The Next Order of Steps I Take for Learning a Foreign LanguageTotal read time: 5 minutes

Okay, so today we’re piggy-backing off of the First 3 Steps I wrote about yesterday and are continuing on down the list.
1. Pronunciation
2. Vocabulary
3. Writing System & Sentence Order
4. Listening
5. Writing, Typing, Reading
6. Grammar
This post was not intended to give you all of the methods and ways to learn the steps that I’ve outlined. I am just trying to express why I believe learning in this way is most effective. We’ll go over methods another time. I promise! πŸ™‚

In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote on “My First Steps for Learning a Foreign Language“. Maybe give that a quick gander.

4. Listening

Ah yes, the almighty ear.
Well, I always found that after I have a good understanding and handle on my target language’s pronunciation, (Step 1), then my listening will improve.

In Fact, hearing incorrectly will almost always be because I haven’t fully understood or mastered that sound in the beginning, when learning the alphabet and pronunciation of my target language. This is mostly true for beginners in a language. Yet, at the same time. I’ve found this to be true for myself even after a year of studying Chinese! So, I always try to remember this point.

Again, this is why I stress learn pronunciation, learn vocabulary, these two are fundamental. If either of these foundations aren’t laid properly, then you’re going to have a wobbly falling house that’s going to be tough to live in for some time.

5. Typing/Writing, Reading

This point should be pretty self-explantory. In today’s modern world, I would dare to say that it’s more important to know how to type in your target language than it is to learn how to actually write in it. At the time of writing this, I can maybe write about 10 Chinese characters whereas I can type hundreds upon hundreds.
Contrary to belief, it’s not because I think Chinese characters are hard, because I don’t. It’s just that I’ve never had a reason to learn this skill. Therefore, I don’t want to “waste” my time

If you’re learning a language that uses the Latin/Roman Alphabet, then you’re in luck. As that’ll likely be very easy! There are exceptions of course, as in Vietnamese, which I still found it a task to type in Vietnamese.

However, the point that I want to discuss here, is literary writing.
So from henceforth, when I say “writing”, I am just referring to putting your thoughts down for others to read. Whether you’re using your fingers, a keyboard, or a pen, is all up to you.

When I first began learning Chinese, I found myself to be able to fully communicate a sentence or two when just typing them to my friends. But when it came to writing paragraphs or trying my hand at writing down a short story on the italki’s notebooks, I WASN’T UNDERSTOOD! πŸ™

I am likely able to be understood when I SPEAK my target language, and a bit less than likely being able to be understood when I WRITE my target language.

This is indeed frustrating.

I put writing & reading together for precisely this reason. They go hand in hand. I found it easy to improve my writing when I would spend time reading in it. Then to also spend time writing posts on italki or talking privately with a language partner on HelloTalk.

Writing is #5 on the list because I am a language learner who wants to talk to natives, I want to watch their TV shows, and I want to travel to a country that speakers my target language. I’ve never gone into a language thinking “Why yes, I would love to write a novel in Spanish.”
These blog posts are the most I’ve written in English. My native tongue!

In cases like these, I try to remember when I was a baby. As much as I don’t like to compare adults to children when learning a language, I do think it’s a nice to have this conversation with myself:

“Phillip, when you were 5 years old did you write anything, anything at all?”
“Well, yeah, I’m sure I did!”
“Okay, I mean anything more than ‘I love you mom.’ or ‘Hello’?”
“Eh, no I don’t think so.”
“Exactly! However, were you able to fluently communicate people in English?”
“Yes, of course. My mom, my family, friends at school, and random stranger dangers.”
“So see, you’ve made my point.”

Haha, okay, it’s a weird conversation. But in my mind, it makes sense. πŸ˜› I hope it makes sense to you too.

6. Grammar

Lastly, I will talk about a topic that’s mentioned far too many of times to beginner language learners.

I think I’ve developed a sort of pet peeve or annoyance when someone says this word. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate grammar. It provides a nice needed structure to language.

However, far too many times do I meet someone, someone who has been wanting to study a new language. Or maybe they even studied for a day, a month, or some small short amount of time. Or maybe they had a year of it in high school. Then all of a sudden they say: “The grammar is too hard.”


OMG! ζˆ‘ηš„ε€©οΌAy Dios Mio!

Listen, there’s a BIG REASON, why I put grammar as the LAST. It’s because it’s not important. Truly, it’s not that important.

Remember my example for Step 1: Pronunciation that I discussed in yesterday’s post?

To break it down. Let me share with you a couple of bad grammar English sentences and tell me if you can understand.

  • I buy apple for I.
  • You me go store?
  • She buy apple me?
  • In car I go.
  • Girlfriend you is pretty, no?
  • Sunday I swim. Today you buy swimsuit. Together go swim. I drive beach.

Can you understand the meaning of these “bad grammar” sentences?
More than likely, a native English speaker, would understand 90% if not 100% of the meaning of sentences like these. My point is, many non-native speakers who speak like this have likely only been studying English for less than a year. I have a good Thai friend who speaks so well, has such an enormous amount of vocabulary in her head, and her grammar totally SUCKS. Yet, never once have we had a miscommunication. We would go out and party, get drinks, eat some food, and go shopping all without a hitch.

Point is made. Please don’t fret over grammar.


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