You can’t learn a language fast without a good method. So what methods have helped me that could also help you? I’ll start with the most obvious, so feel free to skip if you already use techniques already. Also please comment with tips if I didn’t include anything that you do already!
An easy way to memorise words quickly is to use flashcards, it’s a method called spaced repetition. Let’s say you learn one word, when you learn it for the first time you are quite likely to forget it, so a spaced repetition system will start by testing if you know that word straight away.
Once you’ve correctly passed the test it will increase the time that it tests you again. The first time may be a few seconds, then minutes, then hours, until it only needs to test you every week, then month then year. The more you revise and learn a word that you know, the longer you can keep it in your head.
There are other ways for learning vocab, however I recommend this way particularly for it’s thoroughness. If you use your own method you may continue to forget to test yourself on certain words, however if you use an online SRS tool then it will always remember your words for you and you will generally have to go through less effort.
If you want to find which SRS tool you should use check this post here!
Find a grammar resource to learn from online or a text book and then learn grammar from it, try to incorporate it with flashcards as well so you can learn it better.
What is great to learn are structures where you can say many different things you want to say just by inputting various types of words into the gaps. It will let you say so much more faster, and also consolidate the vocabulary that you have learned as you will be using it.
I use Chinese grammar wiki, however you probably aren’t learning Chinese so I recommend finding something else. I’ve heard Tae Kim’s grammar guide is very good and free for Japanese too.
There is a method of language learning called input, which involves almost absorbing the language your trying to learn constantly through exposure.
Never have a free moment when your not listening to your target language. The idea behind this is that humans have a natural tendency to learn words and pick up on language as they hear it. At any rate, it can’t hurt to become more familiar with your language right?
It also involves consciously watching many TV shows and pieces of media in your target language, without English subtitles, as you can learn via comprehensible input.
I must confess that this is something that is difficult for me to follow, as I like listening to my own podcasts and YouTube videos, and often find watching and listening to things I can’t understand really headache inducing and boring due to not being able to understand so much of it.
So this is a tip that I don’t often to follow. I do listen to a lot of Chinese music and watch Chinese media however not as much as I should. As a consequence my listening and speed of comprehension has suffered.
It is again, something I need to find a way to enjoy and make fun for myself. My current plan is to learn enough so that I can understand enough that it becomes something interesting for me to do.
But if you can use these input techniques quite often I highly recommend it. TV shows especially.
There’s not much else
You have to find things that work for you, and doing language learning exercises you enjoy or find useful.
What I like to do is take mock language proficiency tests to see how I do, and then learn from my mistakes. I don’t like to train specifically for the tests so it’s interesting when gaps in my knowledge are highlighted so I can go on my own and learn about them.
Some people have also said that they enjoy translating songs.
But you can find things that work for you, there are many things you can do in your target language so don’t let me restrict you.
Keep it fun
Whatever it is, make sure it’s enjoyable. I recommend using as much gamifaction as possible, it’s the reason why I choose memrise as my choice of flash cards and why for a long time I used duolingo.
Provided duolingo isn’t awful in your target language (unlike mine) then I recommend you use it! Or if duolingo is awful in your target language, how about getting around that by putting all the questions from duolingo into your memrise!?
I think we can all agree that the more time you put in the better you will become, but that only has it’s uses up until a point. Say you already have a good mastery of a language, it’s not a good idea to keep on learning for the same amount of time, it can easily cause you to use words that most people don’t know and therefore make yourself actually worse at the language. If your at that level of mastery obviously focus mainly on input and staying up to date with your flashcards.
Have you seen those really annoying old people on TV who use really complicated words that nobody really knows what they mean in English, and they become really difficult and confusing to understand? Yeah don’t be like that.
Besides that, spending a lot of time learning is a really good thing, and it’s my main excuse for not using the method of input constantly. Since active learning 40% of your time learning is much better than 10% active learning and then 90% passive perception.
I just now have to make sure I actually put that much time in!
Everything you do to learn better could be considered a step in the right direction, as long as your doing something repeatedly and for a non-negligible amount of time you will make some amount of progress.
But some methods will get you much further than others in the same amount of time, and language learning is about finding those methods, and throwing away the wrong ones.
If I missed anything please let me know! In the meantime, how’s your language learning journey going so far?