobbies. Read short stories, articles, read about stuff you are interested in.
For example, use Wikipedia in the target language. This way you’ll be both satisfying your curiosity (and getting the info you wanted) and practising another language without even realising. Again, it’s all about the simple daily things you can do.

→ Write: It’s ok, it’s not going to be published. Simply write for yourself, think about the grammar and vocabulary you’ve been learning and come up with your own sentences or short stories using that new knowledge. It is the most effective way to remember grammar and vocabulary, as you’re squeezing your brain, thinking in the target language, in the “proper way”. And there’s no rush.

→ Be active, in general. Practise as much as you can. Don’t let any opportunity pass to use the language you want to learn. Make it fun!

Languages are not just a work of art, but an endless source of works of art (Castelao said). Languages are not solely for “communication”, but also a way to express feelings, emotions, complex artistic forms. Languages depict the world around them and convey it to others. In a manner, a language “shapes” the world of its speakers as it responds to the needs and realities of those same speakers.
Therefore, every language – every dialect – has its nuances, its own peculiarities, and it’s important to be aware of that. As a matter of fact, learning a bit about the history of a language and the culture where it originated, or where it is spoken now, will give you a great insight into how exactly its speakers are using it and how the language is evolving.

Do remember to visit Galicia Unveiled for all your language and translation needs (English, Portuguese, Galician and Spanish) – Yours truly will be there 😀

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