Creating the right conditions for language learning

However you learn best, without the right conditions you’re in trouble. Create the right conditions and you’re setting yourself up for success. We're talking about fitting your learning into your daily life in a way that is most likely to work.

First, there’s the basics: if you know you’ll be tired after work, study in the morning; if you know you start to zone out after 20 minutes of study, aim for 10; and, as we said earlier, if you hate cartoons in English, don’t even think about using them to learn Thai.

Grab a pen and paper and write down 5 things you’ve read and 5 things you’ve listened to or watched in the last week – and enjoyed. Examples might include: the evening news; a dieting website; a football discussion podcast; a YouTube video on gardening; a gossip magazine.

Read Listened to/Watched

1. __________________ 1. __________________

2. __________________ 2. __________________

3. __________________ 3. __________________

4. __________________ 4. __________________

5. __________________ 5. __________________

Take note – this is who you are in your native language. If you use anything other than these types of sources when studying another language, do not be surprised if you get bored and frustrated.

The same goes for your habits. Understand what you will do and what you won’t. Some people can’t stand using online flashcards or other electronic memorisation programmes, for example. Don’t try to change habits that won’t change, or you’ll be fighting battles on two fronts. Understanding what works for you and concentrating on that will maximise the chances of ‘follow-through’.

Create an immersion environment. Even while living abroad, most people have a daily routine which involves the same journey to work/school and the same environment every day. If you live in rural Pennsylvania, you can create a similar immersion environment quite easily by some selective shopping on Amazon (posters, CDs, DVDs), loading up your iPod with the right podcasts and setting your digital radio station to the right channel. At higher levels, get your information from sources in the language you’re studying – read the news in Spanish, find a recipe for dinner in Japanese, or read about how to change a spare tire in Hebrew.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

The Getting Started series:

  1. SMART goal setting. This is where it all begins. Read more here.
  2. Creating the Right Conditions – Know Yourself! However you learn best, without the right conditions you're in trouble. Read more here.
  3. 10 Principles for Language Learning. 10 things to never forget as you set about your journey! Read more here.
  4. Interacting with native speakers. The holy grail of language learning! Read more here.
  5. How to deal with grammar. Grammar has a bad name. But there's some good news! Read more here. 
  6. How to learn vocabulary. Words, words, words. Read more here.
  7. 10 reasons you will fail to learn a language. Forewarned is forearmed! Read more here.

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