My language learning method

Although many people learn a foreign language at least once in their lives, it has never been proven that there is a single best method for second language learning. Some people learn most effectively by studying grammar rules and vocabulary with the help of a guide, whereas others prefer listening to their target language non-stop. Yet others improve their skills by reading in the L2. The first approach is called deductive: a language is learned by studying the rules and applying them afterwards. The last two are inductive methods: fluency is reached by studying texts or auditory input. With the help of these, a learner discovers what the rules of a language are. Personally, I prefer the inductive method, as I have found that it works quite well for me. However, I am of the opinion that it is useful to start with the deductive method when there is no opportunity to immerse yourself in the language completely (e.g.: temporarily live in the country where it is spoken). Without some knowledge of grammar and basic vocabulary, it is incredibly difficult to create an area in your brain for the second language, as it were.It can be done if you are willing to start at a baby’s L1 level, however: with children’s books as the first step, gradually progressing towards literature. Because I cannot get my hands on such ‘baby material’ easily, however, I have devised the following language learning ‘method’:

Step 1: study the basic grammar, such as verb inflection, articles, and cases. Try to learn some basic vocabulary as well, so that core vocabulary items such as prepositions and sentence connectors are stored in your brain correctly. This will make the following step slightly easier.

Read familiar books in the target language.

Read familiar books in the target language.

Step 2: read a book you have already finished reading in your native language or in another language you are fluent in. You may want to read the non-target-language version several times, as you need to know the book’s content very well. See what you are able to understand by comparing the positions of words (e.g. which sentences they are in) and concentrating on whether words sound similar to those of other languages you know. Do not compare the books with one another literally. This is tedious, and therefore discouraging, work. Of course, problematic words should be looked up in a dictionary so that you remember these as well. If it takes too much time, you can do this when reading the book a second time. If all goes well, you will automatically discover the grammar rules along the way.

Step 3: try to write something in the target language, using the words and grammar that you have learned. This will turn passive knowledge into active knowledge. You can attempt this after just a few pages or after finishing the book. My advice is that you should do whatever seems to be most effective. Also listen to audio every now and then, so that you can practice pronunciation by reading out loud.

This is my preferred strategy, but keep in mind that you should choose the approach which you think will be best for your goal. And lastly, have fun! Do not force yourself to do things you do not want to do. Remember that language learning can, and therefore should be, a good experience :).

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