Independent learning tips

Independent learning outside class is essential if you want to be a successful language learner. Try to do a little every day.

Get organised and stay motivated

Independent learning is about taking control and assuming responsibility for your own learning. Your success depends on you.

  • Explore topics that interest you, in a way that fits with your learning style—reading graded readers, listening to podcasts and music, audiobooks, check iTunes for free online resources.
  • Keep track of your progress by setting goals in a journal.
  • Find social media (Facebook, Twitter) in the language you are learning.

Suggestions for effective independent language learning

Know your language learning needs, goals, and motivations – Do you know what you want to do with the language you are learning? Once you know this, you can focus on how you want to get there. Your own personal needs, goals, and motivations will determine what is essential to concentrate on.

Prioritise your objectives – What language areas do you want to improve, eg listening, reading, vocabulary? Set yourself short-term and long-term goals, eg for speaking, focus on phrases for ordering food in a restaurant this week, but aim to be able to competently hold a conversation in the long term.

Think about yourself as a learner – How do you like to learn? Are you a visual learner? Do you learn best by listening and taking notes or through practise and experience? Are you a fast or slow learner? What's your own individual learning style? What techniques have you tried? Ask for tips, help, and guidance.

Work out your own personal learning plan

  • Decide on WHAT—activities and resources will help you to stay focussed and motivated. Keep your learning plan organised, varied, flexible, interesting, and fun. Make the most of materials available to you. Be realistic in what you can achieve this week, and this year.
  • Decide on WHEN—set up a regular routine to fit around your schedule. Use your new language whenever you can. If you make some mistakes, don't worry, learn from them.
  • Decide on WHERE—anywhere! Resources can be dictionaries, television, the radio, newspapers, computers, exchange students, DVDs, the internet, magazines or native speakers. Studying at the LLC is ideal to get access to multimedia resources, technical equipment and advice, especially because it’s a supportive language learning environment.
  • Decide on WHO WITH—Independent learning doesn't always have to be alone. You may find a language buddy native-speaker to practise with, and study groups are great too.

Keep a language learning journal

Record and reflect on your progress for extra encouragement, and adjust your learning plan if need be. Keep a journal to help you stick to the learning cycle:

plan » undertake work » review » reflect

Inspired by: Fernández-Toro, M. & Jones, F. DIY Techniques for Language Learners, London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), 2001, pp. 3-34