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80/20 tips for a newbie


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What top 3 advice would you give to  someone trying to learn a new language? where to start with and what skills to focus on? What would be the 20% that would produce 80 % of the results?

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Practice, practice, practice! As we all know, practice makes perfect! I don't know if it works for others, but I'd say whatever you do, get in your basics first to build your foundation. From that point on I find it just keeps getting easier and easier. I also encourage people to surround themselves with speakers of that language and speak it at every chance.

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My top 3 advice are not a 80/20 but might still be of use:

1. Don't search for an easy route or avoid situations for fear of embarrassment. Throw yourself into the situations that will force you out of your comfort zone.

2. Never let it become a chore. Try to mix it with things you enjoy like playing a game, reading a book, listening to music, joining a community / following a website, watching movies you know you like that involves the target language. You need to find a point in learning the language.

3. Buy a pocket sized dictionary and carry it with you at all times, search any word that you might wonder about, at any time. Specially the ones "you should know already", after a failed attempt to remember them.

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As for the meat of a new language, it varies depending the language but I'd say:

1. Yes, no, don't know, please, sorry, thank you, feelings (angry, happy, sad, annoyed) - Being spoken or signaled you want to be able to convey if want or not something, if you are not understanding. I don't think you require memorizing greetings as much as conveying arrival (hello) and departure.

2.  Pronouns + verbs  is the way to go. Even if the tense or other elements of your sentence are off, you will most likely be able to convey the idea if you make them understand what and who. For the verbs probably is a great idea start with those of human functions (eat, sleep, say, like and dislike) and capabilities (push, throw, bring, hit).

3. Top, bottom, above, under, inside, outside, front, behind, faster, slower, left, right, - and other words for location are great when you need to talk about things or locations you don't know. Can't recall the name of that thing on the floor? then instead make people look at where it is.

Well, that's my take.

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My top 3 tips for newbies would be :

Don't be in too much haste to master the language, start off at the beginner stage.

Have someone you can study or communicate with in the language you are learning.

Practicing all the time is the greatest key to succeeding at the language you are learning so keep at it.

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  • 5 weeks later...
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My top 3 tips for newbies would be :

Don't be in too much haste to master the language, start off at the beginner stage.

Have someone you can study or communicate with in the language you are learning.

Practicing all the time is the greatest key to succeeding at the language you are learning so keep at it.

I agree with guarding against being in too much of a hurry to master a new language, Rosa. Quite often we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure, as though we have some deadline to learn a

This also ties in with gauging yourself against other people's progress. I know it can be disheartening to see others around you seemingly learn faster, but constantly gauging your progress against theirs can be detrimental to your learning. We all learn at different speeds, so there's no need to beat yourself up.

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One thing that's often overlooked is to set your phone to the desired language. That way, it'll force you to look at that language every day, multiple times a day. It helps a lot.

That sounds like a very interesting tip, VNtomboy! It's a simple enough one, but I'm surprised I never thought of it! It's not a big thing, but I can definitely see it working. Thanks for the tip :)

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That sounds like a very interesting tip, VNtomboy! It's a simple enough one, but I'm surprised I never thought of it! It's not a big thing, but I can definitely see it working. Thanks for the tip :)

Haha, thanks. My sister told me that, and it's made quite a difference with my French learning. So many people overlook it.

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Haha, thanks. My sister told me that, and it's made quite a difference with my French learning. So many people overlook it.

The thing I like about this one is that it's like a fun little thing, there's absolutely no pressure :) Isn't it funny how sometimes we overlook the simple, uncomplicated things for the more rigid, obvious but boring ones until someone else mentions an easier method? I think your sister is a genius LOL Ask her for more ideas hehe

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These are all great tips! I can't wait to start applying them myself even though I am not a new learner. My top 3 would be advice that was given me once..and it was exactly 3 things:

1. Learn to Sing in that Language

2. Watch the News in that Language

3. Begin to Read daily in that Language

I have tried to do all 3 of these things and I think it really has helped me a lot. Regarding number 3, when the person told me that it made sense because as kids when we are learning to read, we go to the library, check out books, and become immersed in it even if comprehension is bad at first. Since I have been trying to read every day in the language I am trying to learn, I have noticed I can now take notes during a seminar and write in that language! I really credit tip #3 with that advancement.

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If you have already earns the basics, you should tart listening to that language whenever and wherever possible. I suggest you to watch some movies in that language whenever you ave some time to spare. It may not sound like a productive idea, but it will do wonders for you.

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Reading daily and watching news and movies in the language you're learning are both very good ideas, actually. The one I find interesting is the singing LOL I wonder if I'd feel a little silly LOL But it does make sense, because songs can hold such deep meanings and there's some degree of repetition. Very interesting indeed, Saholy :)

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Everyone's given great advice. I'm not sure if there's anything more I could add. I think everything can be sum up to just one; immersion. As everyone suggested, the more you immerse yourself in the target language, the more you can easily acquire the new language. Things like listening to news daily, watching TV or listening to music in the target language can enhance familiarity in the language.

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Hi Enrico,

First tip, if by 80/20 you mean to shortcut I wouldnt take that approach. But if you are asking which methods make the most of your time I could help with that.

From point 0: I like Pimsleur as a beginning step. I think its a great tool to get you from 0 to a functional speaking level in 1-3 months. Since its all conversational its very relevant. It is also all audio so you could do it during your "dead time" commuting.

Anki flash cards - GREAT app for memorizing vocab. You could download decks other people have made or construct your own.

Italki tutoring lessons over skype - http://www.italki.com/?ref=1555469. By far the best resource to go from beginner to intermediate to advanced to native. It is basically a network and payment system for you to find and pay native speaking language tutors. You take advantage of exchange rates so the average lesson is about $12/hour.

Best of luck!

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It would appear that everyone who's had the privilege of using iTalki is pretty impressed with it. So it's definitely gone in my little notebook of important information, filed away for future use :) How many lessons do people do per week, because I reckon it could work out a bit pricey? I mean, I know it'll differ from person to person, and also according to individual needs and aptitude.

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Hey Lushlala,

Yea it works great for me! Yea the money is a factor but we all have our hobbies that cost money, do what makes u happy u know! Spanish is my primary language that I'm focusing on and looking to eventually take the DELE C2 so I take 2 sessions a week. Right now Italians my secondary language so I do that once every other week.

Like you said it all depends on your individual needs and goals. And of course budget. But it's well worth it to me and I think its prob the best ROI out of any learning method. I was thinking about taking grad school classes or classes at Instituto Cervantes to improve my Spanish and that works out to about $50-60/hr for a GROUP class! So its all relative. There's also "community tutors" that you could get for cheaper ($5-10/hr) that aren't trained teachers but could still help you out.

Best of luck!

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Wow thank you for all the great tips and advice! I'm going to start putting them to use! I'm currently using Mischel Thomas' audio materials and he does emphasize on relaxation, having no pressure and even tells you not to take notes or consciously memorize the words as you learn!

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