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.
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!).
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The 7 Stages of Learning a Language: