How To Learn A Foreign Language Without Cramming Grammar And Vocabulary?

nauka języków bez wkuwania gramatyki słówek

If you’ve ever learned a foreign language I’m sure you remember these long vocabulary lists to cram for the upcoming exam. I’m sure you remember learning when and why you should use this tense and not the other. I remember it too. I was even trying to teach others this way when I still was earning some extra money by teaching English.

Everything I know in English I learnt in typical school way. Grammar, exercises, fifty sentences to make in a given tense, out of which 30 affirmatives, 10 negations and 10 questions.

Writing essays in a specific way to get maximum points. I learnt to catch specific information in a text I hear – in order to choose the correct answer. And that’s ok – I speak English quite fluently, I understand people speaking to me.

But it took me over 10 years.

language learning without grammar and vocabulary

So is it possible to learn a language faster? It definitely is. The best way is to go to the country where they use it for a longer period of time and immerse yourself in the language. Volunteering is a good option and if you can – check this guide: How to volunteer abroad?

But what if it is not possible for you?

When I started learning Russian that’s what I thought – I’ll learn some grammar and vocabulary, I’ll pass an exam for a certificate and I’ll have another thing to put in my CV. I learnt Cyrillic alphabet and some basics.

I could introduce myself, say what I’m interested in, give directions, talk about weather and my daily routine. I was thinking of taking an online course to learn the language by myself.

And then I found a teacher who turned my whole idea of effective language learning upside down.

How to learn a foreign language without cramming grammar and vocabulary?

Mrs Svetlana told me at the very beginning that on her lessons grammar and “put the verb in a correct form” exercises are last on the priority list. She requires me to learn one story from the recordings, videos and cartoons she will give me for each and every lesson. I should tell this story as accurately as possible, almost word for word with the recording.

Frankly speaking, after hearing this on the first lesson I had huge doubts if I can be happy with this teacher. How can I learn a language WITHOUT GRAMMAR EXERCISES?

But I decided to give it a try. The reasons did make sense to me. Each and every one of us learnt at least one language in our lives – our mother tongue. And back then we weren’t really able to study all the grammatical nuances. Mum didn’t read us dictionaries for a bedtime story.

A child learning his mother tongue listens.

Listens a lot, listens all the time. Then he starts to speak. But he doesn’t begin with building his own sentences. At first he repeats what he hears – which might frighten some parents 🙂 Why couldn’t we, adults, learn a new language this way?

Actually, we can, and it’s super effective. How does it work?

language learning without grammar and vocabulary

How to learn a foreign language without cramming – manual

1. Listen to one recording in the language many times.

It could be a recording from a textbook you use to learn this language. It could be Little Red Riding Hood or another simple cartoon. It could be a podcast or a short dialogue from a movie – the point is to listen actively, to focus on what you hear instead of making it just a background noise.

The recording shouldn’t be too long. I notice the best effects with recordings shorter than 3 minutes. If your text is longer, divide it in shorter parts and work on them separately. It should also be adjusted to your level. You shouldn’t start with BBC news if you have just started learning English. Otherwise the only result will be discouragement.

2. Stop the recording sentence after sentence and repeat what you hear

Even if you don’t fully understand it yet. Try to figure out when one word ends and another begins (oh that was a challenge in French 🙂 ). If you’re not able to repeat the whole sentence – stop every few words. Play each part until you are able to repeat it accurately.

3. Listen and read simultaneously

After hearing the recording at least 10 times (now you know why it really shouldn’t be longer than 3 minutes :)) and after trying to repeat it accurately open the written text, listen and read simultaneously.

4. Translate

It’s time to translate all words and phrases you don’t understand

5. Read the text aloud along with the recording

Play it and read it simultaneously till you can do it as well as the lector.

6. Tell the story as accurately as possible.

It would be best if you could remember the text so well that you know it by heart only glancing at the original text from time to time. If someone in your family wants to listen to you that’s perfect. If not – talk to your teddy bear. He will never betray you 🙂

language learning without grammar and vocabulary
It’s also great to write the whole text down as you listen to it.

