How To Get the Most Out of Your Lessons

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Pick a topic, or try to direct the conversation toward something interesting that both parties can talk about at length. Both the teacher and the student went to school somewhere, have family, live somewhere foreign, and have views about current events. Talk about your family to learn the vocabulary surrounding family members. Talk about where you both live to learn directions. Talk about your work to learn business vocab. 

As the class progresses, ask the teacher to write down the words that are new to you, or that you didn’t remember or used improperly in the chat section of the video platform you are using. That way at the end of the class, you should have a list of vocabulary to study that you know will be useful to you in the future (you already needed it once, didn’t you?). 

Consider recording your video session - just make sure to inform your teacher at the beginning that you plan on recording the session to use for later study. It’s normal and they should be fine with it. Once the session is over, you can go back to the video and watch/listen intently to the new words, sentence constructions, or mistakes you may have made in grammar, usage, or pronunciation. Most video platforms (Skype, Zoom for example) Have this ability built in to the site. If not, inexpensive or free video recording programs are easy to find on the internet. This is a very powerful tool, and it can be much more interesting and effective than making flash cards for the same purpose. You can even save this recording in a format that is accessible on your phone, and watch the video as a manner of study in your free time. Lastly, you can edit the video of a recent class, chopping out all but the portions of the conversation where you learned new vocabulary, didn’t use the language correctly or didn’t know the word(s) in question. In this manner you can reduce a one hour class to 20-30 minutes of high frequency, highly useful study material, spoken in the native accent of your teacher. 

Everytime you hear a word you don’t know, ask what it means. This is one time in life where temerity or shyness has no value. The teacher wants to teach, so they need to hear what you don’t know. The worst thing you can do is quietly nod your head as if you understand when you actually don’t. 

Speak as much as you can, with no fear of error. Once you accept the inevitable fact that your path to success is riddled with tons of mistakes, you are free to make them without much remorse. Kids have no problem with this, which some believe is why children seem to learn languages faster than adults. But in retrospect, those same children received 4-6 hours a day of one on one teaching for the first years of their life. This means that they have had over 10,000 hours of private tutoring in the language in question by the time they are 6. Give any adult that amount of tutoring and of course they would master the language in the same amount of time, if not sooner. 

Language learning is one place where making a mistake is a good thing. Not unlike an auto mechanic, the teacher is there to point out what’s missing in your language engine, and they need to hear the engine to know what’s not working or what’s missing. 

Don’t get caught up trying to measure your progress. Just keep speaking. When you first start, even “Hello” and “Goodbye” may be new vocabulary. Just keep plugging away, identifying what you don’t know and studying/memorizing those new words and sentence constructions that arise during your conversation with the teacher. If you find yourself learning the same word several times, great! It just means you have come upon some useful vocabulary. Sooner or later the word will sink in. 

Learn about memorization techniques. Today there are professional, world renowned mental athletes whose sport is the art of memorization. These individuals have developed many techniques (tricks and tips) that you can learn and use to help you learn and remember vocabulary in your chosen language. A great place to start is to learn about “Memory Palaces.” This memorization technique goes at least as far back as the Greeks and is very well documented. A memory palace is a spectacular way to remember vocabulary. 

There have been a lot of successful advancements made in how to remember things using some simple mental tricks. It would be well worth your time to explore what’s out there and incorporate some best practices into your language learning efforts. 

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