Welcome to a series of articles in which I show you exactly how I'm learning foreign languages every day.
You'll literally get to watch over my shoulder as I show you step-by-step how I'm studying!
In each article, I'm going to 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. Here is the complete series:
The aim of this routine is primarily to improve my listening comprehension. I'm learning Cantonese right now, but you can apply this to any language.
If you struggle to understand native speakers, or you want to learn more colloquial vocabulary, this is for you. My specific interest, in this case, is something called connected speech. I struggle to catch individual words when Cantonese are speaking fast, so this will be a great exercise for that, as I get to analyse every word!
Choose something short but challenging.
I chose a simple 30-second excerpt from this video from Hong Kong (specifically 3:59 – 4:29). I like it because the guy speaks really fast, and uses a bunch of words I don't know.
It's important to keep short, otherwise it will quickly get overwhelming.
(Note: If you're looking for video material with text, I highly recommend FluentU)
If you don't have a transcription of the material (unlikely, unless you're using a textbook), you'll need to get one made.
Here are some practical suggestions for doing this, if you don't have any friends to help out:
While you're waiting for the transcription to be done, spend a couple of days listening to your chosen material over and over.
This is important, because you want to push yourself to understand as much as possible before you turn to the transcription. (It gets too easy after that!)
Listen many times…probably more than you think you should!
Focus on different phrases in turn, trying to pick out every little word, and every little sound. Really push yourself here, and try to understand as much as possible.
(There will still be lots you don't understand, though, and that's completely normal!)
Study the transcript until you understand it all.
There's no secret sauce here. It's time to get your “study hat” on and break it down, one word at a time.
(This is why it should be short, so that it doesn't take you forever!)
Use your dictionary as much as you need to. I like to make notes, mark up the paper, do whatever I need to in order to thoroughly understand what's going on.
The work done up to this point is great, but it's really only half what you need to do.
Just because you study something until you understand it, doesn't mean you can then apply it in the real world.
Something I've noticed experienced language learners do is to really milk their material for everything it's worth.
Don't just stop once you understand what's going on… keep going and try to use the words and phrases you've learn yourself!
Here's how I do it:
I'll usually spend a couple of weeks on an activity like this, in order to learn the vocabulary thoroughly and to be able to learn the dialogue myself.
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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