Aids to Language Learning

February 14, 2014

Learning a language is hard work. The thought of it is romantic and enticing, but a huge majority of casual language learners give up on a language long before they approach any sort of proficiency because it’s simply an unending slugfest of brutal, difficult, and time-consuming work. Practicing the language can be logistically difficult and is always utterly exhausting. Working the brain like this in ways it hasn’t been worked before is often even more exhausting than physical exercise.

Everybody learns in different ways, and what comes naturally to one person may not so easily to somebody else. I argue that vocabulary is the critical piece to learning a new language. Grammatical rules fall into place with repetition, as do new words, but you can’t fill in the template of grammar without words. With that said, I typically focus most of my energy on simply learning words. We stumble our way through the structural intricacies of a new language and make many mistakes along the way, but you can get your point across if you know enough words. The more often you practice that process the more natural the rules become.

Unfortunately, studying vocabulary is probably the most exhausting part of language learning (for me, at least). I used to simply skim my notebook of terms that I’ve written down and quiz myself to commit them to memory. This isn’t hugely helpful and requires a lot of motivation.

The good news is help is here. I’ve recently discovered a website designed to aid in this process called Memrise. It’s free to use, and more importantly it’s fun and engaging (neither of which did I believe until I started using it). If you’re at all interested in learning a language (I have at least a few friends in mind whom this will certainly help) I urge you to visit the site, create an account, and dedicate a little bit of time each day to further your knowledge. There are tons of courses available, even on obscure languages such as Greenlandic and Wolof, so whatever language you’re trying to learn probably has at least one course on there. The organization of the courses caters to embedding vocabulary terms into memory for quick recollection and is designed around learning sets of new words and then “watering” them with repetition.

Seriously, give it a try.

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