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How to Learn a New Language Effectively in School

Foreign language learning
There are so many reasons to pick up a new language. Perhaps you want to communicate better when travelling, want a better chance at finding education or job opportunities or are simply interested in the language. Regardless of your reason for learning a new language, you probably want to learn it effectively and fast.

Learning a language quickly is one thing, but learning a language effectively is crucial because employers frequently look for language proficiency and it helps to maintain your language skills even as you get older. Learning a language can seem like a chore, especially if you are starting from scratch.

Here, we introduce 7 tried and tested tips that can help anyone become a better language learner.

Methods to Learn a New Language in School

Set language learning goals to speed up language acquisition
1. Set Learning Goals

The first step to learning a new language fast and effectively is to set realistic and tangible goals. Logically, this is the most time-saving step to take when approaching the overwhelming goal of learning a new language.

Use the SMART goals concept: SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This concept provides a specific set of criteria to ensure that your goals are defined and attainable within a timeframe. For example, a poorly set goal can be something like “Become fluent in French”. This sounds like a great goal, but it does not tell us what it actually means. For instance, this goal can be interpreted in a few ways: to hold a basic conversation with someone in French for 10 minutes or have an in-depth academic discussion in French. A better goal could be: “To be able to talk to someone on a specific subject for 5 minutes in French”.
Write down your goals: Writing your goals down on a piece of post-it note or in a notebook is a great way to motivate yourself to practice the language. Make sure it is in a place that can be easily seen as a reminder of what you have set out to achieve.

2. Learn the Most Commonly Used Words
It’s nearly impossible to learn and much less remember all the words in a language.

Here's a fun fact — common languages can range from 100,000 words to over a million. Thankfully, native speakers don't use nearly as many words. Multiple research papers have shown that knowing the top 1000 commonly used words in a language is the most vital. You would be able to understand 90% of what you read.

Focusing on learning these words first helps to save time and allows you to read or even converse with someone in that language much faster.

 Learn a language with study techniques - flash cards
3. Use Study Techniques 
Like studying science or math concepts, the best way to learn new words is by using the best study techniques. Utilising flashcards is one of the best study methods for helping you learn new vocabulary words. They help you to focus on individual words and allow you to test yourself and memorise new information.

Test yourself: Flashcards work best when used to test your memory. Make sure to come up with one or even a few guesses before you flip the card over. Even if there’s a word you don’t understand, make a guess anyway. The important thing here is to make sure you are actively engaged in the activity. Having fun while doing this helps you to learn better as well.

Learn the translations first: Learning the foreign words before associating the English equivalent (or your native language) is far more effective. Make sure to look at the foreign words first, flip the cards over to see the English equivalent and then start practising guessing or writing down the foreign words.

4. Memorise Grammar Rules
Learning grammar rules for a new language is one of the most critical factors that determine how proficient you are in it. It helps you speak the language more accurately and can give you an excellent foundation to speak and write correctly, especially when writing professional emails or academic research. Although grammar is essential, mastering basic listening skills and repeating and understanding some of the words in the new language first should be your priority.

Without having to read grammar books, taking mental notes of how words appear in sentences and noticing general patterns can be an effective way to learn the grammar rules of a new language.

Watch movies and shows in the target language
5. Consume Entertainment in the Language
This is probably everyone’s favourite tip on this list. Watch all the TV and movies you want in the new language you are learning. TV and movies have something for everyone: horror, nature documentaries, or romance. They provide diverse content and an entertaining way to improve your language skills.

TV shows and movies are usually made for native speakers. This means you can see how people speak in today’s language and lingo. These entertainment forms also provide proper context for what is going on in the movie and help us understand how and when each word is used in speech. This allows us to associate each foreign word we know with different situations in life and feel comfortable using them.

Learning foreign languages with a language partner or other language learners
6. Practice with Someone
Communicating in a new language is the most exciting part of learning a new language.

Conversation practice enables you to assimilate all your acquired knowledge to produce oral communication. It is also one of the best ways to learn the language while applying its grammar and structure, and it gives you the confidence to progress in learning the language.

If you already have friends who speak the language you are trying to learn, they can become your conversation partner in real life. Don’t fret if you don’t have one — a simple Google search for language exchange partners and the city you are in would yield several results. Universities that have international students who speak the language could be interested in doing a conversation exchange. Tandem is an excellent platform to find conversation partners who also want to learn a new language.

7. Model Native Speakers
Modelling native speakers enhance your ability to speak a new language in public. Familiarising yourself with the common native speech patterns and lingo makes it easier for native speakers to understand you.

The best way to master a foreign language's accents, intonations, and pronunciations is to model what a native speaker does. This can mean speaking as they do and seeking the same learning resources they had when they first started learning the language.

Learn new languages at Invictus International School Cambodia

Learning foreign languages with a language partner or other language learners
Ultimately, nothing beats learning a new language in a formal school environment where you can get support from qualified teachers, extensive learning resources, and fellow peers.

Here at Invictus International School Phnom Penh, our English curriculum is paired with either French, Chinese, or Khmer, which are offered as additional languages for students from the Early Years through to Cambridge A-Levels.

If you are interested in learning more about the languages offered at Invictus International School Cambodia, book a tour with us today!