When you first learn a language on your own, you often make mistakes that can slow down the process and it takes a long time to see the first successes. Often this is very demotivating and you stop or think that you don’t have the talent to learn new languages.
But these mistakes can be avoided quite easily and I will explain exactly how in the following.
1. Don’t use just one book to study!
When I started learning Korean, I focused on one book and tried to learn grammar, vocabulary and phrases with it. I thought that it was better for me to rely on one source to follow a single precise plan. After all, the authors must have thought of something…
But I soon realised that I no longer had the motivation to open the book and continue learning. I now know that a mix of different resources is much more exciting, interesting and motivating.
I now use the book as a rough guide to know what grammatical steps I need to take. But besides a book, I now also use the following language learning resources:
- Language Partner
2. Don’t reread vocabularies a 100 times!
An important part of language learning is vocabulary. Many make the mistake of reading vocabulary over and over again to memorise it. But that way they only really stick for a few days or even just hours….
Instead, after reading 2-3 times, you should quickly start testing yourself by covering up the translation and saying the vocabulary out loud. Then repeat this process after a few more vocabulary words.
Flashcards help here: on one side of a piece of paper you write the word or sentence in your own language, and on the reverse side you write the translation in the language you want to learn. Ideally, you keep these cards so that you can repeat them later.
3. Don´t just learn the vocabulary itself!
Another typical mistake when learning vocabulary is to learn the pure word. For some types of learners, that’s quite enough. For most, however, it helps enormously if you link the vocabulary to a gesture, a situation, a song or a picture.
Alternatively, you can combine several vocabulary words of the same category or similar-sounding words.
This makes it easier for the brain to pick up the vocabulary when you need it.
4. Don´t study just once for a long duration!
If you start learning a language with a lot of motivation, you can study for several hours at a time and be very proud of the progress you have made.
But you often can’t fit that much time into your everyday life and you soon learn irregularly when you have a little more time.
I quickly got into the habit of learning for a shorter period of time and integrating a bit of language study every day.
A proven method for this is habit stacking. You use habits you have already learned and link them to language learning, for example when brushing your teeth.
5. Don’t focus on your mistakes!
This mistake is the most common, but unfortunately also the most difficult to avoid… Even after learning 3 foreign languages, I still have difficulties really putting this tip into practice.
Many studies agree that the best way to learn a language is to speak it – ideally with native speakers. But if you are too self-critical and very afraid of making mistakes, you often lack the courage to really try.
It’s easier said than done, but the only thing that helps here is to focus on your progress and celebrate what you have already achieved.
Stop overthinking the possible reaction of others and try to find language partners with whom you can learn a language as early as possible. Ideally, this partner also wants to learn a language that you already know, so that you are at a similar level and perhaps less embarrassed if you make a mistake.
And always keep in mind that most people really like it when you try to learn their mother tongue. No one will laugh or be angry, it’s all in our heads.