I'm planning to study for a language certificate and will need to organize my language study better. If I don't set specific goals and make a plan, I know I won't have the discipline to put in the hours regularly. Spontaneous just doesn't work for me.
That's why I'm wondering how other people study.
Do you have a specific way of organizing your language studies? For example, do you have a specific goal and if yes, what is it? Do you set yourself a number of hours, chapters, or topics you want to learn within a given time frame? Or do you have a schedule where you write down when you will learn your foreign language(s)?
I'd be grateful to hear about your way of learning and if you have any advice, let's hear that too :)
Right now I'm learning Chinese out of economic and personal interests. My approach to language learning is a little different to most people's as it is both goal-oriented and structures while sometimes being informal. I'll explain everything below:
- I am preparing to sit the Chinese equivalent of the IETLS exam (known as the HSK exams), so I am currently familiarizing myself with the requirements by doing past exam papers.
- I tend to study about 3-4 hours everyday on a formal basis. This means that I follow a syllabus set out by Beijing University Press. I also do a class on Chinesepod everyday. This is an online resource that teaches languages via podcasts, which can be a very effective method of learning languages as I believe listening is the key to remembering and perfecting.
- I have recently developed the habit of doing a language exchange as often as possible, ideally everyday. I normally meet language exchange partners on this site and exchange languages with them for one hour, devoting half an hour to the languages we are exchanging.
- I try to read articles on BBC's Chinese news service, but my vocabulary is not quite at the level to fully grasp the content under discussion.
- Finally, watching Chinese television has been an enormous boon, particularly in terms of improving my listening ability. I still don't understand a large amount of the content (they often speak VERY quickly), but my comprehension is improving bit-by-bit.
Best of luck with your project and I hope this helps.
I agree with you, Cathal: I currently have two language partners, one for French and one for Italian, and I’m glad to have found people who are willing to schedule regular sessions once a week. I still get requests, but I don’t want to have too many language partners because I’m afraid that I would be committing to too much and wouldn’t be able to hold up my end up. Your third point is very important, I absolutely agree!
Chris: You bring up a very good point that I’d forgotten to think about: making time to review at the end of the week. I also really like your last suggestion of writing practice exams once a month and improving on previous ones. I even once heard that those students, who keep their old material and review it occasionally, do better because of it. I haven’t gotten into that habit so far.
Sid: My problem with ‘do as much as I can’ is that I’ll run out of fuel very quickly; for me, it may work for a couple of weeks, but then I’ll stop. I think I also need to write down what exactly I want to do during my study sessions; otherwise, I’ll focus too much on one area or spend too much time thinking about what I should be doing rather than actually doing it.
I spend 15 minutes a day every day. Oftentimes I do more, but I know I can commit to at least that time.
I try to focus primarily on one resource at a time. For example I listened to the Michel Thomas CDs. I'd do two or three lessons a day and then review on Saturday. I worked through one CD a week for 8 weeks. Now I'm working through an Assimil book, one lesson a day.
I supplement this when I can with listening to the language or writing sample sentences.
All of this is for a language I'm just starting, and once I acquire more vocabulary I will do language exchanges.
For a previous language, for which I was at a higher level, I wrote practice exams once a month and then spent the time in between improving the areas of the sample exams that I scored low on. This may be more relevant for your situation.
No problem, I'm more than happy to help in whatever way I can.
To answer your questions:
1) The time spent exchanging languages is not included in the 3-4 hours. This is spent studying new vocabulary learned through books and podcasts devoted centered around learning Chinese.
2) I have never done a spontaneous session on italki; they're all scheduled and I tend to remain exchange partners with the people I choose. They can be challenging, but they are certainly worthwhile as I am not permitted to speak English for thirty minutes. My spoken Chinese has certainly improved exponentially as a result, though there is still ample room for improvement.
3) When searching for language partners, however, I suggest taking time to get to know them before arranging an exchange. Ascertaining that they're serious about ensuring that equal time is devoted to the respective languages is paramount in this regard and it will make the sessions so much more rewarding for both parties involved.
Thanks, Cathal, for sharing your method! That sounds pretty much what I'm going for.
Is your time spent with language exchanges included in the 3-4 hours a day? And do you talk to the same people, that is, do you make appointments with them when to talk? Or do you find people spontaneously on the day on italki?