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Language Learning: 12 Tips for Success, Continued

Now that you've committed to learning a new language and you've chosen the language you'd like to learn, it's time to find out how you should learn. Our language tips will help you to do so. This is a continuation of the article beginning on Language Learning Tips, Page 1

Tip 6 — Carry an Index Card in Your Pocket: No, this recommendation isn’t just so you can work on the “nerdy” look. If you want to do that, put a small notebook in your shirt pocket with a pen and PDA. Be sure to purchase a pocket protector as soon as possible.

Index cards are a fantastic tool for building your foreign language vocabulary. Fold the card in half, then in half again. You’ll be left with a card four columns wide that you can easily store in your pocket. Throughout your day of talking to yourself or others in your new language, you’ll discover several words you’d like to say or don't understand others saying. Write these things down in the first of your four columns. Later, when you have some time, look up the terms in your dictionary or ask a friend to help you define them. Use the second of your columns to write in these new definitions. You can use the third and fourth columns to do the same thing, then flip the card over and start on the other side. By the end, you will have four columns full of words you didn’t know and another four columns of translations on a single index card (see figure below).

Column 1

Unknown words and phrases

Column 2

Definitions and explanations for column 1 words and phrases

Column 3

Next set of unknown words and phrases

Column 4

Definitions and explanations for column 3 words and phrases

Use this card to study the new terms. Fold over the columns to hide answers and you’ll create some of the smallest flashcards you’ve ever seen. Using an index card like this will create about forty flashcards on a single card you can carry with you wherever you go, each one reviewing the words and phrases you use the most. Once you’ve filled up a card with words, get another one out and begin the process over again.
Use these "flashcards" to study for a couple of minutes every day. Once you know all the words and phrases on a card, simply throw it away. You’ll find you never have more than a couple of cards in your pocket that you study in those short times when you havenothing else to do. That extra couple of minutes a day will help you expand your vocabulary very quickly.

This intermittent study, a couple minutes at a time, is what we at the EduMetrics Institute call “spaced practice”. We are developing a Spaced Practice Trainer now that will use statistical models and memory curves to help you learn vocabulary more quickly and remember it long into the future without wasting much time relearning what you already know. The trainer will make your index cards seem quite primitive, but in the meantime the cards will work just fine.

Tip 7 — Follow Your Style: Not every learning method works for everyone. We all have our own unique ways of learning things. If you’re a visual learner, stick some post-it notes all over your house labeling everything from your door to your couch in the new language. You’ll keep seeing the words without sitting down to studying them. You could also buy a picture dictionary or whatever you feel will help you. If you’re an aural learner, get some language tapes and speak along with them. The EduMetrics Institute believes that education is more effective when people learn according to their individual learning style. Check out our learning styles page for more information about how we work to create ideal learning conditions.

Tip 8 — Watch TV: If you’ve ever listened to a language learning program, you know that people speak at about half natural speed. Watching TV in a foreign language is an entertaining way to practice at natural speed.The same thing happens in language classrooms. Hearing the language spoken at this speed is good, since you’re able to absorb the meaning of every word. In real-life situations, however, you will never have this luxury. You need some practice at natural speed. So, watch some TV. Tune in to the Spanish language station for a while. If you want to learn French, go rent a French movie and watch it with subtitles. You’ll begin to hear words you already know, just at a pace much quicker than you’re used to. One excellent way to gain additional natural-speed language exposure in almost any language is listening to the radio in your new language. An Internet search for “Internet radio _____”, where ____ is your new language, will reveal several radio stations you can listen to.Eventually, you'll become much more accustomed to hearing your second language at natural speed and you'll understand what native speakers are saying to you.

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