In this instalment, I share some pointers to give you a better study experience for learning languages. This isn’t gospel, just our informed opinion after having studied Asian languages for over a decade. Feel free to follow the parts that vibe with you and discard the rest. With that caveat in place, let’s get started!
1. Invest in your learning
As 21st century learners, we all live in an age of abundance. There has never been a time when it was easier (or cheaper!) to learn an Asian language. Useful tools such as Perapera and limitless foreign language media are available for free.
Free is fantastic but it does have its limits. Despite all the good free stuff available, it is still better to invest in your language learning. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, we as humans do not value what is free. It’s like having a gym membership – paying for it is part of what motivates you to go. Or it should do anyway!
Second, learning a language is also an investment in yourself. The money you spend now will pay you back many times over, both financially and personally. I now earn more yen in a week of work than the total of my spending on Japanese books and courses. This initial investment has given a massive financial return which continues to accrue every day. By all means, take steps to decrease the cost of your learning, but always invest, invest, invest.
The third and most important reason is that physical books and courses that cost some money are almost always better (see below).
2. Prioritize the offline over the online
In the early stages of your learning you should spend more time offline than online.
This might sound strange coming from us – after all, we write a blog and make language plugins, but traditional offline resources are still vastly superior to (most) online language courses.
An insightful book will save you hours of time. A solid audio course will get you acquainted with the grammar and pronunciation of the language. A helpful language tutor will give you a huge boost in confidence. So invest in all of these offline resources to hit the language from different angles.
The danger with online resources is that, despite the best of intentions, you end up surfing around random sites. This represents wasted time that you could have spent being immersed in the new language. In addition, many internet forums and websites give outright poor advice and misleading information. Other free resources online are of low quality and produced by amateurs.
Once you are intermediate, you can (and should!) read news sites and check out blogs in the foreign language. But until you get there, it is more effective to focus on offline resources that give you a base proficiency. So turn off your laptop, make yourself a coffee and get to work.
3. Watch movies in your target language
Find some foreign movies that interest you. It is is fine to watch with English subtitles, although movies with both the audio and the subtitles in the foreign language are optimal.
In the beginning, most of the dialogue will still sound like random syllables, but your ears slowly adjust. You will begin to recognize words you have learned from other sources. This is highly motivating. As you progress, you will find that you increasingly follow the plot and grasp the gist of conversations. Eventually you will struggle to remember a time when you couldn’t understand films in Japanese or Chinese. Trust me, that moment will come much quicker than you expect!
You can watch a large selection of Asian movies for no cost at all by signing up for a free 30 day trial with Amazon Prime. If you prefer, just cancel the membership before the month is up and you won’t be charged anything.
In the near future, we plan to do a series of posts on the best Asian movies we have seen to date. Watch this space!
4. Remove distractions
People are becoming more and more addicted to their smartphones. This is a problem for language learners. You simply cannot study efficiently while you are texting friends, checking the weather and reading Twitter all at the same time. Even just having a phone in your pocket serves as a distraction more often than not.
The only solution to smartphone addiction is to turn your phone off or, at the very least, put it into airplane mode while you study. You do want to learn this language right?
I know the idea of turning off your smartphone will strike fear into the hearts of many of you. Admit it, you are paranoid of missing out on something. But how many of those notifications are actually urgent? The world can wait an hour or two, so take a break from being connected for a change and let your brain focus on the task at hand. Remember that the benefits of good habits build up over time.
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