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What University Foreign Language Students Need to Know

  1. Spend the time
    The most important factor is how much time you work with the language. Despite the promises of computer-based systems, there is no magic pill or “quick fix” to language learning. The more time you spend with the language, the faster you will learn. This means listening, reading, writing, speaking, and studying words and phrases. This also means not just attending class, but getting your full money’s worth by really listening, speaking up, asking questions and using the language.
  2. Repetition is your friend
    Practice as much as possible. Meet international students and talk to them (trade your language practice for English practice!). Find the foreign-language radio or television stations and listen to them. Rent foreign films and watch them in the foreign language. Listen to music wherever you are on your MP3 player. Read what you are listening to. Listen to and read things that you like, things that you can mostly understand, or even partly understand. If you keep listening and reading you will get used to the language.
  3. Take responsibility for your own learning
    If you do not want to learn the language, you won’t. If you do want to learn the language, take control. Choose content of interest, that you want to listen to and read. Do you like sports? Find articles on line about your favorite sport in your target language and read them. Seek out the words and phrases that you need to understand your listening and reading. Do not wait for someone else to show you the language, nor to tell you what to do. Discover the language by yourself, like a child growing up. Talk when you feel like it. Write when you feel like it. A teacher cannot teach you to become fluent, but you can learn to become fluent if you want to.
  4. Study abroad
    True linguistic or cultural literacy and fluency is rarely achieved without an immersion experience in a study abroad context. Indeed, time spent abroad with an active language-learning component is one of the most potent variables predicting language proficiency.
  5. Relax and enjoy yourself
    Do not worry about what you cannot remember, or cannot yet understand, or cannot yet say. It does not matter. You are learning and improving. The language will gradually become clearer in your brain, but this will happen on a schedule that you cannot control. So sit back and enjoy. Just make sure you spend enough time with the language. That is the greatest guarantee of success.