In 1989, Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People hit the shelves and has sold some 30 million copies since. It seems that many of us are interested in learning how to become more effective in our lives. One goal that many people have is learning a new language, but unfortunately a huge number of learners quickly abandon their study because they run into trouble. Language learning is a marathon; a feat of endurance, mental toughness and, most importantly of all, good studying habits.
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In this article, we will share 5 habits that successful language learners all have in common. Through these, you too can become a more effective language learner.
Habit 1: Review your work before anything else
Effective language learners know well that review is actually more important than new learning. How is that so? Review is about retaining and practicing material you’ve covered before, and retention is the ultimate goal of learning any subject, but especially foreign languages. Furthermore, you should start with review because it’s best to review when your brain is “fully charged.” If you expend your mental energy on new learning first, you’ll have less time and will to review, and that means you won’t retain anything you study.
Habit 2: Set clear and achievable goals
It’s easy to tell yourself “I’ll learn 100 new words a day with flashcards and by the end of the year I’ll have learned 36,500 words. I’ll be fluent!” Have you ever known such a plan to work? Effective learners will set themselves a realistic and achievable goal. As they complete each milestone, they are more empowered and energized to continue on to the next. Set yourself a ridiculous task and you’ll only fail, and then you won’t want to go on.
Habit 3: Practice speaking with natives
Perhaps the most daunting and yet the most crucial milestone is getting up the nerve to practice your language with a native speaker. You’re petrified you’ll make mistakes, and you are even more worried that you’ll sit there frozen to your seat trying not to look totally lost as the native speaks. All this is normal and understandable. After breaking the ice, however, it becomes not only an enjoyable experience, but the most effective way to retain vocabulary and grammar because you’re actually using what you learn, and honing your skills.
Habit 4: Put your tools into action
Ineffective learners have bookcases filled to the brim with textbooks, vocabulary guides and other materials that are sometimes still in their plastic wrapping. It’s one thing to go on Amazon and buy every language book on offer while thinking “I’ll breeze through these and be fluent in no time.” It’s another thing altogether to actually open them and work through them. Be like the effective learners. They buy what they need and finish it completely before moving on to the next. Their shelves are filled with completed volumes, not unopened ones.
Habit 5: Treat mistakes as learning opportunities
Finally, you mustn’t get despondent every time you make a mistake. Effective learners know that a mistake is also a lesson. They’ll modify their notes, reflect on the error and then try again. Ineffective learners will collapse like a house of cards on a windy day, beating themselves up over every error and taking it as a sign that languages are not for them.
When you develop good habits, stick to your path, and don’t give up when the going gets tough, you will sooner or later arrive at your language destination. Just remember that languages are for everyone. Let’s get stuck in together!
Best of luck to all language learners out there! Remember to check our homepage out to get help with habit number 3!
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