Do you know someone studying a language who makes more progress in a week than the rest of us do in a month? He or she might be what applied linguists call a good language learner (GLL). In the 70s and 80s, a number of studies were done to research the strategies and behaviors that set GLLs apart. So how can you be more like these language learning superheroes? Read on to find out!
Get active and stay involved
Good language learners are always looking for opportunities to use the new language they have acquired. If you aren’t living in a target language rich environment, then class twice a week just isn’t going to cut it. You need to create opportunities to engage with language on a regular basis– even if that means talking to yourself or a sympathetic listener like your pet!
See the big “language” picture
Yes, language is about mastering lots of vocabulary and grammar points but there’s so much more to it than that! Language is a system and good language learners are aware of the many components that come together to make up comprehensible speech. Learning native speaker phrases and idiomatic chunks alongside stock vocabulary can help you stay versatile while you practice building your own phrases.
Engage with native speakers
Grammar is important, but communication is king when it comes to language learning! The more you chat with locals (even if it is over Skype!), the better. Fostering an interest in the culture and local traditions also helps, as does seeing every interaction as an opportunity to engage.
Pay more attention to what you hear
Re-playing an utterance you have just made can help you notice errors or awkward phrasing in your choice of words. Listening to others speak can also provide you with models of a more native like construction. Good language learners pay just the right amount of attention to their language, i.e. not so much as to become distracted from the conversation but enough to recognize when they wish to re-phrase something.
Don’t worry about making mistakes
Mistakes can paralyze our productive abilities in a new language. Don’t let this happen to you! Good language learners are never afraid to sound silly. Making mistakes and using roundabout ways of saying things is part and parcel of learning a language. Take advantage of incorrect utterances to learn how a native speaker might say the same thing and remember that reducing errors happens gradually as you make more progress in your new tongue!
GLLs are always on the lookout for new language and they will go above and beyond to find it. That means looking outside of traditional textbooks and online lessons to acquire new words from conversations, books, music, films and websites. If you’d like to give some of these tricks a try, immersing yourself in the Lingua.ly feed is the perfect place to start as you’ll have access to authentic content and all of the tools (e.g. dictionary, flashcards, practice game) you need to make sense of the language you are learning.