Pick and choose
Every language is made up of hundreds of thousands of words, so your first step is to learn which ones are most interesting to you. The ability to filter out unnecessary words is one of the most underestimated skills for a person learning a new language. It’s kind of like reading the whole newspaper just to get to the sports section, don’t make that mistake. Instead, focus on the most useful words, and then develop your knowledge with words that meet your daily needs and match your interests.
According exports, the 3,000 most frequent words make up 90% of what you say in a day (so you don’t need to know a million words, which is the number of words in the English language). So start with terms that apply to common everyday situations and conversations, such as verbs like to go, to walk, to want – and synonyms like name, house, car, city, hand and bed. If you focus on words that are very useful to you, you’re less likely to forget them.
So identifying useful words is key to your learning process, but if you try to learn these words without any context, it will be difficult to fit them in when you later have to use the language actively. And the key to building this context is association. Our brains do it naturally, but we can also take conscious control of the process. Take the words above as an example; house, car, city, hand and bed. If you learn them in complete sentences, you’ll have a much easier time connecting different words in your head than if you learn each word without thinking about how to use them.
The words and sentences you learned a few days ago will slowly but surely disappear from your memory, unless you constantly go back to repeat what you have learned. It’s called the forgetting curve when something you learn one day slowly but surely disappears from your mind after a few days. You can counteract this by going back at set intervals to repeat the knowledge (in parallel with learning new words and phrases), then the knowledge will stick more easily in your long-term memory.
Store the knowledge
Every time you learn a new, useful word or phrase-whether it’s while talking to someone, listening to a podcast, or reading a book-make sure you store the information by writing down what you’ve learned on your phone or in a notebook. That way, you can look back on what you’ve learned (as described in point 4) whenever you have a spare moment.
Use the language!
The final principle of learning the language is to use your new vocabulary (as much as possible) in conversations. Research has shown that repeating words to another person is much more effective than saying them out loud to yourself. So the more you actively engage in conversations with other people, the more your memory and fluency will develop.