Study tips for the self-studier

I’ve been independently studying (whether languages, or different topics I’ve been into) for the past 7-10 years! Depends on what you count…while I was in school, obviously I had more in-classroom support, due dates and deadlines to keep me accountable, and certain class-provided resources which helped with my self-studies on the side. After I graduated from my Master’s program in 2014, I was mainly studying languages on my own. Out of choice, but also out of necessity. It’s cheaper to work with textbooks & the internet on my own, instead of paying to take a class or work with a tutor. After school, I lived with my parents and worked whatever jobs I could. Until a few years ago, when I managed to get a full-time job and then I moved-out into my own place. I have a bit more of a budget nowadays, but I’m still frugal. When I do spend money on a language learning resource, it has to be worth it. But I’m rambling a little, back to self-study…

Okay, so I’ve been a self-studier for a while now. It’s important to figure out what kind of resources work best for you, how to make a language learning schedule for yourself, and when you need assistance from a tutor/native speaker friend, etc.

Here are some study tips that have come in useful for me:

  • have a place for your physical language learning resources that is easy to access and is an obvious reminder in your day-to-day (my Chinese textbook, notebook, and graded reader are sitting on the corner of my dining room table right now)
  • Bookmark your online resources and make them easy to access (I have nicely organized folders in my internet browser, and can quickly access websites or online learning materials to start practicing)
  • Keep your distractions to a minimum/or have suitable background sounds on. In general, I like to learn languages with a bit of lo-fi music (when I’m not practicing my listening skills, of course). I often put my phone in the other room or turn on the Forest app (if I don’t need it for a dictionary app like Pleco, for example) so that minimizes social media distractions.
  • Figure out if you learn better by writing notes on paper, or if it works better for you to create digital flashcards or excel spreadsheets or google doc files. This way you can make sure that you actually remember what you’re learning.
  • A little bit of learning each day, on a consistent basis, is the trick that will keep you remembering and being able to actually put the language tidbits to use…
  • …that said, when you do larger practice sessions it’s a good idea to incorporate breaks as well. Whether to get some snacks, do a short stretching session or a walk, for some cuddle/play time with a pet or child, these can refresh your brain for when you sit back down with your textbook or computer. I’ve been using the Pomodoro method lately, and the 25min on and then 5min break has been working well for me.
  • Take a break when you need to, don’t study yourself into a burnout. And if you do happen to burnout, be gentle with yourself as you take your needed break and then eventually get back into your language learning practice. Life is constantly flowing and changing, and my language studies have reflected that as well.
  • Review, reuse, recycle? Haha, I’m not the best at keeping up with reviewing my language notes. That might be something I need to work on more. But what I like to do, is to reuse notes or resources with a different skill in mind. I might take notes from a youtube video- some vocab and grammar- and then turn around and create a short story or do some kind of writing exercise from those notes. The original youtube video ended-up helping me with listening as well as writing skills. When I’ve finished with a resource and no longer need it, I pass it along to a friend or a local used bookstore, so that counts for recycling haha.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are many free forums and language communities online (facebook, instagram, twitter, tumblr, discord, etc) where you can ask a vocab/grammar question, and there are even some where you can get corrections for writing/speaking practice. Sometimes you can even make international friends online, for help from a native speaker. If you’re able to spend a little money, there are tutors you can find online and even language coaching if you need assistance with the learning/study process.

Anyone can study a language on their own if they want! You just need some resources, time, and the passion to learn that language.

Na razie! xx

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