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 or later. In such a case, think of your motivation in the beginning and visualize it. Remember that learning a new language takes time and practice and that a meaningful conversation with native speakers is only possibile on a certain level (A2, or rather B1 according to CEFR). Also, explore alternative learning methods, such as language tandems to retrieve the fun and the motivation.
As with many other things in life, the motto "the more, the better" applies to language learning as well. But, please, not all in one go! Learning ten new words per day means that you will have learnt 1150 new words at the end of a semester.
For an accurate estimation of time needed for a course, please check the number of credit points awarded for a course. One credit point is equivalent to 30 hours of workload, including the lessons at the university.
Limit the number of new languages you would like to learn during your studies to one, but definitely not more than two. Continue learning this language at least until you are able to make meaningful conversation with a native speaker. This usually requires level A2 to B1 according to CEFR. Depending on the language, you will need four to six semesters to reach this level when you start as a beginner.
Being surrounded daily by a language will have a large impact on your study success. Yet, stays abroad, of course, have the biggest effect. But even at home you can easily integrate the new language in your 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 music in the foreign language, audio books or podcasts to improve your listening skills. Read books or the news in your desired language. Watch movies and TV series with the original soundtrack. Even if you don't understand every word 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 to fluency. 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 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. You may also attend the 'Länderabende' at the alibi in Weingarten, organized by our international students.
Alternative study methods
- Online exercises and activities
- Language book publishers' additional material (Klett, Cornelsen, Hueber, PEARSON, etc...)
- Self-made additional material, such as flash cards
- Spraced Repetition Software (SRS), such as Anki
- Language tandems
- Stays abroad
- Media (music, movies, books, websites, podcasts, etc...) 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 you use it in the right way. Don't just mindlessly write down all the new vocab in your exercise book, as you might have learnt in school. Instead, use your vocab book actively in class: write down a word or phrase that sounds new to you, or that you can't remember. Note down proverbs and use your vocabulary in whole sentences. Going through your vocab book, you will quickly identify all the words and phrases you keep forgetting, as they will come up again and again. Collect those persistent cases in a special place, e.g. on the last page of your vocab book, to practice them over and over again.
In a flashcard system, you write single words, phrases, or sentences on small record cards: mother tongue on the face side, target language on the back of the card. You also need a small box, a card register with at least 5 dividers to divide your box into five segments to put your flashcards in. At first, all cards are in the first segment. These cards are repeated daily, those in the second segment every other day, those in the third segment every week, and so on. If you know the correct answer to a flashcard's front, the card moves up one segment. If not, it goes back to the first segment.
- Long term memory is supported in particular
- Good overview of your knowledge
- Vocabulary is learnt in a random order, which avoids the notorious "I know where it's written, but I can't remember what it's called"-effect.
- By creating the cards yourself, you already practice the vocabulary before actually studying it.
- Constant repetition of the last segment avoids forgetting cards, i.e. words already known.
So-called Spaced Repetition Software (SRS), such as open source software Anki, are digital flashcards. Good SRS works with an algorithm showing you a card/word just when you are about to forget it. Many SRS also have communities that share existing stacks of cards with the web for free.
Of course you can learn a new language all by yourself - but you'll have more fun and be more successful if you learn and study with a motivated partner! This could be a language tandem: a native speaker of your target language who wants to study your mother tongue. In addition, other students from your language course can help you improve your skills. For example, meet up to do the course homework together and, doing so, only communicate in the target language.
Don't be shy to ask one of your fellow students to be your study buddy. Language courses at CLIC are interactive, anyway, so you will get to know each other soon enough. Your study buddy can motivate you during lows and ensure regular and entertaining practice.
If you are looking for a language tandem, please contact CLIC.
To find a partner with the same native and target language as you, just talk to your fellow students or look for likeminded people in your personal circle. You will soon notice that studying together pays off!