Learning anything takes time. Yet, we all constantly complain about not having enough to do what we want. This is one of the main reasons why most people who want to learn a language dive into it without putting much thought in the process itself.
This turns out to be the biggest mistakes you can do when trying to learn a language. In order to learn a language to a high level, it is crucial to know how you learn first.
So here are three ways to improve your learning journey’s efficiency by understanding yourself first.
1. Know your goal
When learning, say Japanese, your goal may vary greatly from listening to music to reading manga to learn more about its culture or history or simply to exchange with its native people.
Figuring out what your goal is is the first task to tackle.
Depending on the goal, the way to approach the learning process will vary greatly.
Do you want to be able to read or listen? Then your main goal is learning a whole lot of passive vocabulary. You won’t need to be able to recall it yourself but you need to aim to be able to understand words and expressions coming at you.
For such purpose, many use applications such as Anki and extensive reading/listening.
However, if your goal is more on the active side, you may want to focus more on writing and conversing with speakers of said language.
Obviously, in order to avoid stagnation, a combination of the above will allow synergy and push you further in your studies. But you should know what is your primary focus.
2. Dive in your skills
Do you handle flashcards better (eg. Anki)? Do you prefer watching videos to study (eg. FluentU)? Do you feel at ease with textbooks without much grammar explanation (eg. Assimil)? Or maybe with audio and no text (eg. Pimsleur)?
There are countless ways to study and you need to find yours.
Looking around searching for advice is a first step to take but you also need to look inside.
Which class worked well for you at school? What was different from the rest? Give this another go in this new endeavor.
Even if someone you look up to studied with textbooks, this doesn’t mean you will succeed in that way too.
Think back to what is your goal, then follow-up with the options left to you and dig for that which connects the two.
While many people find it boring, I found I learn a language faster and better by diving in its grammar patterns first, giving me the confidence to try activating my passive knowledge afterward.
3. Keep your eyes and mind open
Due to the length of a language journey, you will come across numerous resources on your path. Many won’t fit the study style you will have set for yourself.
This being said, it doesn’t mean you should disregard them from the beginning without giving it another thought.
First, they might allow you to fix knowledge holes which will have set.
No matter how much you work and how well your studies fit your learning style, holes of knowledge will arise at one point or another. You may be able to fix it by going outside of your study comfort zone.
Furthermore, they can also contribute to making you realize your goals have evolved and/or your learning style at this further stage has changed.
Finally, even if not for either of the above reasons, using a resource which doesn’t fit you may be of use for one more reason: You can modify the way to use it.
I have seen people taking grammar books to make sentences flashcards only and never reading the explanation of said grammar patterns. I have observed people taking books and turning those into Audio with some help to use it as listening material.
Think outside the box and create your own material. This may feel like a hassle at first but this task itself will allow you to learn more about yourself and the time spent on the task itself (whatever it may be) will also contribute to remembering the content better.
All in all, learning is a journey and just like any other journey, it has a goal while being full of challenges along the way, paths forcing you out of your comfort zone and pushing other skills to emerge.
The first step to learn is to know who you are to be able to adapt to whatever comes your way.