Blog

27
Mar

Learning a foreign language: experience-derived tips (part II)

Today we’ll focus again on some more practical tips for learning a foreign language – in continuation of our first post of this series.

1. Time management: yes, the constant lack of time is a chronic issue for most of us in today’s hectic world. When you’re pressed for time due to a plethora of factors in your everyday life, try finding alternative ways of studying and be creative in terms of finding time. You’ll be surprised how much you can get out of, for example, your daily commute:

Public transport: Whether it’s the bus, train, subway or whatever you are using to get to and back from work, this daily commute can be very useful in many ways. After all, you can’t do much while sitting and waiting to get to your destination – so why not make time pass by faster by, say, learning a few more words?
This is something I’ve practiced many times when I was a student at the University of Economics here in Varna. I am not originally from Varna so each time I’d travel to my hometown to visit my parents, I’d bring a stack of those word-notes I mentioned in the previous post with me (very handy as it’s neither heavy nor space-consuming), and go through them several times during my two-hour trip.
Another option is to bring a book (in the respective foreign language) with you on your daily travels.

Use your car as a learning center: this one’s for all of you drivers – bring a language-learning tape or CD with you, and play it in your car while driving to/back from work.

2. Practice writing any chance you get, as much as you can.
I realize that in the highly technological time that we live in, writing things down by hand is increasingly being replaced by typing on the computer keyboard. Having had the chance to grow up and graduate from high school in the pre-computer years though, I know just how invaluable handwriting is when learning a language.

I remember back in my days at Foreign language school, some of the homework our teacher would give us would be writing words repetitively, or the so called “copywork” – after school, we had to write each word we had learned that day for a certain number of times (usually about 2-3 lines) in our notebooks. Back then I considered it somewhat tedious and boring a task, often mumbling to myself “oh is this really necessary”, nevertheless still painstakingly writing each word down line after line; but later on I came to realize how powerful these hand-written repetitions are for keeping the word firmly imprinted into your memory. Because the more you write it, the more your hand “memorizes” the way it is spelt, and next time you’re wondering if that word was spelt with a single or double “s”, etc, you just get a piece of paper and start writing it – your hand will remember and write the word down correctly.

Even now, when typing has taken over most of our writing, not to mention Google and all the online dictionaries out there, I still sometimes practice this when in doubt as to how a certain word is spelt – I take a pen and paper and write the word down. This technique just never fails to produce the correct answer – even years after you have first sat down to exercise writing that particular word.

A good read related to the above which I came across while writing this post, is Softpedia’s Writing Helps Memory More Than Typing.

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