Core Study Sequences: Lesson Preparation

Welcome to Part 3 in a series of articles in which I show you exactly how I’m learning foreign languages every day.

In these articles I talk about how I’m using my Core Study Time – a 30-45 minute period at the start of every day which I set aside for intensive study.

Before you read this, you should go back and check out the first two posts in the series:

  1. Core Study Time In Your Language Routine
  2. Core Study Sequences Part 1: Listening Comprehension
  3. Core Study Sequences Part 2: Learning Vocabulary
  4. Core Study Sequences Part 3: Lesson Preparation
  5. Core Study Sequences Part 4: Glossika Language Training
  6. Core Study Sequences Part 5: Studying Dialogues
  7. Core Study Sequences Part 6: Transcribing Audio
  8. Core Study Sequences Part 7: Reverse Translation

Lesson Preparation

The aim of this routine is to prepare for your conversations in a foreign language so they are more effective.

Talking regularly with native speakers is a huge part of my language routine.

But one of the side-effects of regular lessons is I don’t always plan the them … I just turn up and speak!

However, I’ve always found that taking the time to plan my speaking practice can elevate it from good to great.

If you know you’ve got a lesson later in the day, plan what you’re going to do in advance.

Your morning routine is the perfect time to do this, while you’re fresh and can focus.

Here’s how I do it.

Step 1: Decide On A Topic

Lessons can often be unfocused.

You can jump around from one topic to the next, or leave it up to the teacher to decide.

That can be fine, but I like to be in control of my learning.

If you cover 10 topics in a lesson, you won’t remember much from any of them. But if you spend the whole lesson discussing one topic, you’re going to use related vocabulary many times over, and be more familiar with it by the end.

Therefore, step 1 is to decide on the topic of the lesson.

How do you decide on the topic?

Think:

  • What do I talk about with my friends family?
  • What would I like to be able to talk about in my new language?
  • What would really help me if I could discuss it effectively?

Somewhere in there is your answer.

I’ll often stick to one topic for a number of lessons. I like the repetition. Although it can feel a little artificial, repeating the same vocabulary over and over is great practice.

Step 2: Choose Vocabulary To Focus On

Unless it’s a brand new topic, you should have a list of vocabulary somewhere related to the topic you’ve chosen (probably in your notebook).

Your upcoming lesson is a chance to practise that vocabulary by using it in real conversation.

At this stage, it can be tempting to say: “I’m going to practise it all!”

But actually, I prefer to select a small number of really useful words and phrases, and decide to practise them instead. So I look over everything I’ve previously “learnt” on the topic, and select my favourites.

Why does this step matter?

You learn through repetition.

If you’re always looking to learn something new, you’ll never learn anything properly.

So here (and throughout all my learning), I’m always trying to identify what’s most important, and focus my energies on learning that.

Step 3: Put It Down On Paper

This is a practicality…but an important one.

You’ve chosen your topic.

You’ve selected the vocabulary you want to practise.

But how are you going to make sure you use it in the lesson?

Simple: Put it somewhere you’ll see it!

For me, this means writing the words and phrases down on a piece of paper and having them in front of me whilst I’m speaking.

I can then refer to the paper easily throughout the lesson, to make sure I cover everything I want to.

Step 4: Get Speaking!

During your lesson, use the words and phrases you’ve written down as much as possible.

Don’t worry if it’s unnatural, or sounds forced.

You’re there to practise.

If they’re any good, your teacher will pick up on the fact you’re trying to learn that vocabulary, and help feed it into the conversation too. (In fact, I often send my teacher a list of what I want to practise at the start of the lesson – it helps us to focus.)

Would you use this routine yourself? What problems would you have?

Please do share this post on Facebook or Twitter if you found it useful, then leave me your comments or questions below!

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  • Jums G

    Great stuff Ollie!!!

    If you didn’t have a vocab list together… I don’t have any lists. How would you go about getting one together?

    • I always write everything down when I study, so I can revise it later. Do you make any notes during your lessons?

      • Jums G

        Sometimes. I’m learning Mandarin, and I’m not learning handwriting… don’t know if that was a good idea but its the way I’ve gone. So all note taking is done directly into a computer, and often directly into Anki.

        It has given my the idea though, perhaps I could go through my files and create some lists… it would be nice to refer to sometimes. Currently, I only review vocab when Anki tells me to.

        • I do the same, but with Cantonese, and I use Jyutping, not Chinese characters.

          Your word lists are all there inside Anki 🙂

  • Mel Vargas

    Awesome suggestion Olly. That might just be the mistake that I made last time I tried having an “all Japanese” lesson with my iTalki tutor. Almost gave up on learning Japanese then.

    This is great because you only have to concentrate on learning a specific set of words and phrases which you can easily review if you forget it since you’ve grouped your vocab by category (another mistake I need to correct).

    Hopefully this time around I’ll make some progress in my Japanese language journey.