Let’s go back to the 90s, shall we? That was before Rosetta Stone or Duolingo were even a thing. Back then, language learners didn’t have all the online resources they have now. But we had tapes.
Back in the days, I was a big fan of Home Alone 2. It was one of the first movies I ever watched in its original language. I had decided to tape it with my Sony radio to be able to listen to it anywhere. For months, I listened to the tape over and over, memorizing and writing down my favourite lines. To this day, I still remember the script from the first scene to the end. Every. Single. Line.
I think I’ve learnt a lot more with Kevin McCallister than during my English class. Somehow, I must have done something right. Here’s why I think it worked.
I had fun.
I kept listening to my tape, not because I had to, but because I really wanted to. This was far better than any school material. I believe that the best language learning techniques are the ones we naturally enjoy, even if they are not trendy or scientifically proven. Motivation goes a long way. You love watching foreign series? Turn it into learning material. You are obsessed with a band and organize karaoke nights in your bedroom every day? Be it. Scrapbooking quotes on Pinterest? Why not.
I listened. A lot.
Repetitive exposure is key when learning something new. It helps moving things from your short term memory to your long term memory. I admit my method was a bit excessive, but I’m pretty sure I learned something new every time I played that tape.
I worked on it.
Since I didn’t have access to the scripts or to Google Translate, I didn’t have the bad habit (yet) to look up every word without even trying to guess. I wrote down the sounds I thought I heard. Tried to make deductions from the little I already knew. Sure, I was often wrong (I thought for a long time that “Think about it!” was “Think a ballet”), but I also figured out a lot of words this way.
I studied sentences in context and reused them.
I focussed on sentences. Not just words. It allowed me to learn common colloquial expressions and see the words in their spoken context. I reused these sentences whenever I could (friends, school presentations, story writing… my apologies everyone), so I didn’t have the trouble of having to conjugate them from scratch.
Your turn. Have you ever turned an obsession into language learning material?