Preparing for learning a language

So you’ve decided to learn a new language. You’ve signed up for a course or bought a book and now you are eager to start learning. You might like to do some preparation first. Preparation will help you to get the best from your course. So here are some ideas.

  • Think about why you want to learn the language. Is it for a holiday, work, general interest or to keep your brain active? It doesn’t matter what the reason is, but it is a good idea to know in your own mind what your motivation is.
  • Set a realistic target. It takes years to be really fluent so it is unrealistic to expect to be fluent after 30 weeks at 2 hours per week. Nevertheless you can learn enough of the basics to more than get by. The trick is to say what you know and say it confidently. Once you have decided why you want to learn the language it will be easier to plan your target. If you are going on holiday think about the type of language you will need to know. This will include reading signs, asking questions and understanding simple language.  Do you want to be able to read a newspaper, hold your own in a business meeting, chat with your French neighbours or find your way around comfortably? Are you intending to take an exam? Obviously some of these are long-term targets that may take several years to achieve but you can then set smaller targets for each year.
  • Address any concerns. If you are worried about not being able to attend all the classes speak to the tutor in the first class and arrange to be kept up to date in your absence. If you have hearing, sight or any other problem that might affect your learning you should bring it to the attention of the centre as soon as possible. Many centres have hearing loops for example.
  • Read the course material sent to you before the course. If there is a course book purchase or order it in good time for the first class. If the book comes with tapes or CDs decide which will be most suitable for your needs and make sure you get the right one. I wouldn’t rush to buy a dictionary, unless it is a requirement for the course, but even then, you are unlikely to need it for the first class.
  • Buy a small note book to use as a vocabulary book and a folder for your handouts. You could also buy an excercise book for recording grammar, but you probably won’t need this for a few weeks, so there’s no rush. In any case you might prefer to use electronic means to record grammar, such as excel for verb tables.
  • Think about how you prefer to learn. Do you prefer a structured approach where you learn rules and apply them or do you prefer to have lots of practice? Do you hate role plays but love listening to tapes? Your course will probably include some learning methods that suit you and others that don’t, because no one learning style will suit everyone. You may find it beneficial to do extra work at home in the way that suits you.
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