About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Common mistakes students make when studying languages!

There are a bunch of common mistakes students make when attemping to learn a new language. I won't go as far as to say that these mistakes can make a huge difference, but in the end they could boost results.

1- They try to learn everything at once and cram whichever words they encounter:

Unless you need them at work, don't start memorizing words like "heritage" or "accountancy" just because you have seen them somewhere along the book. You should approach a new language with some prudence. In the very beginning, words such as big and tall can replace more unusual ones such as "humongus" or "giant". If you are able to memorize such words effortlessly, then more strings to your bow, but i wouldn't recommend it. 

Start by making a list of all the basic essentials. For example: Street, house, bar, wall and so on. Afterwards, practice them to get a good feel of the language before attemping more advanced vocabulary.

Take it easy!

2- They don't cover the basics and attempt to get into more advanced structures:

If you don't understand why verbs have certain endings and sentences are built in a certain manner, there will only be confusion awaiting you further along the way. Make sure you leave no stone unturned and grasp the essentials. A language is not memorized, but understood. Schools don't really care if their students have knowledge gaps; they just want to fill as many groups up as possible for monetary purposes.

When i used to teach large groups, students from B1 to C1 would often try to appear at the same level, at the expense of their true abilities. The amounts of mistakes determines the level and knowledge of a student. The only true way to know what you lack is to have a brief conversation with a teacher capable of properly evaluating. As long as you don't make a mistake, even without using more advanced and stylish structures, the teacher can't say anything. Never think of a language as a race.

You can lie to others, but not to yourself.

3- They don't understand the grammar and attempt to go around it with vocabulary and pre-made sentences:

If you really believe that your memory will remember 10,000 sentences and expressions from the very beginning, then you are really waiting for the challenge of your life. Don't focus on idioms from the very beginning, but rather on getting your point across. Rarely will I see someone integrate expressions on an A2-B1 level. The quicker you try to understand how the sentences are built according tot he grammar, the easier it will all unveil in your mind.

4- They try to speak, basing their understanding on sounds rather than lettering:

Just because your friends taught you some bad words here and there, doesn't mean that you actually know what you are saying. The phonetic value of a word needs written validation. It is important to at least see how the word is written to truly know how to pronounce it. For languages using another alphabet than the classical latin one, it might be a way to get yourself started. In the end, learning how to read is inevitable.

5- They sit down for hours staring at their books without any day to day regularity:

I don't believe the brain can endlessly stare at books without overheating. I keep repeating myself over and over again about the same thing; it’s better to study 5 minutes 3 times a day, than 2 hours staring at your book on a lonely weekend. 

The biggest mistake ever made by students.

6- They don't understand the universal difference between nouns, adjective, verbs and adverbs:

If you can't seem to comprehend what a noun is and why it has a certain position in a sentence, then you truly require emergency help. Every language has those elements, and I wouldn't see how languages would even make sense without them. When I open a book up, whether it is in German, I can still recognize what is a verb and what would probably be the noun without actually speaking the language.

If you understand those elements in your own language, then new ones should be a piece of cake. 

7- They study 2 languages at once:

Some people might be able to pull this one. I personally don't study this way, because I do believe that the brain requires certain breaks and certain periods to absorb new knowledge properly. I simply don't believe that 2 languages can easily divide the learning lifestyle of a student. Another reason is that languages can mix themselves and create confusion.

A good example would be to learn spanish and portuguese which essentially have the same vocabulary. The brain is remarkably good at confusing words with other similar ones. I remember once that a ukrainian teacher said that it was easier to teach Ukrainian to an African than to a Polish person.

8- They don't practice with others:

Spoken practice shall never be outmatched by any other method, but one cannot behave like a parrot expecting to speak without knowing the grammar.

Il never stop repeating it, practice!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
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