Language Learning Insights from a Swedish Language Teacher
It is hard to learn a new language. I know, I have been there too. That blank stare you have in your eyes, the sweat dripping from your forehead when the waiter asks what you want to order, and you quietly respond “no hablo Espanol”. That frustration of not finding the words you want to say. I know it takes time to acquire a new language, you can not rush it, I know that. But still, you get frustrated. I can only say to you who now have decided to learn a new language: Good luck, you are brave and I feel your pain.
I never really cared about language learning in school. It was only something that had to be done to get my grades. Studying grammar and learning all the different rules was one of the worst things I knew back then. But I always wanted to learn Spanish. I wanted to play football for Real Madrid, so I figured it would be good to know some Spanish. Since I never really learned it back in school, I figured I could move to Spain to try to learn it. So I did. To Barcelona to be exact, where I would stay for six months.
Was it hard to learn Spanish? Yup. Am I now fluent in Spanish? Nope. It was so scary to start a conversation in Spanish when it would be so much easier to just do it in English instead. Which I did many times, I must admit.
Even though I am not fluent in Spanish at the moment, I have started my journey and picked up a few things about how my brain works and how I learn a language in the most efficient way. To support you in your language learning journey, I would like to share some insights that I have gained.
Place yourself in situations where you have to use the language
First, you need to put yourself out there. You learn by trying, everyone knows it, it is just the way it is. Put yourself in situations where you have to use the language.
Look for fun and interesting contexts
Second, I find standard textbooks and grammar exercises incredibly boring. To learn anything, from language to sports, you have to find it somewhat interesting. For me, I find football interesting, so I read football magazines in Spanish. In that way I can put the language in a context I am comfortable with.
Identify the most commonly used words to understand 75% of most contexts
Third, there’s a guy who’s Swedish champion in memory, Mattias Ribbing. He’s got a podcast, YouTube channel and he’s also an author of many books about memory training. He’s talking about word frequency lists in an episode that I found interesting. Word frequency lists show you which words are most frequently used in a language and how often they are used. Research shows that if you know the 1000 most common words in a language, you understand 75% of all conversations, articles, and so on.
We actually do not use so many different words in daily life situations. So I googled 'word frequency list Spanish' and found one. Then, I started going through the words and see if I knew some, and for the ones I did not know, I wrote them down. I then had a list of words that are the most common and therefore the most important ones to practice. In my opinion, it is better to know the word for food, which you use a lot more than the word tractor engine.
I hope you find your optimal way to learn Swedish and that you will find it somewhat interesting on your journey. As a language teacher, I now find it super interesting to learn about language and discover how we can learn. There is a lot of different research and opinions out there on how we should learn.
In this blog, we will share different thoughts on language learning and the research that is out there. Hopefully, this will give you some help in your studies. If you need any personalized help and guidance in your Swedish language studies, and want a flexible and fun way to study, don't hesitate to reach out to us! The SweTeach way is to give you the best conditions to learn Swedish through our knowledge of how to acquire a new language. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy learning Swedish with SweTeach and reach the goals you have set.
Till next time,
David, Language coach at SweTeach AB