Resources and language learning strategies

Resources in the Department

The language suite is located on the first floor of the recently
renovated Chandos Road Building, and classes for all groups are
scheduled in one of its language laboratories. There is
round-the-clock access to satellite television / video, listening
and computer-assisted language learning facilities. Audio-visual material is available on short-term loan from the Hunter Street
library and Language Centre office. In addition, the Hunter Street
library houses a variety of dictionaries, grammar and course books,
also newspapers, magazines and a wealth of literary texts for the
more adventurous students.

Links to useful websites

French

Spanish

Language learning strategies

Useful general hints

Remember that when learning a language it is better to do it in small doses: 15 minutes a day every day is better than two hours once a week!

The more exposure you get to the language, the better your skills will be: go to lectures, make use of self-access arrangements. In general, try to have as much exposure to the language as possible in a way you enjoy:

  • talk in the new language with others (your teacher, your classmates, native speakers)
  • watch tv
  • listen to the radio (maybe via the Internet)
  • read newspapers, magazines, literature in the language you are studying
  • listen to songs in the foreign language
  • watch movies, videos and DVDs
  • use the Internet: find a site with a subject that interests you in the language you are studying, and start searching for yourself

Try to make connections between the language you are learning and other language(s) you already know (sounds, words, grammar…).

Use your intuition when using the target language: try to guess how the language works.

Learning and remembering vocabulary

  • When taking / organising your class-notes:
    • experiment with interesting ways of setting out vocabulary items to show the relationships between them
    • make (and colour) mindmaps
    • use highlighters
    • draw picture cues next to new words
  • Set words in the new language to familiar tunes
  • Make visual associations between new language and familiar places. For example, when learning the words for public buildings picture the ones you are familiar with in your own home town.
  • Find new words from different sources (teacher, textbook, friends, movies, songs…)
  • Decide how many new words you want to learn per week and write them on cards (one word per card, foreign word on one side and the translation into English / your own language on the other side). Always carry a few cards with you so you can check them when waiting for the bus, standing in a queue, etc. Regularly change the cards you carry.
  • Label objects in your house in the foreign language.
  • Write a list of foreign words on one column and the translation into English / your own language in another. Fold the paper in half to test your knowledge.
  • Memorise and repeat. Get together with other students to test each other.

Listening to the foreign language

  • When listening to audio tapes or CDs try to picture the scene and/or the characters on the tape with your eyes closed.
  • Learn about the background of what you are going to listen to before you start listening whenever possible.
  • Listen to the same passage as many times as you need to. Repetition is important: understanding comes gradually, it increases and improves the more you listen. If you find a passage too difficult and are getting nowhere with it no matter how many times you have listened to it, forget it! Frustration leads nowhere.
  • After listening to a tape or CD, try writing down the information you have heard.
  • Use a walkman when you go from one place to another or practise sport.
  • Listen to foreign tapes and CDs as you drive.
  • Listen to songs in the language you are learning and sing along.
  • When listening to a new extract always search for familiar words.
  • When watching tv / a video / a film / a DVD, always check the body language to help you understand.
  • After watching / listening to a piece of news in the foreign language compare it to the English version.

Pronouncing and speaking fluently

  • Record yourself reading aloud and then listen critically to the results.
  • Talk in the new language with others (teacher, classmates, native speakers).
  • Talk to yourself.
  • Practise new sounds in front of the mirror.
  • Try pronouncing words in your own language following the pronunciation rules in the foreign language.

Learning and remembering grammar

  • Make a conscious decision to write a paragraph using two or three new structures that you have learnt recently. Use the textbook or grammar book as often as you need to.
  • When taking / organising your class-notes:
    • Make (and colour) mind maps.
    • Use highlighters.
  • Make comparisons with your own language.
  • Write grammar rules, verb conjugations on A4 using bold colours for different endings and hang them up in your room.
  • Memorise and repeat grammar rules, verb conjugations, etc. Get together with other students to test each other.

Reading

  • Identify the kind of text you are going to read from the overall structure (newspaper article, letter, etc.).
  • Try to predict the content of a text from the title before you read it.
  • Look at any diagrams / graphics / pictures accompanying the text before you start reading it.
  • Work out the general meaning of a sentence / text first and then look at the meaning of individual words.
  • After reading a piece of news in the foreign language compare it to the English version.

Writing

  • Learn to write by writing. Set yourself tasks. You can write:
    • emails to your friends or teacher in the foreign language.
    • short memos to yourself.
    • about an incident or a topic related to what you are learning in class.
    • a summary of a piece of news that interests you.

    •  Use your teacher’s feedback to help eradicate mistakes.

Further information

Check out the following books in the Hunter Street Library:

  • Donald, S. & P. Kneale, Study skills for language students: a practical guide (London: Arnold, 2001).
  • Lewis, M. How to study foreign languages (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1999).

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