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Start with the basics of a language. Supertip # 5

Start with the basics of a language

How many times when you return to language learning do you get the feeling of “I already know this” and skip the next word or rule? If this is yet another attempt to, say, learn English, we can justify this (although we recommend at least a brief review of what you’ve already learned for consolidation!), but when taking up a completely new language, skipping the basics is a big mistake.

Dr Piotr Woźniak, the creator of the SuperMemo method, talks about this in his article “Effective learning: Twenty rules of formulating knowledge”, which we regularly use when writing SuperTips.

WHY ARE THE BASICS OF A LANGUAGE IMPORTANT?

Because they are the skeleton on which you can later base more complex and advanced knowledge. They allow you to understand how the language you are learning works, so you can get to know its specifics. The basics of a language (English, German, Chinese – whatever!) are selected by various experts in a way which enables you to communicate as quickly as possible in simple situations. Also, imagine trying to understand the Past Perfect tense before getting to know the Present Perfect, and the Past Simple and Present Simple before that. It would be difficult, right? The basics form the basis!

WHAT MAKES THE BASICS OF A LANGUAGE?

The basics are the simplest and most common elements of the language – popular, frequently used words, phrases and grammar rules. They allow you to construct simple sentences needed in everyday situations and activities. Pronunciation is also important at this stage – it helps us avoid later problems, such as the language barrier, i.e. fear of speaking in a foreign language.

HOW TO LEARN A LANGUAGE FROM THE BASICS

One of the most recommended methods is immersion, i.e. getting immersed in the language from the beginning of learning. To this end, you can watch series, movies, read newspapers and books, listen to the radio and podcasts. It is important to choose sources adjusted to your level of advancement – that is why, for people learning from scratch, sources such as children’s programmes and books can be very effective.