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Ot√°vio Banffy

5 ways to learn new languages outside the classroom

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Expanding on our previous coverage of language learning, I'm bringing to you today another share on gaining fluency in your non-native languages.

Joseph Philipson talks about some of his favorite methods of learning languages outside the classroom, and I'll comment on them.

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1: Self-Study

Even if you struggle to learn in a classroom, you can still use all of the resources you'd find in one. You could always sit down with a grammar guide and go over the rules of your new language without the pressure or stress some students can feel when surrounded by other students. You might respond better to using the resources in the comfort of your own home or in a cafe you like.

People have different brains, and each brain has different wirings and needs. To some, putting the effort into learning something is all it takes for your brain to make all the connections necessary for a quick absorption. To most, however, both time, distractions and dedications to other affairs would drain you of its effectiveness.

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2: Apps, Websites, and Games

If you're looking for a different way to learn languages, apps, websites, and games are an interesting approach. While it's unlikely that you'll become fluent just by using these types of resources, they can be useful for learning the basics and gaining enough language skills to start conversing with real people.

"While it's unlikely that you'll become fluent just by using these types of resources"
I did. :D
The rest was just bonuses.

The best way I know of to learning anything is by having fun with it. Whenever you are having fun with something, your body is telling you that that makes good to you. Everything that is good to you is more naturally taken in. When you like to skate, just for the sake of it, you eventually start making more and more stunts. If you practice every day, because you like it, you'll soon become a pro.

The same thing with any other topic. You have a genuine fun with something, it becomes a second nature to you. Gamification is a powerful tool.

I know a few websites that use gamification for language learning. In older times, I used Livemocha (no longer exists) - I even met a couple of romantic endeavours there. Today, I know two which seem to be highly effective.

They are Duolingo and Babbel.

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3: Language Exchanges

Language exchanges are when two people that speak different languages meet up to help each other learn a foreign language. A native English speaker who'd like to learn French could meet up with a native French speaker who wants to learn English, for example.

You can go for lunch, a coffee, or even a beer (if you're old enough!) and spend half your time speaking the language you want to learn and the other half speaking the language your partner wants to learn.

That's the second best way I know of learning something new: getting involved with it. Speaking, as much as strain ourselves in the beginning, is a great way to tell your mind that you need to make something happen. In this case, that something is gaining fluency on another way of thinking.

Practicing with a friend is both fun and effective. As far as both have an understanding of what to do and are fare and consistent with it.

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4: Private Tuition

You can hire a private language tutor to help you learn a new language. There are many students who struggle while learning in a normal classroom alongside other students but excel when given one-on-one tuition.

You're much less likely to feel silly asking a question when you're the only student in the class. A private tutor can also customise every lesson to your needs and will work with your strengths and weaknesses in order to get the most out of your potential.

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5: Immersion

Our final and favourite method for learning a language is probably the most obvious one. If you're constantly surrounded by people speaking the language you want to learn, you'll inevitably pick it up. Rather than studying for a few hours a week in a classroom, you can turn every minute of every day into an opportunity to improve your language skills.

This one goes hand-in-hand with number 2 and 3. Being within the environment gives you the learning stimuli, all the time. You don't even need to force yourself (bad training process) to learn it, your mind does it for you, naturally.

That's it. What are your favorite techniques? :)
If you've used any of those already in your life, what was your experience with it?

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On 10.11.2017 at 1:30 PM, Ot√°vio Banffy said:

The best way I know of to learning anything is by having fun with it.

This is so very true. 

I like to listen to different podcasts. My favourite one is "Stuff You Should Know", it's both entertaining and informative. I remember when I first listened to a podcast some 10 years ago when I was a student, I could barely make out some 50% of what was said there. The situation gradually improved over time and it's so great to be able to see the progress. :) 

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Thanks for all the latest posts, Ot√°vio!

I would add another great method: teaching others

I'm currently working in several English schools part-time, and I find it a great way to expand your knowledge. Of course, you won't be able to use this method really effectively until you are, say, at an Intermediate level, but once you do achive it, I would recommend it to anyone interested in teaching

I constantly repeat the basic words, expand my vocabulary in a systematic way (since I've used mostly self-study whey learning English myself) and even learn some new grammar which I didn't know before I started teaching (little bits like mixed conditionals and ways to tweak your writing, differences between AmE and BrE, and so on)

P.S. It applies to having a teaching/learning-oriented blog, too. As I've already mentioned somewhere on this forum (I believe I have, at least), I have two blogs in Russian: one for English learners, and another for Japanese learners.

Again, little bits like differences between used to/would + Past Simple and the like are easier for me to remember if I reword the 'textbook-style text' which you usually find when learning these things and 'explain it in my own words' as they say

And if I can give some useful and easy-to-use info while I'm at it, it's even better

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On 10.11.2017 at 3:30 PM, Ot√°vio Banffy said:

The best way I know of to learning anything is by having fun with it.

Totally agree, too. As you can (correctly) presume, my interest in Japanese partially has to do with unique features of Japanese culture: manga, anime, phylosophy (Zen mostly), martial arts, even history (mostly the Meiji Restoration, a great example of very productive reforms)

As a teacher I try to find ways for my students to become interested in the topic, and honestly, with Japanese it's even easier, because I believe that if a person wants to learn Japanese, that usually it's a more strong desire and there is some real interest in the language and culture already. Because, frankly, there aren't many uses for Japanese apart from having something to do with Japan, like travel or experiencing the Japanese culture firsthand

Meaning, with English, you can go practically anywhere and work anywhere. You might need it just to travel to any European country, to the US, to Canada... basically anywhere, so it becomes just a tool for many people. But Japanese will only take you to Japan and allow to experience it (which is more than fine with me, hence my belief)

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Maybe it is not so easy. Fun and work, I'm afraid do not always match. The best way to learn a language is to find some time or that. So, for instance, a good way would be stop working for a year, find some quiet place (mountains), take laptop and internet to have access to dictionaries and Google and CAT tools.

 The best way seems to be reading and learning vocabulary. It is possible to use "flashcards" with Anki. Maybe a good idea is to use CAT too;s for reading. You can translate much faster, create termbases, export to Excell and import to Anki and learn.

 Most often doing something requires some pain.

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A practical tip. Reading texts on sites. Loads of interesting texts. But what about learnik vocabulary. Write it down and translate? No, too slow and dull. Translate the whole sites with Google translate? Better. But then you end up searching for new words again in your text and translation. Separately.

 I found a very good idea. Use just Firefox and install plugin "Store Translate". When you mark a word in the text with the mouse, a pop up window shows you translation, and, what is more, stores the list of your translated words.

 So after reading you can just open the workspace and learn new words. FAST! Maximum pleasure and minimum pain (I suppose).

Then, the application can send you the list of words on email. And on your workspace you have a list where you can listen to words, see explanations, synonyms etc. Very nice.

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