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Are you doing enough self-study?

The term is really quite self explanatory but the definition given by dictionaries is that self-studying is the act of studying on your own without the supervision of a teacher/ professional or without going to class. Self-studying is an important part of the learning process and some believe that it is the only key to success. In fact, a lot of courses nowadays recognise self-study as a fundamental and integral part of the course. Take higher education for instance, a lot of the work is left for the student to do at home and it has been proven that those who do more self-study at home usually have a higher success rate than students who go back home and do nothing. This is simply because students who read up on things in their own time are allowed to make their own judgements from already established opinions and theories.

Self-study allows individuals to process what they have learned in class at their own pace – it’s a fantastic way to solve a problem or work through a misunderstanding that you had with a certain topic. In addition to this, when you learn/ review things on your own there usually isn’t any pressure nor are there any distractions (except perhaps Facebook) around you. Self-study is believed to be even more important for those learning a language. The importance of self-study in language has led to some teachers arguing that they can ‘only do so much’. In other words, a teacher can provide students with guidance and classroom materials such as textbooks and exercises and consequently provide students with support and feedback to keep them motivated but it is ultimately up to the student to continue learning at home. It is important the student makes his/her own effort to learn new vocabulary and new grammar structures at home.

However, most learners do not do enough self-studying because of their increasingly busier lifestyles and the feeling of being overworked. In recent years, some school teachers and pupils have come to express their dislike for homework, often saying that ‘doing/ marking homework is a waste of time’. Nonetheless, educational institutions still persist that doing homework is essential for students to learn independently. Students shouldn’t be bombarded with work so that they have no time for themselves but laziness certainly shouldn’t be encouraged by their teachers. Sure marking is a pain in the neck, but just because a teacher can’t be bothered to mark someone’s work reflects badly on them as students will also adopt that attitude towards doing homework. It is important to monitor someone’s progress and people do not get better at a topic or art by chance… it’s all about practice and the more they practice the better they will be. Most importantly, a language learner will not become fluent in another language miraculously overnight - it needs work and a lot of it! So are you doing enough?

There isn’t a certain amount of time that you should study at home for … it shouldn’t be something ridiculous that it stops you from having a social life but it shouldn’t be so minimal that you forget what you’ve learnt the moment you essentially leave the classroom. And we cannot use the common ‘I have no time’ or ‘I’m too tired’ to self-study excuses because that just doesn’t cut it.

Below are some self-study tips that will set you up for success:

Set a REALISTIC goal

Don’t expect to be an expert all of a sudden in the same way you shouldn’t expect yourself to be doing 40 hours of self-study per week if you still want to have a social life. You need to see how long you can dedicate to self-studying per day/ week.

Discover your learning style

Remember our blog post about different types of learners and learning methods? Well, there are three common types of learners: Auditory, Visual and Kinaesthetic so you just need to work out which one you are and then adapt the way you learn to make sure you get the most out of your learning.

Don’t over do it

Even doctors recommend that you shouldn’t spend hours on end with your nose in a book, this is because this can cause strain on your eyes and it has been proven that you do not take much information in if you do not take short breaks in between studying. It is a good idea to do a topic every day or every other day instead of cramming five topics into two hours.

Review what you learned after class

Make sure you review all the new material, by typing up notes, practicing your new skills, or reading over a chapter again, to help keep it fresh in your mind. It might sound unnecessary and a bit boring but it won’t take you long at all to do. Reviewing material straight after class can help your remember the material in the long run which make studying it for an exam easier.

Here are some tips for you to use self-study to help improve your language learning experience?

READ

Many people often avoid reading because it’s more tedious than other methods of learning but you actually learn a lot from it, such grammar and new vocabulary. If you read out loud you will also be practicing your pronunciation and enunciation. You will be training your brain and mouth to speak words that have been chosen by you, which will help you speak more fluently the next time you start to speak in English.

HAVE A CHAT

This is often the most difficult part for language learners either because there are not enough native speakers around or because students hang out with others that speak the same language. The latter can be combatted by arranging a time with your peers when you’ll speak for at least an hour or so in the language you’re trying to learn (English) … you will all need some self-control though to ensure you don’t start speaking in your native tongue. If you don’t have anyone to practice with then you can try talking to yourself. It might sound crazy but it’s great when you can start translating your thoughts through speech into English.

CARRY A NOTEBOOK

Not so you can write about your travel experiences and carry it round like a journal but so you can write any new vocabulary down that you come across in day to day life. Remember to include the context of a word as opposed to writing a list of random words that may look rather disjointed when you review it at the end of the day.

LISTEN

Listen to everything … literally. Listening to the radio is great in the mornings as it gets you up and ready to start your day, not to mention it starts you off thinking in English. BBC Radio 2 has a regular morning chat and phone in programme which talks about current hot topics. Next, watch TV … if you’re not as confident yet then start off by watching the News, as this is easy to follow because of images/ videos accompanying the news stories. Plus speech is usually standardised and spoken clearly. You can also watch documentaries on the BBC and repeat them on the BBC iPlayer. YouTube is also a fantastic source. Once you’re confident enough you can start watching films with English subtitles to help you – don’t forget to keep your notebook handy when doing this though! 

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