Here’s a useful tip I came across the other day on a new language-related blog – carry a notebook and pencil with you at all times and make a note of things you’d like to say but don’t know how to. Then find out how to say them later by looking them up or asking friends who speak the language you’re learning.

Another good tip is to ask learners of your target language who are at a more advanced level than you to explain things you don’t understand. People who have studied a language as adults are probably able to explain grammar and usage better than native speakers. If you grow up speaking a language, you develop instincts about how to use words, but cannot necessarily explain to others why you use them in a particular way or order – it just feels right to you.

That second point certainly rings true for me – when friends who are studying English ask me to explain why a particular word is used in one place but not another, or ask questions about grammar, I try to work out the answers, if I don’t know them, but often just tell them that that’s the way we say things, and I don’t know why.

This entry was posted in Language, Language learning.

8 Responses to Notebooks

  1. Polly says:

    People who have studied a language as adults are probably able to explain grammar and usage better than native speakers.

    SO TRUE. I sometimes break down compound words for my native-speaker wife that she never thought about. I can see the etymology of certain words that she can’t. Also, I can usually spot loan words that she always assumed were “authentic” Armenian.

    She has to correct me in one area a lot. My biggest mistake is confusing an “-el” for an “-al” verb. But, she has no idea that there are even 3 types of verbs that can be classified by ending. Once she tells me I’m wrong, I know where and why I went wrong. She doesn’t know why it’s wrong; to her, it’s just wrong. There’s a passive tense, that I find really convenient for its terseness. I finally realized it to be a separate verb conjugation. But, if I explained to her what she’s doing grammatically, she wouldn’t even care.

    I would not be able to explain much about English. It’s so idiomatic as to be virtually unintelligible if understood literally, for the most part. Just look at this post and attribute only the common meanings to all verbs – including possession for the verb “to have.”

  2. Chibi says:

    That reminds me of an exercise I had to do in English class once in 6th grade. We were split into groups and given a sentence, and we had to break apart each sentence into the individual words, and label the words with a part of speech.

    No one could do it. The words just fit together to form a coherent sentence; no one in my class actually analyzes each word into which part of speech it is, as we do in, say German class or Chinese class.

  3. Rhys says:

    Efallai bydd diddordeb gyda ti yn hwn ar Radio Cymru. Mae rhan 1 a 2 wedi bod yn barod. Galli di wrando ar rhan 3 ar-lein.

  4. Æren says:

    About the notes: This is really good tip! I often try to think in the language I am playing with, for example, while traveling in the bus and watching the things around.
    One thing I made to ease some “difficulties” is making a little notepad with the declinations and/or conjugations of a certain language. This really helps, especially when chatting or writing something.

  5. Josh says:

    One thing I’ve noticed that kind of ties in along with all this is that you never really start to understand how your own language works until you study another one. I grew up speaking french and english, but it wasn’t until I started learning German in school that I started actually understanding parts of speech. I couldn’t even tell you what a preposition really was before that. It’s a shame, but they never really focused on English grammar when I was coming up in grade school. They just kind of glanced over it. It’s like, I knew that it was wrong to say things like “Where is it at?” but after studying more foreign languages, I finally understood why.

  6. I like the notebook idea; I know I’m always coming up with things I want to say in another language (although sometime’s it’s hard to find the answer).

    This past week I was in Mexico, and I met someone who was taking English classes, so I tried explaining a few things about English verbs. I soon discovered, however, how little I actually knew about my own language! I knew for certain that the English verb has much fewer forms than the Spanish one, but how was I to explain that you only put an S on the end of verbs that are third-person singular (and usually present tense)? It was definitely a learning experience.

  7. Krithika says:

    I like the tip about the notebook- when I think in a different language,while in the bus or something,I find that there are many concepts that I can’t express and which I forget before I sit down to study.So, I’m going to try it !

  8. Dan says:

    I´m definitely going to use the notebook! I always think to myself that I want to learn a certain word and when I´m at my computer I can never remember it.

    Someone talked about etymology up there and I just realized something yesterday–alphabet=alpha + beta! It’s so obvious but I overlooked it for so many years! I love it when this happens.

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