¡Hola language learner!
This is how I’ve been learning my second language (English). As a disclaimer, I have to say that, I’m still learning English. I think that learning a language is a lifelong process, and honestly, that’s the beauty it. I always learn new words, expressions or new ways to say things that allow me to develop my personality in the target language.
I consider essential, to have the right mindset and find the motivation to keep improving.
In order to learn a language, I try to follow these two rules to have the right mindset:
First rule:It’s important to figure out the kind of learner you are. Knowing how you learn will let you enjoy the process and avoid the frustration of trying to study the way others do.
This one is kinda hard if you don’t invest a little bit of time trying to get to know yourself as a learner.
Because of traditional school, we might be taught how to study but I firmly believe that everyone learns in a different way. For example, in my case, after years of figuring this out, I now know that I’m a student with a mixture of hands-on and kinesthetic. Therefore, I have to learn through either role playing, using the language, or even moving, while I’m learning. If you try to set me up with a black and white list, after 15 minutes, I can assure you, that I’ll fall asleep drooling on them.
One of my favorite ways to study as a kinesthetic learner is by learning how to play guitar in the target language, so I have to learn the notes, new vocabulary related to music and sign the lyrics. If you’re not a good singer, that is something your neighbors won’t appreciate, but oh well!
I’m still using the lyrics I’ve learned through music, in real life situations.
(By the way, I wrote a short post about the different kinds of learners, if you want to go and check it out here).
Second rule:Have good self-esteem. By that I mean, remind yourself that you are learning and that it is totally fine to make mistakes. It’s also okay to have an accent. Pronunciation is important, but having an accent is not a problem.
To keep myself motivated, I normally make a plan and keep track of the progress I’ve made. So that at a later time I can see how much I’ve accomplished.
Make a plan
For planning I use Trello, this app allows me to have access to my plan from any device. This app is a planning board that you can add text and media. Figure a bunch of post-its that you can move around, that’s Trello. Sometimes when I’m surfing the web, or on social media, I’ll find something that I want to learn and just take a screenshot and upload it to my Trello board.
For English and Portuguese, I created 5 columns, four for the 4 skills in languages, and the last one, to move what I’ve studied. So these would be: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Done. So in each one, I have either videos, links to podcasts, or books that I want to borrow from the library. You can add whatever works for you!
Keep track of the progress
Another way to keep yourself motivated is by recording yourself. I know that you may feel embarrassed but I find it pretty useful. This will force you to prepare what you’re going to talk about in that video, and after a while, it will show you how far you’ve gotten! Sounds good, huh?
The app that I use to record myself is Clips, because while I’m talking it’s creating the subtitles of what I say, that kind of pushes me to pronounce more clearly.
And now I’ll list below the resources that I use to boost my learning process. I hope you find it useful!
1. Meet up & Libraries (Speaking)
You can go to www.meetup.com and join a language exchange group in your area. Meeting other people is a meaningful way to interact and get those conversations to stick in your head. In this kind of event, you can practice and expand your vocabulary since you’ll be discussing a wide variety of topics. If you can’t find any groups, make your own!
There are some libraries where you can find language exchange, or associations where they have a volunteer helping others in their target language. You can google your target language + conversations + (the name of your area), or use a language exchange + the name of your area.2. Websites for languages exchange (Writing & Speaking)
2. Websites for languages exchange (Writing & Speaking)
Verbling & Italki. Here you can find a language partner to practice with. You can find native speakers or students just like yourself! You can also practice writing or speaking, it’s up to you! When I started using these services, I would also use snail mail. This way, I got to exchange postcards and letters to practice my writing
3. Phone apps (Speaking/Pronunciation)
- Hello Talk. If you download the app Hello Talk you can send audios with native speakers or other students and people will help you. It’s a good way of practice because you’re trying to communicate with others and that’ll help you a lot.
- Hi Native. In this app Hi Native you can ask questions about cultures in other countries or things like “how do you say this in English” and within a couple of minutes you’ll get someone helping you out. The part that helps you with speaking is that you can record and ask a native speaker if it sounds natural.
- Smule. Either if you’re a good singer or not, you have to give Smule a shot. Smule is a karaoke app that will let you sing with people from around the world. The lyrics will be on the screen, and you’ll get better at pronunciation while you have fun.
4. Personal assistant (Speaking)
If you happen to own a smartphone, or it you (what a bad joke, sorry), you can talk to your personal assistant, whichever you have on your phone; Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or Cortana. That’ll help you with your speaking and pronunciation.
However, don’t sweat it too much if your assistant doesn’t understand you, sometimes they just don’t work that well.
5. Videos (Listening & Speaking/Pronunciation)
- Ted.com. Probably you already know Ted.com, I love it because I can find any accent, any topic. It’s motivational, inspiring, and I can turn on the subtitles easily once it becomes too hard to follow.
- Youtube. I find this the perfect tool for “How to’s”. Type away all of those W’s questions and “How to’s” and you’ll learn so much!!! Pinky promise. Some of my favorite channels are; Rachels English(Rachel is fabulous for learning pronunciation in American English), Pronunciation with Emma(good to learn the pronunciation from UK), DC Vocabulary (Daniel Cordoba makes authentic videos to learn vocabulary), and Speak English with Christina(to learn English in real life situations).
- Engvid. Another website that I enjoy for English is Engvid. After watching the videos you can take a quiz and check how much you understood from the lesson. The videos are more of a classroom setting than other videos you can find on Youtube.
- Instagram. You can find great teachers using
hastags like:#wereonlineteachers #learningenglish #englishteachers. My favorite English Teachers on Instagram are; Regina from @eslwithregina, Tannia from @englishchallage, Ivan from @teacherivancrespo, Daniel from @dcvocabulary and Scarlett from @schoolwithscarlett. You can find as many as you want. They’re so generousoffering their time for free for us to learn!
6. Audiobooks (Reading and Pronunciation)
There are two that I really enjoy, Librivox(this is an app) and Scribd. Scribd is a website where you can listen to audiobooks for $8 a month, or so. It’s not free but it’s cheaper than Audible. Another downfall I see it’s that Audible just allows you to listen to one book a month.
7. Podcasts (Listening & Vocabulary)
I try to use podcasts as much as I can. For example, when I’m cooking, cleaning, commuting to work, etc… My favorites to learn English are:
All Ear English (Informal English such as phrasal verbs, idioms, expressions…)
Learn English with Rachel (Podcast and Youtube for pronunciation in American English)
ESL Pod for vocabulary (This one will teach you a bunch of new words that you can use in different kind of situations)
Although, you can listen to any podcast that you’re interested in. They can be related to culture, traveling, psychology, etc. it doesn’t matter. Even if it’s not your level, it’ll push you out of your comfort zone because it is a topic that you’re interested in, so you’ll learn new vocabulary.
8. Shower conversations (Speaking)
This is something you can do every day. Because talking by yourself on the street is creepy, use that time when you’re taking a shower to imagine a conversation. Can you describe the place? How do you feel? What is the conversation about? Talk to yourself and you’ll get used to hearing your voice in your target language, and that’ll make you feel more confident over time.
9. Write a blog (Writing & Reading)
Nowadays a lot of people write a blog. You don’t have to be perfect at writing. Just write about the things that you like, or something you read and want to give your point of view about.
What do you think about the way I learn languages? I would love to know how you learn, so leave your tips in the comment section so everyone can benefit from it.
10. Find the right teacher for you
The right teacher for you doesn’t mean the right teacher for everyone. So you should ask yourself what you are looking for in a teacher.
Do you need someone patient, passionate, with humor, organized, or resourceful? That’s up to you!
A teacher will guide you in your process, so it’s best to find someone that is a good fit for your needs and your personality.