Language Learning Tips

The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures recognizes that studying a language presents distinct challenges as well as opportunities. We want you to succeed in our courses. Moreover, we want you to enjoy them! With that in mind, this fall we are sponsoring study skills workshops in our Language Learning Center (AC 218) every Monday at 4:00 p.m. I am also reaching out to you through The Echo to share some advice we have been giving the students who have attended these workshops.


While our target audience is the students in the Elementary (101) level language classes, some of the following tips could apply to upper-level courses, or even other college courses.


#1. Don’t throw away “free money.” I am referring here to assignments, such as homework and lab activities, for which the students earn full credit for completing and submitting on time. Students often overlook this, or they think that the 1-2 points off their homework average will not make much of a difference. Believe me, it does.


#2. Language study is cumulative. Study early and often. If a runner began training for a marathon the day or the week before the race, he or she could not expect a successful race. The same applies for language study: you have to study it almost every day to be successful. Now, don’t panic! I know you have three or four other classes and other commitments. I am not suggesting you study several hours a day. Even 60 minutes a day—30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening—will go a long way in developing your language skills and building your vocabulary. Also, those aforementioned “free money” assignments are designed to reinforce what we have covered in class. Therefore, making a concerted effort on these assignments “counts” as study time.


#3. When studying, self-testing is key. The most common way to self-test is through flashcards, practice quizzes or exams with study groups, and reviewing the worksheets or textbook activities you did in class.  If you have a workbook for the class, that is also a great study tool (For Elementary Spanish students, there is a workbook in the Language Learning Center that you can use while you’re there).


#4. Make it fun. This isn’t just your instructor’s job. Contextualize the language by writing sentences describing your life. Look for television programs or newspaper articles about topics that interest you in the language you are studying. Search YouTube for fun songs that can help you memorize the days of the week, letters or numbers.


#5. Use your resources. There are websites such as Cram, Quizlet or Quia that have ready-made quizzes on any topic you are studying in your language class. Duolingo, while not always synchronized with your course, is a fun way to enhance fluency. A quick Google search can find you even more websites. These are fun, interactive ways to practice your skills and review concepts covered in class.


In addition to online sources, the Mount has a number of human resources: your professors, your advisors, Learning Services (Mrs. Kristin Sites has run two of our four workshops), the Center for Student Engagement and Success (who hold study skills sessions every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00) and your peer tutors (whom you can get through Learning Services). Again, we want you to succeed, so help us help you.  


I hope to see some of you next Monday for our fifth study skills session!

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