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Here is, for now, the third and last part on language learning tips. In two of my previous posts I already talked about the importance of learning vocabulary, the positive influence of ignoring your native language when learning a second language, the ambiguity of linguistic entries, the lengthy acquisition process, and the importance of instructed language learning.
6. You – the learner – are the most important key to successful language acquisition
Research in second language acquisition has shown that the contextual learning situation plays a minor role in language acquisition. That is, it doesn’t matter if you learn German in classroom or in a naturalistic environment. The learner him-/herself determines which level of proficiency will be achieved. Two decisive factors for successful second language acquisition are the degree of motivation and timidity. That is, learners who are highly motivated seem to have better chances to acquire German (or any other second language) than learners who are rather demotivated. Further, you do not do yourself a favor when you remain mute and do not embed extant vocabulary in your speech. For example, one of my students, a native speaker of German learning English, is highly motivated to learn German but is very afraid to speak English because he is worried to make grammatical errors and to use the wrong words.
My advice: Making errors is an effective way to revise your knowledge. It is just impossible to apply all rules correctly from the very start. So, don’t be afraid to speak because this is the only method to test if you’ve understood a particular grammar rule correctly or if you use the right word in a particular situation. Your interlocutor will disclose if s/he understood what you intended to convey.
7. Don’t focus on grammar too much
Of course, grammar is important but it is not always essential to make yourself understood, which should be your ultimate ambition, and not the reproduction of grammatical rules. My point of view is that word order is one of the most important grammatical rules of a language that learners should focus on. For example, when I arrange some words randomly it doesn’t make a meaningful sentence: „Am the balcony shining is and sun the on sitting I“ This sentence makes only sense when I arrange the words in a correct order: „I am sitting on the balcony and the sun is shining.“
My advice: Don’t put yourself under pressure to make use of all aspects of grammar when you speak. Even little knowledge about grammar enables you to speak German. It is even not necessary to form a complete sentence to convey a meaning. For example, “there supermarket” can be perfectly understood as “there is a supermarket” as well as: “dress nice” (= That’s a nice dress. / The dress is nice.), “my bag” (= That is my bag), “you coffee?” (= Would you like a coffee?), etc.