I know it’s not easy to find motivation. Ask someone in your family to ask you about the story once, twice a week. Set a time – e.g. every Saturday after lunch and stick to it. If you have private courses, ask your teacher to require a story every week. Find someone who also learns a language and motivate each other.

External motivators are very effective. I knew that there’s really no use going to my Russian course without a story… 🙂

It sounds more tiring than regular vocabulary learning?

It is not. You can listen while you do your household chores, when you go to work/school – while doing everything which doesn’t require your full attention. If you can divide your attention while you drive, listen in the car.

Don’t do anything absorbing while you listen. Don’t read or text. Don’t watch TV, don’t talk to people at home. Check this post and learn how to avoid distractors and work significantly faster. You need to listen ACTIVELY.

Learning vocabulary in a “classic” way is effective short-term but the words magically disappear from your head. With the method described above the whole expressions stay in your head. They appear just when you need them.

The biggest advantage is learning the whole expressions, not separate words. I can learn that “parler” means “to talk” in French but I won’t make any use of it if I don’t know how to say “I talk to you about the weather”.

Grammar can’t be ignored though. It is useful because it helps you understand why the phrase you know is built this way, not another.

It’s a theory which explains practice you already know, not the other way around. It helps you use the gives phrase in different cases.

If you are serious about learning a language, start using this method and I guarantee you, you will see the results. Find one or two recordings in the Internet and start listening. And if you already have this long list of vocabulary you need to learn – read it aloud, record yourself and listen. Yes, I know, you don’t like your recorded voice, neither do I. But firstly, you will notice your own mistakes easier. Secondly, you will remember it much quicker.

Still not convinced? Just think how many useless songs you can sing only because you’ve heard them many times. And I don’t think you’ve been learning the lyrics for hours… 🙂

A small gift for non-native English speakers who still can’t remember all the irregular verbs. Just listen to this rap. And you will soon be singing to yourself “the microphone I take took taken, you shake shook shaken, wake woke woken to the style I’m creatin’…” 😀

Now, when you know how to learn a language, it’s time to learn:

But no matter how many languages you know it’s often not possible to communicate in any of them. In this case you might want to check these 4 easy tricks helping travellers communicate with the locals!

If you found this post useful please use the buttons below and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+! Thanks! 🙂

6 thoughts on “How To Learn A Foreign Language Without Cramming Grammar And Vocabulary?

  • Reply 4 Easy Tricks Helping Travellers Communicate With Locals February 2, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    […] these tricks and the communication will be easier. Except for this, learn my ways to learn a foreign language without cramming all the boring grammar and vocabulary. And once you learn it, check how not to forget a foreign language. It’s tested on humans, with […]

  • Reply How not to forget a foreign language? 5 proven ways February 10, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    […] important to listen. By listening you can learn the language without cramming grammar and vocabulary. And you certainly can keep your level. I see that after a longer break in listening it is much […]

  • Reply How Mountains Help Me Get My Priorities Right (And Can Help You Too)? March 22, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    […] a daily basis I answer messages, listen to a French podcast and try to pet my cat – […]

  • Reply How To Break Your Language Barrier? 6 Amazing Ways! May 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    […] Your barrier is caused partly by the fact that you don’t feel confident about understanding the language. In order to improve it you need to listen to podcasts, movies, music… but you can’t listen to it passively. You need to be active. Stop it sentence after sentence, repeat what you hear. Learn to recognize where one word ends and another one starts. I wrote about it more in my other post – how to learn a foreign language without cramming grammar and vocabulary. […]

  • Reply How to avoid distractions and work significantly faster? June 4, 2017 at 11:01 am

    […] favorite method). From this moment focus on your work only. Writing a post, learning for the exam, learning a foreign language, creating some crazy, inexplicable Excel […]

  • Reply What I wish I’d known earlier – birthday letter to myself 10 years ago. July 8, 2017 at 11:38 am

    […] don’t like this language, you don’t feel excited about speaking it so don’t waste more time. I speak three foreign languages now but German is not one of them. In German  I can order a beer and introduce myself. Not bad for all […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *