10 Best Study Tips for Learning a Language in School

Hello everyone! So, you’re not one of those crazy people trying to learn a language from home, but you are taking language classes.  Whether it be a high school foreign language course, college course, or one you signed up for on your own, classes can be extremely helpful when approached with the right attitude and methods.

In my opinion, live language classes are the best way to set your foundation in the language.  I took Chinese classes for two years and it changed my life, no exaggeration.  So, how do you study, learn efficiently, and make good grades when learning a foreign language in school? Here are my ten best study tips for language learners in the classroom.

1. Get to class early.

If you take those five minutes in between class periods to hurry down the hall to your German period instead of stopping along the way, this allows you to get an extra five minutes to talk to the teacher, review your homework, or get some extra study time in before the lesson starts.  And if all things fail and you can’t make it a few minutes early, at least get there on time.

2. Come to class prepared.

Make sure you have a clean and organized binder, proper note taking tactics you’re consistent about using, a dictionary, writing tools, any homework due and anything else you might need.  This helps you to not waste any time or get distracted during a lesson.  Also, as part of preparation, make it a goal to study the night before and the a little before class starts.  That way, the vocabulary and grammar points are fresh off your mind and your participating in your studies outside of class, which will result in faster and better language learning.

3. Make flashcards out of your notes.

You can do this by handwriting them on index cards or by entering them into an online spaced repetition software.  Either way, the goal is to make sure you’re studying more than just the nights before tests.  Also, notes don’t do you much good if you’re only reading them without any practice, and that applies to any subject.

4. Separate your grammar from your vocabulary.

The key to note taking is organization.  In your binder or notebook, make sure to separate your grammar points from your vocab.  Or, have two completely separate notebooks.  That way you know exactly where to go when you learn something new, need to strengthen certain areas, or when you’re going back to make flashcards.

5. Explain things to yourself in your notebook or textbook.

If you’re allowed to write in your textbook, make margins your new coloring book.  Also, when taking notes, you can do the same thing as well.  Put stars by things that you have difficulty with or are special words, draw lines to words connecting to others, circle verbs or prepositions in sentences.  Overall, explain things to yourself.  Make mnemonics or analogies in your books.  Color coding is also another great way of taking notes and explaining.

If you’re having difficulty with a certain thing, write out on a new sheet of paper how you’d explain it to someone else or how someone else explained it to you.

 

6. Quiz yourself.

Make practice tests for yourself before the real test, quiz yourself after every lesson, look up practice quizzes online, or get a friend or family member to quiz you at home.

To make your own tests and quizzes, what I normally do is take all of my vocabulary, with the language on the left side of the paper and the English translation on the right side, then cover up the English side with another sheet.  I then translate the phrases into English, uncover the paper, and check my answers.  Then I do the same on the other side and translate from English to the target language.

I highly recommending using that method.  Another thing I encourage you to do is look up quizzes online.  For Spanish, I use SpanishDict.  They have tons of online Spanish quizzes and exercises over different words and topics.

7. Use outside sources.

If you’re having trouble understanding something in class or in your textbook, look it up online, use another book, or ask a native speaker.

I recommend registering for an account on Italki.com, a site that allows you to connect with native speakers of tons of languages from around the world.  You can pay for private lessons or just ask community questions and get them answered.

The point is, go beyond the classroom, the method your teacher is using to explain, and how your textbook explains if it doesn’t make sense to you.

8. Read your textbook at home.

I cannot stress how important it is that you study outside of class, and not just for homework.  After a lesson in class, go home and review your notes but also skim through the textbook to see if you’ve missed anything.  Textbooks sometimes use pictures to help explain, which is something your teacher might have not been able to do.  Plus, when rereading what you learned in class, it helps it stick for the long term.

 

 

9. Practice with someone.

Find someone else in your class who is willing to study with you, practice with a friend or family member who speaks the language, ask your teacher to have a quick conversation with you in the language, or connect with native speakers online.

Get someone who is willing to let you speak to them and use that opportunity to better yourself in the language.  You can do all the exercises in your textbook, turn in all your homework, and make perfect grades in class, but you won’t ever truly learn the language to fluency or to an advanced level unless you’re using it with someone else and creating real life conversations.

10. Talk to yourself.

Name the things in front of you, say random things out loud, sing, have conversations with yourself, explain things out loud to yourself, and something extremely important: record yourself.

Practice moving your mouth and pronouncing things the correct way in the language you’re learning.  Have fun with it.  This is also your chance to improve your speaking abilities before getting in front of a native speaker, especially if you’re shy.


There you have it, my top ten best study tips for learning a language in school.  I hope you enjoyed that post and that it’s helpful to you, and keep up the hard work in your language course.

Until next time,

Jia Li


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4 thoughts on “10 Best Study Tips for Learning a Language in School

  1. In my opinion it’s very important to learn foreign languages, however i struggled in school and basically i wasted my years and of course now i regret that. For me the best way to learn foreign language was movies and TV shows, i always enjoyed watching TV shows like sopranos or The wire, but since those shows weren’t translated to my native language i watched everything in original, and that’s how i learned foreign language. Great article, was really interesting to remember old days at school.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I hope to create a post entirely on learning a language through foreign movies and TV shows, it’s one of the best ways I learn too.

  2. HI there,

    Many thanks for your contribution, i am myself into linguistics and speak different languages, I must say that your system seems very effective, in terms of consolidation and practice. one thing I have found very helpful is to immerse oneself in a given country and culture where the language is spoken, be it for a few weeks. I understand this may not be affordable and accessible to everyone, in which case, your 10 study tips should be more than enough for dedicated learner. My questions to you are: What’s your take on linguistic trips, do you think they are effective in any ways? Would you recommend them?
    Many thanks,

    Othello

    1. Hi Othello, thanks for your the wonderful encouraging words! And I’m more than happy to answer your question.  I definitely support travelling to the country where a language is spoken and being fully immersed.  However, I don’t think this is good or will be helpful at all if you are expecting to learn the language just by listening to the native speakers around you, especially as an adult.  I often see nowadays the approach of learning the same way babies learn (through complete immersion and listening first), but, we aren’t babies anymore.  We have to learn differently.  So, I think travelling is a WONDERFUL opportunity and great way to learn a language, but it takes more effort on your part.  Be studying at home, or study before going to the country.  I think that’s the only true way you’ll learn efficiently and effectively (which is what we want) while immersing ourselves in a foreign country.

      Thanks,
      Jia LI

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