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11 Exercises to Accelerate Your Language Learning

Adding a new language to your catalog, whether as a second or third, can be challenging. First off, you have to welcome new grammar and vocabulary. Then, there are tones, semantics, and other language nuances that you must know as well.

All these factors directly influence your learning curve and make it appear sluggish or boring, especially if the language is a bit complex in the first place.

In this article, we will show you how to shorten this curve and accelerate your learning.

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  1. Set Clear and Achievable Learning Goals

To learn a language, you just have to download a few PDFs and start reading between the lines, right? Actually, that’s not how it works.

According to Grant Aldrich, Founder of Preppy, “Most people have a chaotic learning process. There’s no defining point or goal, objectives to achieve within a few days, or clear-cut plan on what to do. And this makes it very difficult to fast-track your progress.”

Besides, setting no goals means you’re learning by ear. There’s zero accountability to existing objectives and no qualitative or quantitative way to measure how much you’ve learned. 

So, it’s pretty easy to learn a few vocab today, skip for the next few days, and then resume as though nothing happened. Then, you spend a couple of months learning the same thing again.

The best way to avoid that is by setting a few goals – something SMART.

  • Specific: Learn Spanish.

  • Measurable: Complete two modules weekly.

  • Achievable: Dedicate an hour to learning Spanish daily.

  • Relevant: Learn new Spanish vocabulary to communicate with natives during tourism.

  • Time-bound: Learn and Become fluent in Spanish within 6 months.

The goals above can further be broken down into objectives. That’s where you talk about how much Spanish vocabulary you want to memorize daily, how many flashcards to review weekly, and so on.

In turn, you’re able to maintain consistency, appreciate what you’ve done, and follow up with what’s left to do.

  1. Perfect The Basics

You watched a Japanese series, got entranced by each word from the Male lead, and now you’re hyped up to learn the Japanese language

That’s no problem, but you can’t just jump straight to articulations when you have yet to understand simple greeting terms.

Let’s bring this back to the English language, the most spoken worldwide – by over 1.5 billion people. If you were a new learner, which of the following paragraphs would have been easier to break down and understand?

You’ll likely choose the first paragraph. It’s more straightforward, broken down into a few words per sentence, uses simple vocabulary, and is easy to follow through. That’s precisely what perfecting the basics means.

Ryan Hammill, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ancient Language Institute, says, “You should start by memorizing and speaking daily words such as greetings, food, places, common exclamations, and people around you. Once you’re able to form a good sentence with them, you can start thinking of bringing in bigger vocabularies.”

For instance, you should know:

  • Good morning

  • Good afternoon

  • Good evening

  • What is your name?

  • Hi, Hello

And don’t be afraid to explore as many basic phrases as possible.

  1. Engage In Constant Vocabulary Drills

In the words of Brooke Webber, Head of Marketing at Ninja Patches, “When you join the military, there are some exercises – such as pushups and jugging – that you have to do repeatedly until they become a part of you. Those are called drills, and you can apply the same principle to your learning process.”

Let’s assume you’re living in a native country and trying to integrate with their culture. You hear certain words every day, such as the greetings we discussed. Others include common questions like:

  • Have you eaten?

  • How are you?

  • Where are you?

At the start, you might find it difficult to respond properly. But when you hear the same questions repeatedly, you will find it effortless to respond, even without thinking. 

So, when you’re learning a new language, try to engage in repetitive conversations with yourself or with anyone who can speak. Repeat the same lines of words until they stick. You can also pick out a set of words or acronyms, write them on a cute board, wake up to see them daily and read through them before doing other things.

Check out our post on Drills.

  1. Speak And Think Out Loud

There’s a big temptation to keep the words in, especially if you’re learning a new language with textual content like PDFs, Infographics, and outside the classroom.

But that’s ineffective and can slow down your learning pace. Jesse Hanson, Content Manager at Online Solitaire & World of Card Games, believes, “Learning is generally expressive. That’s truer when what you’re learning is an entirely different language. You need to say the words, move your hands in gesture, recall loudly, and let it flow naturally.”

Doing this enhances your comprehension by forcing you to slowly assimilate each word. This, in turn, improves your learning experience and makes learning enjoyable, not boring. 

Of course, you might be worried about people looking at you as a weirdo speaking a language no one understands. In that case, you can:

  • Mutter words under your breath.

  • Spend some time speaking and thinking out loud in your room.

  • Put on your earpiece or pods so people think you’re listening to music in a foreign language.

  • Tell them what you’re doing.

And you can ignore them as long as you’re not affected by their concerns.

  1. Integrate Language into Everyday Interactions

Learning a new language in an environment where everyone else is non-native can be quite tricky. No one’s going to ask you questions in the language you’re learning or throw some jabs at you.

When we asked Gerald Lombardo, Head of Growth at Popl, for a solution, he says, “You don’t have to be around locals or natives to learn their language. Use the people around you to practice your speaking skills. Greet your next-door neighbor. Respond to your siblings. Do it with the language you’re learning. They’ll ask you what it means. That’s your chance to also interpret.”

