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Five tips to master languages

Updated: Apr 29

So, you want to learn a language or brush up for the coming school year? Here are some of the tips that polyglots use when venturing out into new language territory.

1. Consume media in that language --> How many subjects can say that binging Netflix and YouTube is genuine revision? I’m pretty sure just languages. This is actually a great way to learn because you gain a lot of experience in the words most frequently used in conversation. That will make listening, reading and honestly speaking much easier. Plus, you’re motivated to do revision because it’s still a good show (or youtuber, or music, or podcast, or book, or movies etc.) that you like. Same as any other, but secretly educational.

2. Memorise the 250 most common words --> This is an amazing tip and it’s what most avid language learners use, except theirs is bumped up to a list of top 1000 most common words. If you are aiming for fluency, then 1000 is about where you should be, but 250 is a great way to start. The reason this technique is so important is because you learn the words people actually use in conversation. Rather than learning the word for semi-detached, you learn the word internet first or money or run, or tram – things people use a LOT more. This way you can also shock your language teacher by sounding more and more like a local and scoring brilliantly in your listening, speaking, reading, and writing tests.

3. Consistency --> This can be an episode per day, three flashcards per day, or half an hour of Duolingo per day. Honestly, quantity isn’t as important as consistency which is why cramming usually isn’t as successful as spaced revision. It’s a sudden overload of info that your brain isn’t going to be reminded of. It’s also why everyone remembers that one song the radio overplays because you probably hear it every single day.

4. Pay attention to the conjugations --> These are the different forms a verb takes depending on who you’re describing. For example: I run vs. She runs. English doesn’t have that many verb forms and has a lot of exceptions, but French has the whole “-e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, -ent” thing. They also have irregulars though, and unfortunately, they’re pretty much the most common verbs like “to be “. The good thing about that is you’ll be using them a lot so remembering them is easier. See a pattern?

5. Journaling in target language --> It sounds excessive but it’s great for learning the words you actually use. You’ll notice you want to write “thing” a lot, but you don’t know how to say it. Or perhaps you want to know how to say “maybe” or even “skateboard” or something of that vein. You learn the words you most commonly use and the really obvious gaps in your language knowledge. If you do this, it’s helpful to use a different colour for anything you looked up – this way when you go back to find that word, it’s much easier. The fact that it stands out also helps to secure it in your memory. Studies show that blue is a colour that promotes memory so have some fun with that!


Tiegan, Year 13

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