BY IRENE SANCIMINO – 29/10/2018
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Are you trying to learn a new language? Or a new hobby? Or maybe you have enrolled to the University after leaving school many years ago?
Is it just for fun? Or because you want to become fluent in a new language? Or maybe to comfortably get by on upcoming travels? Or maybe you’re determined in getting the degree that you have always longed for?
No matter what your reason is, you will need a study plan and some daily, weekly and monthly goals to achieve.
Well I am going to turn your wishes into reality with a successful language learning study plan.
You will face many obstacles along the way such as not feeling motivated to study, feeling like you’re not making any progress or finding hard memorising all the grammar rules.
Don’t give up!
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”
I will focus on learning a new language but remember that these steps can be applied for anything you want to learn.
I also recommend you to read How to learn Italian: the best approach if you haven’t done it yet.
If you follow the tips in the following steps you will get over these hurdles and beyond before you know it.
1. Outline Your Study Goals
First you should keep in mind you’re not at school anymore. There is not a teacher that will teach you something new every day because “that’s the study plan”.
Then remember that this time you’re not “forced” to learn!
Well, would you say you loved every single subject at school? You probably loved mathematics but hated history, loved geography but hated french and so on.
Right, you have chosen to learn a new language or to attend the University or to learn whatever you are learning this time because you want to be able to write to an Italian friend, speak Spanish during your next holiday to the Canaries Islands or become a doctor, or a lawyer perhaps.
You want to learn a new language (new language = your goal).
You want to get a degree (degree = your goal).
Whatever you are learning, that’s your goal.
Keep it in mind.
Determine your level of knowledge
To outline your study goals you should first determine if you’re a beginner, an intermediate or an advanced student.
If you’re a beginner you will need to start from the basics of the language: greetings, numbers, basics conversations, colours, etc.
If you’re an intermediate you most likely will have to expand your vocabulary or deepen some grammar rules in which you might be a bit rusty.
If you’re an advanced student, you will already have reached a high level of fluency in the language, and you would want to improve your listening and speaking skills.
Set a realistic time frame
Are you a fast learner? Good for you! Not everyone has your luck. Some people could spend a whole day reading and trying to memorise only a few concepts to not avail.
- Be honest to yourself, everyone knows their limits and flaws.
- Be kind and supportive to yourself, give yourself time. Does it really matter if you reach your goal in 4 years instead of 3?
- Don’t be too harsh to yourself, you will make mistakes, a lot. You will forget rules and words, you will say a word for another, you won’t conjugate properly the verbs. Good! You can only learn if you make mistakes, don’t worry then! It will pay you off eventually.
2. Create a comfortable atmosphere
When I started the University I said to my boyfriend, James:
“Fantastic! Where am I gonna study now? I can’t study here while you’re watching Netflix!”
I had to create a “my space” where I could feel comfortable to concentrate and study.
The following day I bought a desk on Argos and asked James to build it in the spare bedroom; it wasn’t that happy but I have got my study corner now! 🙂
Now that you have your comfy corner you may want to:
1- Purchase textbooks: you cannot study properly without having a or more books to refer to. Not everyone has the luck of learning a new language with a native speaker by their side. Why not purchase some homeschooling curriculum that lines up with your current grade level?
If you are trying to learn a new language, here are some quality recommendations for you:
- Collins Italian Phrasebook and Dictionary Gem Edition: Essential phrases and words in a mini, travel-sized format;
2- Hire a tutor: don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Some people can study and learn on their own, some people don’t. We are all different! If you are feeling stuck and think you need help there are plenty of online tutors ready to help you!
3-Look for source materials: there is plenty of materials online that can help you with your studies! Why don’t you try FluentU? It’s an amazing website that brings language learning to life with real world videos! FluentU isn’t just watching videos in a foreign language, it’s especially about learning, practicing the language you hear in videos by having fun.
You could also watch television, movies, or YouTube videos or start reading children books in the language you are learning.
3. Put Your Skills to the Test
You have been studying for a while now but, have you made any progress? You cannot obviously gauge your actual progress in a foreign language, simply because you can’t provide constructive criticism to yourself.
Fortunately there are plenty of online tools that you can use to test yourself.
Gauge your writing skills
One of the easiest way to test your writing skills is by becoming friend to a native speaker. There are many Facebook groups where you can find people that are willing to teach you Italian, in exchange to learn English or Spanish, for example.
Test your reading skills
You can test your reading skills on your own by reading again something you have read a few months ago. You probably looked up for 35 words the first time and only 5 this time.
Try to build your own small library: blog articles, fairy tales, novels. Anything that you like and that you can read, let’s say every 3-4 months, to test your reading and comprehension skills.
This will help you a lot in memorising new words and improve your reading skills.
The most feared skill: speaking!
My first few months in England were just a nightmare! I barely spoke to anyone, I only smiled and said “hello” to everyone.
I’ve become braver only by studying and practicing, even though my English was still basic and sometimes people struggles to understand me. But I knew that I could have improved my skills only by making mistakes (thousands!!) and here I am.
So the first rule is: make mistakes! Only by making mistakes you can become “brave” and comfortable in speaking a language that doesn’t belong to you.
If you have hired a tutor, even better. Set a study plan with your tutor with at least 1 or 2 hours of conversation per week when you feel comfortable to do that.
This will improve not only your speaking skills but also your listening skills.
Now that I have given you all the tips you need to create a brilliant learning study plan, you will be able to reach your goal 🙂
Good luck with your studies!
You can buy my book here. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂
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