If you were to run a marathon, would you train by doing a marathon once a week in the run-up to the real thing?
Probably not. You’d build it up. You’d focus on one goal and once it’s achieved, you’d move on to the next, bolder one. That way, you’d gain multiple small victories before aiming for the big one.
The same goes for language learning. You don’t learn everything at once. You can see the language learning process as a collection of small ‘chunks’, where you focus on a small goal and gain quick victories that motivate you to carry on. This can make learning a language more achievable and less like a marathon.
Below, you will find examples of ‘chunks’ that can help you train for your ‘language marathon’.
Group vocabulary into thematic ‘chunks’
You can gain some quick wins by focusing on a specific vocabulary item for a set period of time, such as a couple of days or a week.
This could be, for example, learning the ten or twenty most common verbs in the language. How often are you likely to use the words ‘acquire’ or ‘receive’ compared with ‘get’? Do your calculations, pick your words and you will be able to express so much more.
Another type of vocabulary ‘chunk’ to focus on could be phrases that make you sound natural, such as ‘how is it going?’, ‘fair enough‘ or ‘go for it‘ in English, or a set of adjectives to describe competencies if you’re using a foreign language to recruit talent abroad.
Divide language into skill ‘chunks’
One of the language ‘chunks’ relating to skills could be learning to argue your point. This could involve learning phrases to express agreement or disagreement, practising intonation to make yourself sound more convincing, or experimenting with stress to draw your conversation partner’s attention to specific points.
Another skill ‘chunk’ could be focused around presentation skills. Are you preparing a presentation in a foreign language? Practise language that you can use to introduce your slides, summarise, and draw conclusions.
Practise fluency using time ‘chunks’
If your focus is on fluency, you can set yourself time limits to talk about a specific topic. Use Fluentify to find a conversation partner and ask them to follow the ‘chunk’ pattern with you: five minutes about one topic, five minutes about another, and so on.
Once you’ve done that a few times, you will notice your fluency improve as you will be able to fit more and more information into your five-minute conversation ‘chunks’.
Ryan Holmes, the founder of Hootsuite, said:
‘You can run a sprint or you can run a marathon, but you can’t sprint a marathon.’
Good luck with your language ‘sprints’ and let us know how it’s going for you in the comments below!