By Aminata O. – “I finished learning English!” At least, that’s what I said. This was years ago, before I knew about good online courses for learning a language. All I had was books. That’s right, books! Those weird old things from the time before iPhones and computers the size of your hand. And I really did not like it. Whenever I finished a chapter of a book, I closed the last page and said “Yes! I’m done!” When I finished the last page of the last book, I was just so happy.

I was learning English because my family was moving to England. In February, we got on the plane, a few hours later I was in London, and a few hours after that I realised I could not speak English. I could not understand a single sentence anybody was saying. It was a complete disaster. How had I failed so badly?! Let me tell you four things I did really badly, so that you won’t make the same mistakes.

1. I only read books

Reading and writing are only a small part of a language. When you are using a language, you are usually speaking and listening, so you have to learn these skills. This is much easier now with online courses. After you’ve practiced these skills with your course, try to speak the language for 15 minutes a day, and then listen to a song or movie in that language at least once a week. It makes a really big difference.

2. I only did each topic once

When I finished a topic, I just started a new topic. I never went back to the old ones, and this was a big mistake. Language is learned through repetition. Once you learn something, you have to learn it again. This is actually not that difficult. If you learn something for the first time, it’s hard, but if you do it again then it’s much easier. By repeating courses and sections of courses, the whole language seems a lot less challenging.

3. I did not start at the beginning

I spoke a little English before I started trying to learn it properly. So I skipped the beginner courses and just went straight to the middle. Not a good idea. Even if you think you can speak the language a little bit already, start with those beginner courses, then move up to intermediate and then to the advanced ones. They might seem easy, and if they do, great! But somewhere in these courses you will learn something important you did not know before. You can’t skip any stage!

4. I thought I could finish

The entire time I was learning English, I was trying to finish. But you can never finish learning a new language. Even now I am learning new vocabulary at work and on the news, and I still make little mistakes all the time. And lifelong learning is actually quite nice. There is always something new to discover, and with language that means every day you can find a better way to express yourself. That is a real joy

So, no matter where you are on your language learning journey, keep going. You will never be truly finished, but that’s a great thing. Who knows what you will learn next!

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