The 7 Stages of Learning a Language: Stage 1


One of the main reasons I see people losing momentum (and enthusiasm) when they’re learning a new language is because they’re not sure what to do next – in fact, they’re not even sure how to assess where they are right now.

 Uncertainty can be a huge confidence killer

I want to try and help as many as possible of our learners keep their enthusiasm and momentum going – so, over the next few weeks, I’m going to map out what I hope will be an absolutely clear set of stages for language learning.

It should be very easy indeed for you to identify what stage you’re on at the moment.  Once you know what stage you’re on, it should be equally easy for you to see what you need to do next – and to keep a very high level of confidence if that’s what you’re already doing.

Stage 1

Absolute beginners often have some of the highest levels of uncertainty – particularly if they haven’t studied a language as an adult before, and only have some painful memories of school to fall back on.

That’s why it’s important to keep Stage 1 as simple as possible, and to make sure that you have an immediate sense of real achievement.

So here’s what you should do to begin with:

Write down 5 sentences that you’d like to be able to say in your new language.  You might like to split them into 3 statements about yourself, and 2 questions.

Then write down one possible answer to each of your questions, and one question for each of your 3 statements.

You’ll end up with 3 questions and answers for yourself, and 2 for someone else.

Here’s what you do next

Learn the individual parts of these sentences.  So, if one of the questions is ‘Do you want to speak Spanish with me now?’, you get it translated (by asking a friend, asking on a forum, using Google translate and then double-checking it with a real person, finding it in a course you’ve bought, etc etc).

Then, once you have the translation, you learn ‘do you want’, ‘to speak’, ‘Spanish’, ‘with me’, ‘now’.  There are plenty of different ways you can learn them – flash cards, Memrise, using some of our course material – but the key thing is to make sure that you focus on production.

In other words, when you see or hear ‘to speak’, you should be able to say ‘hablar’.

Now, here’s the magic bit

Once you’ve learnt the individual parts of the 5 questions and the 5 answers, play around with them as much as you can.

Here’s what I mean by that:

If you can say ‘Do you want to speak Spanish with me now?’ and you can also say ‘I’d like to practise speaking with you tonight’, then see how many different ways you can chop them up.  Have a go at ‘I’d like to speak Spanish with you now’ or ‘Do you want to practise speaking with me tonight?’ – challenge yourself to make up as many different phrases as possible.

Some of them might not work in your target language – and that’s fine.

This is the testing stage – you’ll find out quickly enough which of them need to be refined when you start using them with other people.

Of course, it’s a little more comforting if you can hear (in your target language) a range of various different phrases built out of what you’ve learnt – which is of course the process we take you through when you learn with a SaySomethingin course.

But for Stage 1, you shouldn’t be worried about perfection.  Mistakes are good.

Actually saying things in your new language is vital, and chopping it up and playing around with it is much, much more valuable than trying to ‘Make No Mistakes’.

A summary of Stage 1

Yes, that’s it.

You just choose some questions and answers, learn them, say them, and play around with them.

If you’re doing that at the moment, you’re on Stage 1.

If you’ve already done that, you’re already past Stage 1.

Next week, you can find out how to get to Stage 2 (or find out that you’re already past that as well!).

If you think this post might be helpful for people who are just starting to learn another language, do please share it for them on Facebook and Twitter (or any other sharing sites you use) – share buttons just a few centimetres down from here…:-) [Well, as long as WordPress is behaving itself!]

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The 7 Stages of Learning a Language:

Stage 1  |  Stage 2  |  Stage 3  |  Stage 4  |  Stage 5  |  Stage 6  |  Stage 7


3 responses to “The 7 Stages of Learning a Language: Stage 1

  1. I know I’m writing this nearly five years after this was first posted, but I for some reason, I just saw it for the first time yesterday! I intend to use this method to improve my Dutch.

    I’m writing to say that this method is not unlike the method by which I was taught Japanese in University, except that we didn’t make up our own sentences. The procedure was this: we listened to conversations on a tape and were required to come to class having perfectly memorized those conversations. So we’d sit in class and our professor would say the first line of the conversation and point to one of us. Then we were required to say the next line, at speed. It was really difficult. But it completely removed any “uhs” and “ums” from your speech. It also made your pronunciation and cadence so good that I used to be mistaken for Japanese on the phone. Then we’d go on to swap out words. So if we’d memorized, “Where is the bookstore?” We’d then learn words for other types of stores and shops, and we’d practice saying the same sentences about other subjects, using the same grammar patterns.

    We did this four days a week, and on the fifth day, the grammar of the sentences we’d memorized was explained to us so we could then understand how to make other sentences.

    Reading your method, it struck me that this was not unlike the way I learned Japanese, and I studied that only for a year before going to University in Japan and being fluent.

    So thank you for reminding me of this method and introducing a way I could do it for any language. I am in your debt.

    Also I wanted to say I really miss your posts, Aran. The beginning of 2019 was so alive with posts! All the best, Kass

  2. I’m really excited to test drive your method! I’ve figured out for myself over the last couple of years of trying to learn French and Greek, that only learning what I want to say is a much more efficient and attractive prospect – so I’m writing my own content, and to build language islands is logical – so I focus on my preferred topics, and that aural training is of paramount importance so I try to find appropriate material to listen to – which is usually where I come unstuck, as for a beginner, there just isn’t anything, but I hadn’t quite seen that I could be writing my own dialogues and to get a native speaker to work with me on them in various ways. And you have other brilliant ideas here, too! Thank you, you’ve tied it all together perfectly and I feel very confident now that I can use your method to really obtain my target languages.

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