Once this happens a few times, the people around you will pick up one or two sentences and reciprocate. It’s that simple.

Another way is to write in your chosen language on social media profiles, statuses, and even online communications. But don’t overdo it, and ensure you provide translations right after each word or sentence.

  1. Immerse Yourself In Literature

Great readers are great speakers—at least, in most cases. Literature exposes you to a language’s idioms, syntaxes, and colloquialisms. 

For instance, reading wide and large helps you know that “raining cats and dogs” is an idiom that means “raining heavily.” You’ll also discover that “gonna” is just a colloquial expression of “going to.” Nothing special, only an informal use of formal language.

Literature books, such as novels, also teach you how to use grammar, punctuation, and word structuring, which are critical for your writing skills. Besides, novels paint a whole world of realism. So, you’re forced to engage in high-level thinking, assemble each sentence to make some sense, and finally extract the points.

  1. Enhance Listening Skills With Movies And Podcasts

Albert Kim, VP of Talent at Checkr believes, “It’s easy to pen a word down in another language after spending hours on it. But it becomes a big problem when it’s time to read the lips of a native speaker, even when they’re trying their best to enunciate each word one by one.”

Take the “Spelling Bee” movie as an example. Judges or examiners call out a term you’ve probably never heard before. Then, they expect you to use their pronunciation to identify all the words inside that term. It takes a whole lot of practice to be able to pull the fit off.

To train your ears to recognize words easily when spoken, watch subtitled movies in the language you’re learning. The visuals aid your viewing skills, while the sounds aid your listening skills.

Audiobooks and podcasts are also great alternatives; unlike watching movies, you don’t have to stare at your screen. That means you can enhance your listening skills while busy doing something else. But there’s a handicap – no subtitles.

  1. Employ Shadowing Techniques

Shadowing techniques means mimicking or repeating words after a speaker. This is usually used for classroom training where the coach asks you to say the same thing he/she is saying. 

For non-classroom methods or self-learning approaches, you can simply repeat after the speaker in a pre-recorded resource. Of course, that can be boring and too saggy. So, it’s better to use learning platforms that occasionally provide personal coaches or 1:1 guidance and have good customer feedback, like Lingualift.

Other alternatives include shadowing movies and podcasts. That’s extremely effective and enjoyable if you put your mind to it. And the last option is to shadow native speakers around you, if any.

  1. Leverage Flashcards and Visual Aids

Watching videos, reading novels, and zipping through tens of live classes are effective, but they do little to improve your vocabulary. And that’s not something you can compromise on.

So, get a pack of flashcards related to your language learning. Each card usually contains two vocabularies—one on each side—with their respective meanings. Make it a daily target to study at least two cards. Then, try to recall them the next day before picking another one.

If you can’t find a premade flashcard, you can contact book printers in your area and ask them to create one. You can also go online and copy some vocabulary to include or ask your tutor to provide them for you.

Lastly, use other visual aids. This includes stickers containing one or two vocabulary words, short clips explaining an idiomatic sentence, your wallpaper containing tables of colloquial words and meanings, etc. To further enhance your learning, consider adding QR codes to your flashcards. These codes can link to pronunciation guides or additional context online, making it easier to hear the words spoken and deepen your understanding.

  1. Join Communities and Cultivate Relationships with Native Speakers

If you live in a region where no one or only a few people speak the language you’re learning, try joining online communities. They contain hundreds or possibly thousands of people with similar goals. In fact, you might just be lucky to find your next accountability partner and stroll through the curve together.

You should also cultivate relationships with natives. Tell them you’re still learning, and don’t be afraid to communicate with them using your half-baked sentences. They’ll, at best, laugh and correct you afterward.

The more circles of natives you join, the easier it is to form a digital environment to enhance your learning.

  1. Be Consistent

Of everything we’ve talked about, this is the most important. You can’t take your classes today and study several flashcards only to ditch everything and come back weeks later.

Sometimes, you might feel like giving up halfway – whether because you’re not making good progress or you have tons of tasks to handle. Whatever the reason, you need to stay consistent if you want to learn faster.

This is also where getting an accountability partner becomes vital.

You can create a learning cohort of three people or more. That way, you’ll have people motivating you and ensuring you’re consistent with the preset objectives until you achieve your goals.

Wrapping Up On The Exercises to Accelerate Your Language Learning

Learning a new language is a big deal, but it becomes easy when you engage the practices discussed above. To start, set SMART goals and create reasonable objectives. During your learning, start with the basics and know them well. Constantly engage in vocabulary drills and literature such as novels. 

Occasionally, speak and think out loud, integrate the language into your everyday life, and employ shadowing techniques. You should also leverage flashcards to learn new vocabs daily, join communities of learners, network with natives, and create learning cohorts or get an accountability partner

Lastly, be consistent.

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