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Study Tips for Language Learning

I have three tips for studying a world language that I'd like to pass on to WyzAnt folk. They may seem pretty elementary to some people, but might be new to others. Even though it's somewhere near the middle of the semester, it's not too late to put them into place to improve your language skills.

1. Set aside time for language study daily. Even if you don't have written homework due or a quiz or test scheduled, review what you've learned and try to build on it every day, even if it's just for fifteen minutes or half an hour. When we are learning our first language - our mother tongue - we're immersed in it: people are talking to us all day in that language, we hear it on the TV and overhear it in adult conversations taking place literally over our heads. Most of us are not able to spend any appreciable time in a total immersion program, so we have to make a constant effort to see that our new language doesn't relegate itself in the back of our minds and get lost in the crowd.

2. Make flash cards. Flash cards are a great way to learn vocabulary and some grammatical points. There are commercially available, pricey sets of flash cards for almost any language you could hope to learn, but you don't have to lay out the money for an expensive collection of vocabulary words that you might not need. Instead, buy some 3x5 index cards and make your own. If you like, cut each card in two so that you can make twice as many cards. For vocabulary, write the word in the target language on one side its translation on the other. If you're learning Spanish or Portuguese, include the correct definite article for each noun; for example, "el gato" instead of just "gato."

Every time you study the flash cards, put a tally mark on the card every time you get a word right. When you've got a certain amount of tally marks (say, ten or fifteen) on each side of the card you can retire that card and focus on other words. If you don't get a word right, don't put a tally mark on its card. Instead, set it aside for further study.

You can take flash cards anywhere and use them to sneak in a bit of study time when you're standing in line or before class and would otherwise be idle.

3. Pick something you do regularly in English, and start doing it in your target language. For example, if you are really interested in sports or news, make a point of looking at news sites from abroad. If you have an interest in the weather, start checking the conditions and the forecast in your target language. You don't even have to understand what you're reading at first - if nothing else, just scan the text for familiar or interesting words. You'll understand more as your language skills improve. It's another way to maximize your exposure to the language you're learning, and the bonus is that it's something you were going to do anyway.

Here are some suggestions for websites to get you started:

News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/ http://www.publico.pt/ (Portuguese) cnnespanol.cnn.com/ (Spanish)

Weather: br.weather.com/ (Portuguese) espanol.weather.com/ (Spanish)

Sports: http://expresso.sapo.pt/desporto (Portuguese) http://msn.foxsports.com/fse/ (Spanish)