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Foreign Language Tips

This was taken from The University of Texas Learning Center Tips on Studying a Foreign Language website and modified to make it applicable for eighth graders.

ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE IN CLASS WITHOUT FAIL -- even if you are not well prepared. Class time is your primary opportunity for learning and practice. Review and practice the grammar and vocabulary outside of class in order to make the most of class time. Spend a few minutes "warming up" before each class by speaking or reading the language.

MAKE YOURSELF COMFORTABLE IN THE CLASS. Get to know your classmates so you will feel you are among friends. Visit your teacher during office hours to get acquainted: explain your goals and apprehensions about the course.

LEARN ENGLISH GRAMMAR IF YOU DON'T ALREADY KNOW IT. Grammar is the skeleton of a language, its basic structure: you must learn it. Review a simplified English grammar text. Compare new grammatical structures in your foreign language to their English equivalents.

PRACTICE FOR TESTS by doing what you will have to do on the test. If the test will require you to write, then study by writing--including spelling and accents. If you will be asked to listen, then practice listening. Ask for practice questions; make up your own test questions. Invent variations on patterns and forms. Over-learn: study beyond the point of recognition to mastery.† Try teaching what youíve learned to someone else.† Teaching something is learning it twice. If you can teach what youíve learned to someone else, then you know youíve mastered it.† If you canít teach it to someone, at least discuss it.† Discussing what was covered in class will help you retain it.†

DEVELOP A GOOD ATTITUDE. Have a clear personal reason for taking the class. Set personal goals for what you want to learn. Leave perfectionism at the door; give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them.† No one is perfect with a foreign language the first time they try it.† Everyone makes mistakes.

GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Talk with your teacher. Form study groups, or establish study buddies, among class members. Use tutoring services. Use media resources.† Don't wait!† Waiting is only digging a hole you canít get out of.††

PARTICIPATE IN CLASS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.† Volunteer as much as possible, even if you are not 100 percent sure. When called upon give your best try, even if you donít know the right answer. When questions arise be sure to ask. Other students my have the same questions.† And, your teacher doesnít know that you donít understand something or need clarification if you donít let him/her know.† If you notice connections between foreign language concepts or between foreign language and English concepts voice them for your classmates to learn.† Also, if you develop a great study habit or memory device that works for you, share that with the class.†††††††

READING and WRITING a foreign language are analytical skills. You may be good at these if you are a logical person who attends to detail. Train yourself through practice to notice and remember details such as accents and gender agreement.† Details are extremely important!


        First, read the vocabulary list for the assignment. Next, read the questions over the reading. Then read all the way through a new passage two or three times, guessing at meaning from context. Avoid word-by-word translation.

        Isolate new vocabulary and study it separately. DON'T write between the lines! Make flash cards. Carry them with you and recite them several times during the day at odd moments. Over-learn them until they are automatic.

        Isolate new grammatical forms and study them separately. Write the pattern on a flash card and memorize it. Write out and label a model sentence. When you encounter the form while reading, pause and recite the pattern to recognize the form.

        Develop mnemonic devices or memory triggers to help you remember difficult vocabulary and grammar concepts.


        Pay attention to detail: notice accents, order of letters, etc. Compare letter-by-letter different forms (singular, plural, gender, etc.). Write out conjugations of verbs, declensions of pro-nouns, etc., and check your endings. Memorize irregular verbs.

        To master spelling, have a friend dictate 10 words to you. Write them out and immediately have your friend spell them correctly aloud while you look carefully and point at each letter. Repeat until you get all the words right.

        Write (in your own simple foreign vocabulary words) a story you have just read.

LISTENING and SPEAKING are performance skills. You may do well at these if you are naturally gregarious. Students in foreign language classes often have difficulty hearing and speaking because they are anxious about making mistakes. Give yourself permission to be spontaneous and to take risks.


        Use media frequently. Read the exercises in your book first; then listen and read together; then listen without looking at the print. Say aloud/write what you hear.

        Participate silently in class when others are called on to speak. Focus on the task; don't worry about how you'll do.

        If you feel nervous, relax yourself physically by taking a couple of slow, deep breaths. When called on, pause, relax, and give yourself time to respond.

        Listen while a friend dictates to you and write what you hear. Check for accuracy.

        Practice: join language clubs, watch foreign TV, listen to foreign radio.


        Study out loud! Mimic the sounds of the language. Don't mumble. Although most people feel embarrassed making strange sounds, the language will soon feel more familiar to you.

        When called on in class, say something, even it it's wrong: you'll learn from it. If you need a moment to think, repeat the question. If you don't know the answer, say in your foreign language, "I don't know" or "help!"

        Practice with a foreign student who wants your help to learn English or with another class member.

The following was taken from the RASSL/UT-Austin website:,%20studying.htm

Learning Support Services

Tips on Studying a Foreign Language

Youíve signed up for a foreign language course, and your anxiety level is reaching a new high. Well, join the crowd. Many students are unprepared to study a foreign language. You may have heard (or spoken) these laments: "I just donít have any motivation," "I donít have enough self-discipline," "I donít have any background. I donít even know English grammar," "I just donít have an aptitude for learning foreign languages" and "I have a mental block against foreign languages." All is not lost. You can learn a foreign language, and hopefully these tips will help. The first and most important tip is: A foreign language course is different from any other course you have taken; you must study every day. You canít study for the course only on TT or MWF or Sunday night and expect to do well or come close to learning the language.

The three most important ingredients for success in studying a foreign language are:

1. A disciplined attitude

2. Willingness to participate in class

3. Doing assignments regularly

Schedule your time and allow daily study periods.

Approximately 80 percent of your study time should be spent in recitation or practice, including laboratory practice if there is a specific lab program for the course. Study out loud. The key to speak a language is imitation and memorization through repetition. Immediately before each class spend a few minutes warming up by speaking or reading the language

Do not mumble in class.

Mumbling your answer will never help you speak the language. At least learn to say "I donít know" in the language. Participate silently when others are called on in class.

Keep up with the class work.

It is harder to catch up than to keep up. Neglectance of work tends to snowball. In learning a foreign language, the elementary blocks of information are the basis for all the material you will learn.

"Bother" your teacher at once if you need help, and do not cut class.

Once you fall behind, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever catch up. If you skip class, you will pay for that cut. You will get behind.

Learn the grammar of the language.

Grammar rules are languageís bones-words are only flesh. You can look up or ask for a vocabulary word, but grammar is basic. Know the rudiments of some grammatical system-English or some other. Relate new grammatical terms to equivalent features of your own language. Understand the grammatical terms and donít just mindlessly memorize tenses, rules, etc. (But ultimately, a memorization process must take place. Itís impossible to function without memorizing vocabulary and verb forms for the various tenses. The trick is to memorize by using short sentences and phrases instead of lists of isolated words.). Master irregular features by studying them in sentences and phrases rather than just lists.