The Golden Rule of Language Learning

For today’s post I wanted to focus again on the topic of motivation. We touched on the fact that a fun environment is essential to effective learning and can lead to increased motivation, but what does this mean? When we learn a new language we are put in to a unique position. Language is a tool unequaled as the primary expression of human thought and ideas.

Using a finite number of words we can express infinitely varied thoughts, feelings, and ideas, but what does this mean for learning? As we have all experienced, learning is a lot more effective when it is enjoyable. In the field of second language learning we are lucky. The infinite topics of expression possible with language give us infinite topics of study. Whether you’re interested in biology, medicine, finances, cooking, sports, music, or literally any other topic under the sun; you will be able to find material written or recorded in English that explores each of them.

Yes, this means that playing video games, listening to music or podcasts, watching movies, even reading about the latest celebrity gossip; all of these activities, when they are done in English, are refining your English skills, which brings us to our golden rule for effective English study.

If you are using your target language in any way, you are practicing.

It’s important to maximize your contact with English. That means spending as much time as possible reading, speaking, writing in, and listening to English. Of course, this is easier to do when we are engaged with material that genuinely interests us. So make sure that the material you are choosing to study has a direct relationship with things you care about. You will be surprised how much you understand and retain when you are engaging with material that motivates you through fun.

Keep in mind. Other than the divide between formal and informal language, the rules for using English are independent of the context you learn them in. For example, if you are watching your favourite miniseries (Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, anything!) in English and hear a new way to use English, then you can study and make use of it in many different contexts after than. The same idea is true for language learned through reading. The topic of the material we use is not important; the important part is the language the material is written or recorded in.

So the next time you choose your material and sit down to begin studying think about the reasons you are doing this (remember the motivation equation!) and whether you are truly interested in the material. It isn’t about how easy or hard something is, nor is it about how long it will take to complete. If we are truly interested in and engaged with the material, we will find that our journey to fluency is made just that little bit easier.

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