The Parallel Themes of Effective Self-Directed Language Learning

The Parallel Themes of Language Learning  - image creditThe Parallel Themes of Language Learning – image credit

There is much to be said about learning languages in the realm of methods, strategies, theory, drills, resources, etc.
And there are a million opinions – some held with unbending strength – as to which of each of these is the “best”.
But regardless of your thoughts on all in the aforementioned list, there are two parallel themes that I believe need to shape the core of your personal plan to master the target language of your dreams.
If you can work to be consistently growing in each of these, you will move forward with a gratifying sense of success and end up with reaching your goal to master the language.
I write extensively about this in The Everyday Language Learner’s Guide to Getting Started which is part of the Fly First Class Guide Series, but I wanted to introduce you to the ideas here and in so doing, I hope to empower you to be more effective as an independent language learner.
Too often, one of the biggest challenges that the self-directed language learner encounters on the language learning is in answering the question “What do I need to learn?
I’d like to begin to answer that today.
One of the biggest challenges that language learners encounter is in answering the question – “What do I need to learn?”   – Tweet That
What Do I Need To Learn
There are two basic themes as to what we need to learn.
Within these two themes we find all the constructs of the language we wish to master – the words, phrases, grammatical structures, cultural background and the sound system used to represent the language.
The first theme is found in the immediate needs – those things we need to know right now in order to function in the language.
The second them is found in the foundational needs – the meat and potatoes of the language.
When we can create a plan to work on both of these in a steadily expanding degree of mastery, we will be successful.
Immediate Needs
The first area of focus should be on your immediate needs.  These are the things you  need to be able to do with the language will allow you to survive!
They are the day to day tasks that you need to be able to complete.
They are ever expanding from their source which is based firmly in your reality, your real life.
You can begin of course with a phrasebook that will give you a whole host of phrases that well allow you to interact with enough of the language to meet your basic needs.
The second place to begin is with a question – What do I need to be able to do with the language that I am not yet able to do?
By answering this question, you will always have something toward which you can work to master.
Anytime that you interact with a native speaker and realize you are far from where you would want to be in that particular task, make note of it so you can come back to it later and work on it.
Immediate needs are really about accomplishing tasks, not conversation.
You need to eat, to make a reservation, to use an ATM, to find a restroom, to give greetings and to take your leave.
These immediate needs should be the focus of much of your study so that you can create a gradually expanding corpus of tasks of which you can complete with a fairly high level of proficiency.
Foundational Needs
If your goal with the target language is to improve your vacation experience as you travel to Russia say, for two weeks, you may not need to go further.
The basic phrases of any phrasebook will get you a long way and help you survive your vacation.
But if you want to go deeper, if you desire to move toward quality conversations and the ability to move off the beaten path, then you will certainly need to add a second track of your personal journey to learn the language – the foundational needs.
Languages are build on three things really – words, grammatical structures, and sounds.  Phrase, proverbs, culture and body language are certainly apart of this list as well, but the former three make up the bulk of the language necessary to understand and to be understood.
These are the foundation of the language.
On the self-directed language learning journey you need also to begin at once in building a strong foundation.
You need to daily add new vocabulary to your usable collection of words in your mind.
You need to begin to explore, understand and use the basic grammatical structures of the language.
And you need to work to re-teach your mouth and mind to work together to make the new sounds that inevitably reside in this new language.
Moving Forward
When you can work to create a learning plan that incorporates both of these themes, you will feel more success and move forward in a steady and purposeful manner.
Are you doing both?
Are you daily identifying the most critical tasks that you need to be able to accomplish in the language while at the same time ensuring that you are growing in your understanding of the basic building blocks of the language?
If you are, congratulations.  You are well on your way to being a successful everyday language learner.
Question: What tools or strategies do you use to work on either of these two themes?
If you enjoyed this post you will also enjoy my Fly First Class Guide Series – a great collection of guides, workbooks, lectures and more that will empower you to be a self-directed language learner.
For less than $20, this could be the most important investment you make toward mastering your target language!
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