Yesterday I talked a bit about some of the frustrations language learners can have when learning a language From finally letting go of trying to understand everything, to ending the worry of not knowing every word before you speak and just speak using a strategy of using simple sentences to describe complex subjects when you don’t know complex vocabulary.
Today I will continue with some more tips. First one is:
Learn using a task you do every day
The idea behind this is that you have some tasks you need to do everyday without fail. For me when I was in Japan it was getting up and ordering coffee and breakfast. I got real good at ordering coffee and asking for the specific number of milk and sugars I wanted. As well I could say I would like the order for take out or eat-in. The reason why this became easy was it was the same language I needed to use every day, and the Japanese I heard was the same every day. Which leads me to my second point:
You must practice doing a target task consistently to remember it
If you have to do the same thing all the time, you will become familiar with the words used when doing that thing. The people speaking to you will use the same general vocabulary, and you will use the same general responses. This will make you very comfortable speaking the language, and moreover will help solidify the basic grammar and vocabulary for more complex subjects later. Which brings me to my last point:
Break your learning goals down into smaller tasks
Instead of trying to “learn Japanese” break this down into “learn how to ask and give directions in Japanese”. If you can modularize your learning, you can break it down into chunks that can be achieved in smaller timeframes. Moreover when you see positive results from achieving these smaller goals, it will give you more confidence to tackle the next level of difficulty in your study.
This is the same as endurance running. It is unwise to set out and run a marathon your first run. Instead to keep committed and motivated most runners learn to run a much shorter distance, and start slowly building up their distance over time. Runners who try to add too much new distance too soon, find themselves out of running with an injury. This is a perfect metaphor for learning Japanese, or any subject for that matter:
Ramp up the difficulty, but slowly to avoid frustration (or in the case of running, injury)
Any new skill takes time and practice to get good at. It is hard to keep motivated when we measure our ability against the big goal of mastery of the whole subject. Through breaking down the large goal into its smaller component goals, it is easier to focus our time, energy, and motivation into the smaller more immediately achievable tasks. This way it is easier to stay motivated and less frustrated with our progress.
I will have more tips on language learning in this series of posts. If you have any comments or suggestions on what you have found helpful with learning a language, or any other subject for that matter feel free to leave a comment below or tweet it to me @ctriff on twitter.