Tips to Accelerate Language Learning

Travis GoreGrammar, Hmong Monday, Read/ Write, Vocab4 Comments

hmong girl working hard

How do you learn a language? Many wonder where to start. I will share some tips in this article from experience and study to help accelerate the learning process. I’ll make an effort to try to categorize them. I am also going to try to make it as concise as possible. At the very end is a suggested study method that incorporates many of these methods.

General Tips

WORK

This is the reality. Language learning takes tons of work. Think seriously about this proverb:

Proverbs 14:23: There is benefit in every kind of hard work, But mere talk leads to want.

If you spend 5 minutes practicing and then 20 minutes talking about how hard learning is/ your progress/ something else… it will probably be a long, arduous road. However, if you spend that whole 25 minutes practicing you will see real fruits for your labor.

USE IT OR LOSE IT

If you don’t try to speak to people in the language you are learning, you may as well forget everything in this article. If you don’t speak with people, you wont learn.

I have found from my personal experience that many techniques and games I have tried to learn vocabulary artificially don’t amount to just using the new vocabulary even one time with a native speaker. So use your new vocabulary with a native. Ask them about it. Have a conversation about the new words. It will stick.

HIGH FREQUENCY VOCABULARY

Believe it or not, the majority of our spoken English is just about 1200 words. There is actually a translation of the ENTIRE BIBLE using only these 1200 High Frequency words plus about 300 names and places. It is called the EasyEnglish Bible. But this fact illustrates that if you focus on these words, you can quickly be expressing yourself.

There are many ways to find these high frequency word lists. I find the most effective method, though, is to find a publication that is worded simply (perhaps for children) because they are likely to use only high frequency words. Use the suggested method below on this publication and you will get these words quickly.

Accelerate Vocab Memorization

Spaced Repetition.

This is one of the most valuable tools you can have for learning a language. It is probably where most go wrong. At best, they study a huge stack of flashcards for a day or two until they think they have memorized them and then never look at them again. In reality there is a formula for the perfect repetition so that you wont forget anything. If you want the simplified version, here it is:

Study the same thing for a minimum of five consecutive days. Then every once in a while bring it back up in your study routine.

More Reading:

Learn the art of Spaced Repetition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition

A great app for Andorid, Apple, and that can be used in any internet browser is called Memrise. It uses the spaced repetition method: http://www.memrise.com/

Grammar

Rapid Vocabulary Building Instead of Grammar

Grammar is like mustard. You don’t make a sandwich with just mustard (hopefully). You just use a little. The meat should be vocabulary memorization. Use flashcards with the spaced repetition method mentioned in this article and if you are diligent about study, you will very quickly increase the amount of words you know.

Pick Up Grammar AND Vocabulary Through Reading

There is SO MUCH to be gained if you regularly practice reading. If you are already trying to rapidly build vocabulary, this will reinforce and refresh the words you are trying to read. Your brain will gradually adapt to how the sentences are formed.

In addition to this you will gain genuine, usable, natural vocabulary. You will also gain high frequency words, mentioned previously.

Suggested Study Routine

So here is a suggestion that uses combines many of these techniques into one study routine. I can pretty much guarantee this will work IF you do the work. Do according to your current level.

  1. Pick up a book, internet article, or something you can read in the language. Choose according to your current skill level.
  2. Start looking up EVERY word you don’t know in the dictionary. When you find the definition, don’t just write it down, but make it into a flashcard or enter it into your Memrise App
  3. Practice your flashcards until they are done (according to ‘spaced repetition’ method mentioned above).
  4. Each day, read what you have already read before plus a little more. Continue to look up words and add them to your flash cards. When you get really confident with a section of reading, leave it behind and move forward.

Please post any questions or comments below. I will try to add/edit this over time.

4 Comments on “Tips to Accelerate Language Learning”

  1. Keep up the good work we in the Chico Ca Hmong group are still learning from the work You and Sarah are putting out. Mom had one of her Hmong bible studies ask her what she needed to do so she could go out in the ministry.

  2. This is Soooo helpful. Thank you. And Sorry Frank I didn’t talk your son out of moving to Thailand. We need him there! And good job with the new Bible Study!

  3. Thanks so much for this write up (and this website in general), when I’m feeling lazy or lack direction I come back here and get on the right path again. Currently doing the suggested study routine with the Bible stories book. Well, not currently, right now I’m just wasting time talking about how I’m wasting time. But anyway, thanks heaps 😀

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