Planning isn’t something that comes naturally to us. In fact, most people dislike even the idea of making a plan to do something. However…
Whenever we get a flash of great inspiration to do something, we want to do it right away.
“I’ll start a diet from today.”
→ “Oh, I’d better go and buy all of the salad the supermarket has.”
“My posture is bad.”
→ “I’ll stop what I’m doing and follow YouTube instructional videos all afternoon.”
There’s something really satisfying about scratching an itch with a quick fix, but it rarely leads to long-term results, and certainly won’t form a great habit.
“Umm, I’m still overweight.”
“I slouch when I work.”
Even though I know the benefits of a language study plan, I have to admit that I haven’t always been good at making, or sticking to them in the past.
Here’s how I created a language study plan, and what I learned along the way. If you’re studying English, you have to make sure the things below.
The biggest mistake you can make is to be overambitious. It’s complete nonsense. Have a specific and achievable target in mind, and understand the risks and limitations in achieving that target, then get to it.
“Persistence pays off.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
“Constant dripping wears away a stone.”
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
“Little and often fills the purse.”
“Rome was not built in a day.”
Give yourself a goal
At first, My goal was determined for me.
“I can’t speak English very well, but someday I want to take my family abroad.”
When learning a language, which is theoretically a never-ending pursuit (even natives shouldn’t stop improving their mastery of their mother tongue), it’s important to break this huge task into easily-verifiable check points. Exams are a good way to do this, as are time-sensitive deadlines like a trip to the country, or a speech contest.
Put it on paper
Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of learning that you want to do, when you want to get that done by, and know what kind of time slots you have to do it, the final step is putting it together in one place.
An easy way to do this is to split the time you have available into 20 minute slots, and put your various tasks into these slots in a way that you think is going to be most easily achievable.
Although the document is called a ‘study plan’, it shouldn’t only cover the study that you plan to be doing. I included breaks, study preparation, and other responsibilities and obligations as part of the plan. This helped me to identify the most suitable time slots for the various topics and learning approaches that I had decided on.
Put the Language Study Plan into Action
This is the hard part! Now you’ve got your study plan, all that’s left is to actually use it. Make sure that you make using it as easy as you possibly can.
If it helps you to put specific entries into your digital calendar or paper diary then do so. Some people like to share it with people that can hold them to account, such as study partners or personal coaches.
Back up your studies with real materials
Reading, movies, conversations, whatever you like. It’s important to study grammar, sentences, but you also need a lot of real-world exposure. Reinforce and apply what you’ve learned.
Stop thinking classes suck
100% of the people I’ve known who were awesome at English also took an awesome number of classes. Just make sure to seek out lessons that provide speaking practice. Don’t sign up for boring, lecture-style classes.
Take lessons with that have 8 or fewer students, or hire a tutor, and you’ll learn a ton. But here’s the deal—a class is only a few hours a week, so the rest of the time is your responsibility.
People say, “I took English class for a year, and I didn’t learn squat,” or “I only learned 30 vocabularies all semester.” Hey, being in class for two hours a week didn’t prevent you from studying the remaining 166 hours of the week.
Nobody’s stopping you from learning more vocabularies. Don’t blame the class when there’s a mirror handy.
What’s easy on paper is hard in real life. Make opportunities to speak English. If you can’t capture a real, live native person, one on the internet will probably do. Use a language exchange site.
Study politeness levels and correct vocabulary, but when it comes time to speak, forget all of that and just speak. Do the best you can and people will forgive your mistakes. The more you speak, the better you’ll get.
Make English a priority
Things that are optional, like my dishes, don’t get done. Make it essential in your daily life. My dishes, I mean. What you do with English is your business. Deal with it as priority.
You can never speak a language by just studying it, no matter how much you study
Studying is the wrong thing to do if you want to speak a language. Last night I ran into some English speakers and heard the same thing I’ve heard thousands of times about other languages : They have been studying German for years and don’t speak it yet, even though they live in Berlin.
They have spent probably thousands of hours locked up in their rooms studying tables of rules and vocabulary lists. And they still can’t say anything.
Most people think the reason that this happens is because the material (or teacher) isn’t good enough. Or perhaps the language really is impossible and it’s the “hardest one in the world”.
you have to realise that studying a language has a very specific purpose and if you are not aware of this then you may end up stuck in the vicious circle of never speaking : Studying will never help you speak a language, but (as long as you do it right) studying will help you speak a language better.
When you study, you acquire vocabulary, you improve your grammar and you do exercises. Logically enough, your level improves. With time, your potential increases and you can understand more and you can theoretically join in on a wider scope of conversations.
“One day”, when you’re ready, you can finally start speaking confidently. Not today though – maybe you just need to study a little bit more.
How do you learn to speak then?
A language is a means of communication. So, if studying isn’t how you learn to speak a language, then what is? I’ll tell you, and it’s going to blow your mind.
You have to speak it! Yes, I know – it sounds absolutely crazy, doesn’t it! To speak a language you have to actually speak it. It will be hard at first – you won’t know how to say things, it will be embarrassing, you’ll hesitate a lot and feel frustrated that you can’t say things precisely the way you want to.
This will happen even if you study for decades. you will always have this barrier to get through. You simply have to break through it. You can do this in person if there are natives or other learners close by, or over the Internet with millions of natives.
You haven’t learned enough to say anything yet? Don’t say that. Just do it! There are a lot of ways you can speak a language even if you didn’t study it much yet. Once the focus changes from studying to actually using the language to communicate with people then the road to speaking well, and doing it quickly, is opened up.
You can’t avoid studying to improve your language skills, but if you want to speak then stop studying and just speak it !
And don’t have this attitude of “Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m learning your language?”