Getting the most out of a language course – Practice makes perfect
Taking language lessons is really only half the battle. Yes, you’ll improve through the lessons themselves, but if you really want to get the most out of a course, you have to apply what you’ve learned to real life. Learning languages is a lot more like dancing or even driving – it’s not just learning how to do it, but through practice, and really only through practice, can you make it so natural and instinctual that you do it without thinking. Here are my top 5 tips for effective language practice:
1. Go beyond the textbook
Those exercises are good, but they bear limited relevance to your own use of English. Make follow up, similar examples based on your life and use of English, so you can use English in real situations.
2. Incorporate your practice
Try not to associate ‘homework’ with any horrible high school memories you may have – practice tasks should be interesting, useful and incorporated into your daily life. Keep a work journal (or even record one to practice speaking) that you can share with your trainer.
3. Target your practice
The essence of good practice is targeted practice – if you want to improve your speaking and writing skills, then speaking and writing is what you should focus on (and if you can’t speak with anyone directly, try writing out work dialogues/scripts between you and colleagues/contacts)
4. Be proactive
Look through the textbook for things that you’re not sure about, surf the web for articles and/or video clips that relate to your business, review your notes, collaborate with your trainer on what you’d like to focus on for independent practice. Trainers love to receive ideas from their students – its shows that you’re 100% committed, and you will see the benefits.
5. Keep a (digital) notebook at all times
Get into the habit of carrying around a small notebook, so you can record any new language, questions, or problems you encounter at work. With this as a tool for in and out of the classroom, the course can evolve around you as an individual learner. Alternatively, keep a log on your phone or write down new language in google docs and share with your trainer.
Ultimately, practice is for the learner not the teacher – in many ways, you get out of a course what you put into it. Above all, practice is the best kind of input you can give, and the only real way of making long-lasting improvements – remember the old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.