What Are The Three Keys To Effective Language Learning?

The initial decision to take on the challenge of learning a new language, is filled with excitement, anticipation, and wonder. But, what do you do after hitting the books, working the modules, and repeating yourself over and over again, to skip past the growing boredom of grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary to ensure that you learn the language effectively? The trick, is to find out what your why is, commit to a consistent schedule, and use repetition and novelty to notice a language’s nuances. So, whether you’ve taken a liking to Spanish, German, Norwegian, or French, using these 3 keys to effective language learning will help you become fluent in no time.

Key Number 1: The Why Behind Your Motivation.

The first key needed to succeed in learning a language effectively is to determine what your why is behind your motivation. Maybe it is to make new friends who have diverse cultural backgrounds, or maybe your motivation is to travel to a specific country one day. Knowing the “why” is going to allow you to do the following:

  • Maintain a positive attitude towards language learning.
  • Willing to put in the time needed to succeed.
  • Take to language learning with an eager earnest; little to no resistance.

And because you are keeping your motivation front and center, it will give you the determination and perseverance to push through when it becomes difficult, frustrating, or monotonous.

Key Number 2: Commitment to Consistency & Patience.

To truly become fluent and proficient in another language, you need to create a space and routine that allows you to commit to consistent and patient learning. You have to accept that fluency will always be more effective if it is done on a routine basis; that is you must put time into it each and every day. This means no skipping chapters in your reading, blowing off verbal lessons for the movies, or skipping self-study sessions because you are too exhausted or can’t be bothered. And do not fret over how quickly you are learning, as it’s a long road to fluency, and it requires a mountain of patience. If you know that life may get in the way, create contingency plans so that you still get your studying in. Examples:

  • Have appointments to go to? Take an audiobook and listen while you wait.
  • Commuting to work? Use a language app to complete bite-sized lessons.
  • Too exhausted to delve into a full lesson? Review your flash cards.

Always make sure that you are consistently learning on a daily basis, despite what is happening in your life. This will ensure that you a) form the habit of learning, and b) giving yourself the opportunity to effectively learn through consistency.

Key Number 3: Repetition, Novelty, & Noticing.

The third key to learning any language effectively is all about using repetition to your advantage. You will need to use the same words and phrases over and over again in all modalities including reading, writing, hearing, and speaking before you will even begin to remember them, understand them, and be able to use them correctly. Unfortunately, repetition can get boring rather quickly, which is why you also need to keep things fun and new. How to make it fun and new?

  • Get creative with how you work through exercises. Use multiple methods like flash cards, fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, and mad-libs (phrasal word games). Consider working through word problems backwards, or using memory recall to get something right.
  • Use either written or verbal storytelling to help you catch on to how specific words, and phrases are used. Doing this also helps us connect and draw parallels if we are invested in hearing the end of the tale. Then, once the story is done, answer follow-up questions. Another way you can do this is to listen to the story in your native tongue, and then again in the language you are trying to learn. Audiobooks are great for this.
  • Engage in the use of authentic content as your language ability expands. Pick up companion books, magazines, audiobooks, text material like newspapers or articles, and songs. When able, engage in verbal, casual conversation.

Once you have found the creative ways that make the learning enjoyable and not monotonous, lean into picking out the patterns and the little details. As your ability to focus and understand certain parts of the language, you will begin noticing different words, patterns, or phrasing (idioms), used repeatedly. Make a conscious effort to pick these out, write them down, and review them. As these become easier to pick out, you’ll eventually see where you are “blind” or where you have “gaps” into the language, giving you the ability to find the missing patterns that you don’t understand quite yet. As you seek these out, your brain will begin to recognize them, use them, and improve on them, without you even noticing until eventually, you are fluent!