10 strategies used by the most successful language students

Ten strategies used by the most successful language students


  • Association, being able to relate and connect things.

Associating words or expressions helps our memory. For instance, I always recommend studying new vocabulary using a mind map since the more we associate the more we help our memory to remember and the better we will be able to integrate new knowledge. Being able to relate concepts and new vocabulary helps us to learn in a more effective way.

  • Self-monitoring, self-awareness.

This element is specially effective when it comes to speaking.  To be able to talk in a clear and accurate way it is necessary to develop the ability to self-monitor, to be aware of what we say when we speak in a foreign language to be able to progress in our learning.

  • Self-discipline

Self-discipline is fundamental if we study in an autonomous or self-directed way and it is also necessary if we do it with a teacher or in a course. It is necessary to know how to manage our time and to have a good organization as regards our learning process management.

  • Organization

It is connected with the previous strategy. Organizing our time, the information and knowledge enables learning. External organization is, in some way connected with internal organization, hence, organizing our schedule prioritizing tasks helps to organize our mind and to create more space and calm.

  • Being able to cope with uncertainty

Being able to cope with the uncertain, the unknown and relative, of not knowing something with certainty makes us better prepared for language learning since language learning isn’t always about logic and fixed rules as when learning Mathematics, for instance. We learn to communicate by communicating, i.e., we learn to write and speak in a foreign language partly as in a trial and error system, jumping into the unknown.

  • Losing the fear of social ridicule

This strategy is true, especially in the case of adult students. It’s necessary to lose the fear of ridicule and of making mistakes if you want to learn a foreign language. Losing fear of ridicule enables us to launch ourselves into speaking in the target language even in the first stages of learning.

  • Autonomy

I’ve written about autonomy in other articles from this blog since it is an essential factor in language learning. We all have different learning styles and this is why having self-awareness as learners helps us to be good language learners. Autonomy has many benefits for students and their learning: more control over their learning, a more committed and active role, the possibility of learning outside the classroom and a boost in their self-confidence.

  • Look for situations in which to put into practice what was learnt

Successful students look for situations in which to put their new knowledge into practice or to continue learning outside the classroom by, for instance, participating in a language exchange event at a bar or reading a new product’s manual in English (or another target language). Any moment or circumstance is good enough to experiment with the language they’re learning.

  • See mistakes as learning opportunities and make the most of them.

Whether they are mistakes that we make when we speak a foreign language or those we make when we write, all of them are opportunities to improve our skills and communication and, hence, progress in our learning. We need to change our view of mistakes for them to be seen as points to work on and challenges and not problems or obstacles in our way.

  • Believe in our potential and in all that we can achieve.

As in any type of training, this strategy is very powerful and has to do with the confidence that we have as language learners. We can have it fully integrated within us from the start or manage to develop it through time and effort. It’s about having faith and believing in ourselves and in what we are able to achieve, in challenging your limits.

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