1. Attend every class
Most evening language courses consist of ten 2-hour sessions, whether they span five or ten weeks. The relatively short length of the courses means that a fair amount of information is covered in each session, and therefore that it’s really important for students to aim to attend all. If you need to miss a class due to a prior commitment, or because you’re unwell, you should ask your teacher to fill you in on what you’ve missed.
2. Set yourself realistic goals
Becoming totally fluent in a language takes lots of time and effort. Of course, if you’re dedicated and determined you can definitely achieve this, but in reality, getting to grips with the basics is what you need to concentrate on initially. It’s important to have a good idea of what can be achieved in the time you have so that you can set yourself realistic goals and avoid any disappointment. Reading our course outlines will give you a good indication of what you can expect to achieve at your level.
3. Always do your homework
Many language learners fall into the trap of thinking that all they have to do is turn up to their lessons and concentrate to become proficient. Of course, this goes a long way towards it but it’s vital for anyone attending a course to put the hours in outside of lessons too. You may not be at school or college, but it’s still important to do your homework!
4. Immerse yourself as much as possible in the language outside of classes
Along the same vein, anything extra that you can do outside of your classes will be hugely beneficial to your learning. Immersing yourself in the language, whether by watching a film, listening to music or radio, reading the newspaper, or even eating in a restaurant that specialises in the food of a country where your foreign language is spoken is great for picking up and practising new vocabulary and structures, and of course for improving your comprehension and pronunciation.
5. Invest in a good dictionary
When you sign up for an evening course you’ll be provided with a textbook, but it’s down to you to buy a dictionary and a book of verb tables. It’s not generally recommended that you use a dictionary in class, but it’ll help enormously with any homework set. A dictionary will also come in useful when you finally head abroad to test out your skills…you can guarantee, it’ll help you out in all kinds of situations!
6. Ask your teacher if you don’t understand
One of the great things about learning languages in an evening or part-time class, where class numbers rarely go above 12, is that it’s much easier to say if you haven’t understood something. At school or in college this can be more difficult because the classes are larger, but with small or individual classes you have much more of a say in the pace of the course, and also benefit from more individual time with the teacher. It’s really important to flag any uncertainties up with your tutor so that you can address the issue and move on when you’ve fully understood.
7. Don’t be put off by grammar
It’s sometimes the case that people who take up a language later in life have not always had a great experience of learning languages in school. Of course, this can often be down to fierce teachers, or a lack of interest in the subject at the time, but often people put it down to the complexities of grammar. Learning the grammatical norms and structures of a language can of course be harder than simply learning vocabulary, but equally, it’s usually not as difficult as people imagine. The more you’re exposed to the language, the more familiar with these structures you’ll become and before you know it you’ll be using them with ease.
8. Make sure you tell your teacher straight away if you feel you’re in the wrong class
We have specific language level tests for prospective students to use to gauge their level, and normally students find themselves in the correct level group. Occasionally, students do find that the class is too easy or too hard though, and in this case it’s essential to say something sooner rather than later. We’ll make sure the issue is addressed, and if necessary will place you in a different group – capacity permitting.
9. If possible, combine it with time abroad in a country where the language is spoken
As we have already mentioned, immersing yourself in the foreign language you’re learning outside of lessons is really important. Whilst films, music, radio, cultural events are all great, being able to go abroad and actually spend time in a country where the foreign language is spoken can be priceless. Not only will it help you practise what you know, and hopefully learn more, it will also give you a really authentic experience of the culture and hopefully inspire you to keep learning. Whether you go for a long weekend during your course, or a week or two afterwards, you’ll certainly reap the benefits, and especially if your time abroad is spent at a foreign language school where you can have a further week of language lessons.
Learning a language proficiently takes time and dedication. Of course, there will be aspects of the language that you find easier than others but try not to be put off by any difficulties that you encounter…the first time you have a conversation with someone in the language you’re learning, or the first time a request or question you ask is understood, it’ll all seem worth it!