Why do some students learn faster than others? How do you make sure the courses you take are effective? We interviewed students who speak second languages well about their favorite learning methods. One of the methods that tops their list is watching TV series with subtitles in the original language. Typically, 350 basic words make up about 80% of dialogues, and of those words, some are repeated hundreds or even thousands of times. About 12,000 words may appear in the dialogues of a 100-episode TV series, but most of them are used less than 10 times.
If, on the other hand, you want to reach a level of "business" language, you should have no less than 5000 words under your belt. In addition, some of these words should be specific to your field or profession. Students who have achieved this level of fluency recommend that you memorize a few new words every day, without ever stopping, even if you can already express yourself comfortably.
Here are some tips that will help you learn a foreign language faster:
1. Memorize the most practical words and phrases and use them right away
Knowing 50 verbs is enough to be able to construct 99% of the sentences needed in everyday life. Remember to start using them right after you memorize them, because our brains retain more easily what is useful. When you learn a new word, memorize also a simple sentence that contains it and that you can readily use. At this point in your learning curve, you will probably need a private tutor to confirm that the sentences you memorize are free from mistakes. The sentences you construct will help you make connections between concepts and words, which in turn will help you anchor the new learnings in your memory. Repeat each sentence out loud until the pronunciation becomes a reflex and the words come out of your mouth naturally. Then add them right away to your conversation to integrate them perfectly.
2. If you can't read, you won't be able to dictate
Read as many styles of literature as you want. Familiarize yourself with various forms of written communication. Consult the dictionary if you find unfamiliar words that spark your curiosity. Listen to audiobooks to practice your dictation. Repeat the sentences after the narrator, the news anchor, or the actor in your TV series. Repeat them until you can mentally associate the words with their meanings.
3. Visualize the image of each word
During the early stages of language learning, we tend to mentally translate every word into our native language to grasp its meaning. This can cause problems if the language you are learning is very different from yours. You look at the dictionary to find a match of an unknown word with a word in your language, which is fine. But to optimize the capabilities of your memory, an extra effort is required. Instead of associating a word from your language, associate a mental image. Combine in your mind the sound that the word produces, the image of the written word, and an image of the meaning of the word.
To take this even further, build stories or scenes in your mind in which several new words play a role. Practice evoking the meaning of the word in your mind when you hear it, just as you do with words from your native language.
In short, mastering a second language requires repetition and patience. But don't let that put you off! When you know a foreign language, your world expands and your mind opens up to new possibilities and new perspectives. Welcome to the fascinating world of language learning!