Tips & Tricks
The Good Language Learner
For learning a new language, it is important to develop an intrinsic motivation, meaning an endogenous motivation coming from within. Be aware of the reasons you want to learn the language and what you will need it for. Imagine and visualize your goal, or write it down!
A temporary loss of motivation is completely normal and will haunt every language learner sooner of later. In such a case, think of your motivation in the beginning and visualize it. Remember that leaning a new language takes a lot of time and practice and that a meaningful conversation with native speakers will only be possibile if you reach a certain level (A2 or rather B1 according to GER). Also, explore alternative learning methods, such as language tandems to regain fun and motivation for learning.
As with many things in life, the motto "the more, the better" applies to language learning as well. But, please, not all in one go! Studying ten new words per day, you will have leant 1150 new words at the end of a semester. Of course, you won't be able to shove those in the week before exams.
For an accurate estimation of time needed for a course, please check the number of ECTS points gained for a course. One ECTS corresponds to 30 hours of workload, including the classes themselves.
Limit the number of new languages to learn during your studies to one or, at most, two. Continue this language at least until you are able to have meaningful conversations with a native speaker. This usually requires level A2 to B1 according to GER. Depending on the language, you will need four to seven semesters to reach this level.
Being surrounded by a language daily will have a large impact on your studying success, whereas stays abroad of course have the biggest effects. But even at home you can easily integrate the new language in you day to day life. For example, try to use a website you visit regularly in the taget language or to change your phone's language. Listen to foreign music, audio books or podcasts to improve your listening skills. Read books or the news in your desired language. Watch movies and series with the original soundtrack. Even if you don't understand everything at first, surrounding yourself by the new language will largely improve your skills.
Even regular thinking and self-talks in the foreign language speed up your way towards being fluent. Try memorizing your weekly schedule or your shopping list in another language, or tell yourself about your weekend.
Take advantage of RWU's internationality and get to know our many international students! For example, register for the buddy program at the International Office and take a newly arrived international student under your wings for one semester.
Alternative study methods
- Language book publisher's additional material (Klett, Cornelsen, Langenscheidt, Hueber, etc...)
- Selfmade additional material, such as flash cards
- Spraced Repetition Software (SRS) such as Anki
- Language tandems
- Stays abroad
- Consume of media (music, movies, books, websites, podcasts...) in the target language
- Language learning apps such as babbel or duolingo
- Self-talks in the target language
For recommendations, don't hesitate to ask your language teacher!
Here are some websites that might be useful for learning a language.
- BBC Learning English
- bab.la wordings for different writing occasions in many languages
- IDEA The International Dialects of English Archive
- English version of the German news website Deutsche Welle
- TuneIn listen to radio stations around the world
German as a Foreign Langugae
A vocabulary book can be useful if one uses it in the right way. Don't just bluntly write down all the new vocabs in your class book, as you might have learnt in school. Instead, use your vocab book actively in class: write down a word or phrase as soon as you don't know it (anymore). Note proverbs and use your vocabulary in whole sentences. Going through your vocab book, you will quickly notice all those words and phrases you keep forgetting, as they will be present on any page. Collect those stubborn cases in a special place, e.g. on the last page of your vocabulary book, to practice them over and over.
In a flashcard system, you write single vocabularies or sentences on small cards: mother tongue in the front, target language in the back. You also need a small container with around five subdivisions to place your flashcards in. At first, all cards are in the first division. These cards are repeated daily, those in the second devision every other day, those in the third division every week etc. If you know the correct answer to a flashcard's front, the card moves up one division. If not, it goes back to the first division.
- Long term memory is especially supported
- Good overview about your state of knowledge
- Vocabulary is learnt in a random order, which prevents the notorious "I know where it's written, but I can't remember what it's called"-effect.
- By creating the cards by yourself, you already practice the vocabulary before actually studying.
- Constant repetition of the last division prevents forgetting known cards.
So-called Spaced Repetition Software (SRS), such as open source software Anki, are digital flashcards. Optimally, an algorithm will show you a card just when you were about to forget it. Many SRS also have communities that share existing card decks with the web for free.
Of course you can learn a new language all by yourself - but you'll have more fun and success if you study with a motivated partner! This might be a language tandem: a native speaker of your target language who wants to study your mother tongue. But equally, other students of your language course can help you improve your skills. For example, meet up to do the course homework together and thereby only communicate in your target language.
Don't be shy to ask one of your fellow students to be your study buddy. Language courses at CLIC are really interactive anyway, so you will get to know each other soon enough. Your study buddy can motivate you during bad patches and ensure regular and fun practice.
If you are interested in having a language tandem, please contact CLIC.
To find a partner with the same native and target language as you, just talk to your classmates or look for likeminded people in your private circles. You will soon notice that studying together pays off!