Are you learning a new language? Whether that be for an upcoming exam or because you have moved to a different country, there are always certain ways which you think will help. But this isn’t always the case – there are many common mistakes we make when learning a language. Mistakes which actually make it harder for us to remember everything!
As a language school with a carefully-planned curriculum, we understand that the best way to learn a language is by doing one simple thing – using it. Regular practice in listening, reading, writing and, most importantly, speaking, is the best way to get used to your own strengths. It also means you can work out in which areas you need to improve.
For example, there will be recurring instances where you can’t find the word you’re looking for. After a while, you will have identified that and know that you need to go home and work on that area so that you can improve for next time.
Speaking is the most important aspect of seeming fluent in a new language. This is because you don’t have any time to prepare your dialect or check the spelling and structures of certain words and phrases. If you speak as often as possible, you will get used to using the intonation and new sounds that don’t exist in your mother tongue. Therefore, when it comes to speaking a language with people who have it as their first, you will not only be able to impress, but also avoid any difficult situations where the simplest of words can seem so complicated.
Most commonly made mistakes when learning a language:
1. Learning a language is not only about remembering as much vocabulary as possible.
When you learn a new language, a load of new words will pull you in and you’ll want to know what they mean. But don’t worry – they will come naturally!
Of course vocabulary learning is an essential part of learning, but you also need to know where to put each word in the sentence and in which context they need to be used.
For example, the verb “to leave” in English can mean two things:
Meaning 1 – Before I leave the house, I always make sure the windows are closed.
Meaning 2 – I always have to ask my son not to leave the windows open if he’s not in the house.
As you can see, meaning 1 implies movement and meaning 2 implies position. In French, the verb to leave (as in meaning 1) is “quitter” and the meaning for the positional verb is “laisser” – two completely different words.
Looking at a vocabulary list and seeing the verb and it’s meaning isn’t all there is to it, so be careful not to cram too much vocabulary!
2. Don’t just focus on one skill!
As mentioned before, the best way to learn a language is by practising. To ensure you get a good understanding of each and every skill, you need to make sure you spread your attention across 4 main skills. These are listening, reading, writing, speaking.
You can tell when someone has learned a new language by hearing them speak. But it is also extremely useful to have a good knowledge of reading and writing. This is so that you can understand which letters make which sounds when you put them together.
One of the most common mistakes when learning a language is forgetting about listening. You can read as much material in a foreign language as possible, but nothing will increase your understanding more than listening to the news or music in a foreign language, for example.
3. Don’t set yourself a goal or time in which you’d like to learn the language.
Learning a new language can be an exciting prospect, but the thing to remember is that it’s a constant process which never really ends. There are many people who study languages at university and move abroad to work and build a family and are completely fluent. However, they still learn something new most days, whether that be a new idiomatic expression or word, or a new sentence structure.
For this reason, it is possible to say you’d like to be able to manage a conversation in Spanish by the time you go on holiday, for example, but setting yourself a goal for fluency will not help as much as you think – as it is a life-long journey!
4. Remember that you need to work out a method which works for you, because you will need to invest your own time into learning!
Although a language course is a great place to start off learning and is the perfect way to find out how to go about learning a new language, it doesn’t mean you can completely rely on them to become fluent. In order to get sufficient exposure, you need to use some of your free time to watch TV shows or films, listen to podcasts or the news, or find a speaking partner with whom you can practise once or twice per week.
In addition to this, you could set yourself a goal per week. For example, you could aim to learn one new Redewendung (idiomatic expression, you can find lots of examples on our Pinterest page) in German.
Small challenges like this would ensure that you can stay focused on the language and will give you something to bring to the lesson when you meet up in your language school again.
5. Reading classic literature will not prepare you for communication in the country of your second language.
Even in schools, most students learn about classic literature. This is apparently to deepen the knowledge and understanding of the language. If you are learning a second language, it’s better to keep up-to-date with the current affairs or latest blogs in that language. In this way, you can be sure that the language you are learning is modern and will be understood by your interlocutor when it comes to speaking in your country of choice. This is often one of the biggest mistakes you can make when learning a language, as you move to the country with an impressive chest of words, but a lot of them may be outdated.
To sum up…
Learning a language can really be a thrilling experience if you do it properly. Nowadays, you have access to so many great materials. Even the slightest bit of exposure to something as small as the news or a podcast will massively boost your basic skills. It may be easy to imagine that picking up a language by living in a country for a long time is the way forward, but that’s not often the case. In order to fully understand what you are saying and listening to, you need to focus on all aspects equally and invest some of your time into the process.