LTL’s Language Learning Tips
What language learning tips have you heard?
• Speak every day?
• Learn grammar first?
• Learn the characters?
All sound advice
This has put us in a unique position in answering the ultimate question…
What are the best ways to learn a language?
The truth is, there is no one size fits all solution to learning a language. However, there are several language learning tips that can help.
Here are our top tips for learning a language.
Use images and personal connections
Making connections are key to remembering. Connecting images or personal connections to new words and vocabulary will help with your memory.
For instance, when you’re learning animals in Chinese. For dog (狗 gǒu) why not learn it while looking at a picture of your favourite four-legged friend and reminiscing the time she ruined all the couch pillows?
Recalling is better than reviewing
Remember all the times Bart Simpson had to stay back after school writing an important lesson over and over again on the blackboard?
How many of these do you think he actually remembered?
We’re not saying there is no utility in repetition.
However, neuroscience has shown us that when you recall a memory you’re telling your brain that this is something important to remember. As a bonus, you’re rewarded with the hormone dopamine which makes you feel good for remembering that fact!
Sounds a little better than joining Bart after school, right?
Studies have shown you’re more likely to remember things when you practice recalling information over memorization.
Timing is everything
Unfortunately, everything we learn isn’t locked into our long-term memory. Putting information in that vault and pulling it out at the exact moment we need it can be quite an achievement. Thankfully there is a way to improve this.
Ever had a word on the tip of your tongue?
Then boom! There it is, that pesky word you’ve heard four hundred times and couldn’t remember but now can.
Well, I’ve got great news. You’re 50% more likely to recall this over other new information.
The trick to this is to recall the word right at the moment you’re going to forget it. This is known as the Spaced Repetition System (SRS). Memory researchers have discovered that one month is about the ideal interval to recall a word, so you can put it into your long-term memory.
So, when learning new words remember to bust out the flashcards for those specific words about a month later and test yourself!
Sounds and instant feedback
Chinese is a tonal language. Meaning it’s quite difficult to adjust your ears to it at first if your native language is non-tonal. Thankfully there is a relatively easy way to speed up this learning curve.
Start with the sound.
Learning the sounds of new words makes it easier to remember.
A study by Stanford University in 2012 had Japanese adults listen to words such as
• Rake – lake
• Raw – law
• Red – led
The Japanese language doesn’t have the “L” sound. How were they ever supposed to hear the difference? Not surprisingly the group of students performed poorly.
But here’s the interesting thing about the human brain. After the initial test that provided no feedback on their performance. Students then began to do the test again, this time with instant feedback on whether they had answered correctly or not.
Every participant learnt how to hear the difference after 1 hour of studying!
So, you’ve got the sounds in your head. How do you make sure you’re remembering them correctly and in the correct context?
Google images will show you thousands of examples of the word you’re looking for. Since it’s taking the word from so many websites you’ll be able to see the word in action in many contexts.
The simple act of trying to spot the difference amongst the google images will enhance your memory.
Try to associate the images and word with personal stories from rule one!
Chinese uses a different grammatical structure to most other languages. For this reason, translating something directly will sound really strange.
How often do you hear someone say something in your native language that is technically correct but no native speaker phrases it that way?
This is the work of google translate.
An important part of language learning tips is that Chinese dictionaries will explain Chinese words to you… in Chinese (what a surprise)! Try to use one as soon as possible into your Chinese journey, as you’ll be exposed to the words and sentences used to describe other words.
You’ll have to hone those listening skills to fully appreciate the ways Chinese people speak. Thankfully there is no shortage of materials to learn from.
If you learn 10 verbs, 10 nouns and 10 adjectives you can say 1,000 different things! And there is the magic of language, not in the textbooks but mixing the words you know to create new sentences.
It’s a creative process.
Learning a language might seem like a never-ending journey and that is true for some, BUT did you know:
• 1,000 words will give you 85% of everything you could possibly need in day to day communication.
• 3,000 words will give you 98%!
Don’t believe me? Listen to Chris Lonsdale talk about it in this ted talk.
So, this impossible task of learning a language can very suddenly become very possible! Even a survival course of 1000 words would serve you very well in your day to day errands around China.
Here are the 100 most common Chinese Characters to get you started.
Live the Language
Our last piece of advice for language learning tips is Live the language! Jump into a Chinese city, speak the language, listen every day, eat the food, see the people and the culture. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about the language, and yourself!
Check out all the programs we have on offer and all the cities you can study with LTL.
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