How I Study Languages

Learning languages can seem like there is only one way. Memorize the material and then practice using it either by writing or speaking or some combination of both. What if there was a better way? Well there is! While studying I learned some very effective and awesome methods for learning languages and learning them well. The first is the shadow method, the translator method, the immersion method and practice. Keep in mind that I use ALL of these methods in tandem in my learning process. Sometimes I’ll only use two of these methods and sometimes I use all three.

My biggest language learning tip for those learning Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese, Japanese or whatever is to put in the time. Many expect miracles from their language learning methods and I’m here to ruin that happy illusion for you. Language learning depends on you and how much effort you put in. So, while my methods are very effective, you have to put enough time into doing them and motivate yourself to get it done!

Okay, now that’s out the way, here are my own language learning methods and why you should use them too!!

(Note: For those of you who aren’t about reading long content, I included and fancy schmancy cheat sheet down below for you to download, or, I don’t know, pin to Pinterest!)

The Shadow Method

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

So this is by far, my favorite method of learning. Shadowing. This is how they train interpreters in governmental agencies. The system is simple. A native speaker says some words or phrases and then you just repeat after them until you understand it and can spit it out in your sleep. This is especially helpful for languages like Korean, Japanese and Chinese where sentence composition and word choices are often not intuitive (for example in Korean one polite way to ask how old someone is literally translates as ‘you age how have/be?” Makes no sense! At least it doesn’t if you keep translating it from Korean to English directly. Sometimes you have to get a feel for how it’s supposed to sound by hearing a native speaker say it and repeat after them! Pimsleur does this beautifully. You learn by hearing a sentence then the lesson consists of taking the sentence apart word by word while repeating after the speaker until you understand every single part of the sentence and what it means.

Fortunately, you don’t need to just use a language program. You can shadow movies, tv shows, variety shows and even interviews! If you like V-live, you can probably find the video after it’s gone live and shadow the speakers (for all you kpop lovers). You can try to record yourself repeating after the native speaker then play it back to see how close you are to the real thing!


Why Should You Shadow?

Because it’s highly effective! Repeating after native speakers not only improves your pronunciation, it increases your repertoire of stored responses for certain inquires or statements. In addition, it allows you to gain a more intuitive feel of how sentences should be constructed so that you can formulate your own. This will greatly improve your speaking skills!


The Translator Method

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This is exactly how it sounds. I take some material in my target language and translate it into English OR take some material in my native language and translate it to my target language. Neither of these necessarily require a higher degree of skill in your target language. You can start doing it once you have some vocabulary under your belt. According to Amber Gonzalez online tutor and language learner, you can even record yourself interpreting material from your native language to your target language and check it later! The possibilities are endless for what you can translate, you can translate songs, short stories, poems, articles, interviews, tv show transcripts, movie transcripts if you want a challenge!


Why Should You Use the Translator Method?

It does wonders for your reading and writing skills! The more you translate, the better! It also introduces you to more natural language.

The Immersion Method

Photo by whereslugo on Unsplash

If I found really cool Youtube video in my target language about something really interesting to you, say about video games, skincare, or fashion. Sometimes I don’t entirely know what they’re saying. I use the immersion method to simply listen to the Youtube video in it’s entirety anyway and pick out the vocabulary I do know and understand what I can. Then, if there are subtitles, I go back and re-watch the video with the intent of learning all the new words. Once I learn the new words, I watch the video until I feel comfortable with the content, which could be about 6 or 7 times. Then at the end of the week, I revisit the video to review.


Why Should You Use the Immersion Method?

The immersion method is very important because you are able to get comfortable listening for vocabulary and grammar at a natural and native pace. Your listening skills will rocket! I do this just about every single day except for maybe weekends. This

The Practice Method

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash

So if you just want to practice what you’ve learned, then you can do the practice method. You can do this in four ways.

1st Method: Take the most commonly asked questions and formulate as many responses as you can.

2nd Method: Take some footage from an interview and take out the questions. Try to answer the questions with your own opinions and answers.

3rd Method: Talk to a native speaker

4th Method: Throw yourself in a situation (meeting a celebrity, buying groceries, talking about the weather) and act out what you would say and do.


Why Should You Use the Practice Method?

Because you have to practice talking and formulating your own sentences!


Language Study Method Cheat Sheet


While you’re here, check out my other posts with advice about how to learn languages like a boss:

How To Use Movies To Learn a Language

How To Learn Korean If You Like K-pop

An Extensive Guide: How To Get Straight A’s




6 thoughts on “How I Study Languages

  1. This is so interesting! I’m really keen to learn German and Dutch over the next couple of years, so I’m definitely going to take a couple of these methods into consideration! Great post, thank you!


  2. This is so interesting! I’m really keen to learn German and Dutch over the next couple of years, so I’m definitely going to take a couple of these methods into consideration! Great post, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love languages. For me the easiest way to learn them, is to spend time with the native people. Then I can catch up very fast.


  4. I found shadowing effective in perfecting my pronunciation. And learning in the country the language you’re studying makes the language learning faster as you’ve no option than to use the said language to speak with the natives. I progress much faster in my Japanese studies when I came to Japan than the 9 months I spent learning basic Japanese in my country.


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