Friday 21 February 2014

4 unconventional language learning tips for fast results

Do  you want to study a new language? Remember: when it comes to language learning, the best advice comes from fellow language learners. This is because language learners will give practical advice. It’s one thing to understand the theory behind language learning and another thing to be able to use studying methods that work. That’s why I am going to give you a few unconventional learning tips that have helped me over the years learn languages faster. Are you ready?


It is true that grammar is not the be-all and end-all of communication. However, a good grasp of grammar will help you express yourself more accurately. Like it or not, grammar goes with the territory of language learning, and those who get down to the dirty job of learning the grammar at the very early stages of their learning, always find language learning more rewarding.

And why start with the verb system? First, since verbs are the basic element of any sentence, a sound knowledge of the verb system will help you understand more input. And second, a sound knowledge of the verb system will help you form more sentences that are very close to what you really want to say. Especially when it comes to writing, you will find yourself that you are able to express yourself far more easily with a wide range of verbs at your disposal. Remember that the verb system is more complex when it comes to declension, so better get it out of the way as soon as possible. Moreover, bear in mind that while you can get away with a noun that you always use in the nominative, a poor verb system will make you sound quite abrupt.


The words of a language are just the tip of the iceberg: a whole system of values, cultural traits and norms exists below (see also #7 in the 10 things language learning has taught me). Some of these elements are not completely understood even by the native speakers of the language. In other words, language is closely connected to this thing called ‘real life’, and it is through ‘real life’ that we have to tackle our language learning. And since there’s not a one to one correspondence between languages, we have to go through the real world once again in order to connect it afresh to the words of the new language we want to learn. When we are exposed to something new, this finds its way into our mind and memory. This means that the sooner the language learning steps out of the ‘book’ context into the ‘real context’, the better!

So, what do we have to do? We have to notice notice notice! Even a small chunk of language, a small advertisement or a newspaper headline, can become a much more important language input than a phrase in a book. Our brain marks it as a very important activity and pays more attention. Besides, this way we learn not just the meaning of the word, but something of its use, its connotations, its register, its collocational restrictions etc. And this saves us much time in the long run.


This is a method I used when I was studying for the entrance examinations in order to get into the University of Athens for my second degree in English Language and Literature (long story), when among other things I had to learn Latin from scratch. I found this was the quickest way to learn it. However, it is really really boring. But it works wonders.

In this method, you visit the same material again and again in order to grasp it totally. Before each learning session, ask yourself “what do I know about this particular language item?” and then study it and revise it immediately. Then wait for a couple of hours and revise it again. In fact there is a whole psychological theory behind this method which is based on how the human memory works. It is indeed very boring to go through the same material so often, but it makes you feel you have grasped it well, and this can give you confidence to go on.


When it comes to language learning, I believe you should try to do what works for you. Even if it doesn’t work, the mistake will be all yours and therefore you’ll learn from it. Well, you should always listen to what others have to say, but you should trust your instincts and do what seems logical to you. And by doing so, you learn how to learn, and that’s the most important of all. This is going to make a true language learner out of you. 

Do you know any language learning tip which might be considered ‘unconventional’? Please share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!


Plamena said...

Hello, Sofia,

I completely agree with all your points here. Especially with #3- repeat repeat repeat :) yes, it might be boring some times, but it actually helps when trying to memorise grammar or other rules.

Sofia Polykreti said...

Thanks for your comment, Plamena! :) It's necessary to revise all the time, it's the only way for the rules to sink in! said...

Great tips! Though I do have to ask, when you say "revise," do you mean "review" ? I can see very easily how these words can be confused, since -vise and -view both stem from sight, but "revise" means to make changes (usually to a document or plans) and "review" means to look at again (usually for studying).

Sofia Polykreti said...

Thanks so much for your comment! Well, I think I've got it right this time, already checked it in many different sources!