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4 Things Successful Language Learners Do

Updated: May 31, 2020

Notes everywhere.

Putting little signs on everything you can at home may not be something your housemates love, but it may be beneficial to your Spanish learning. Imagine seeing your note escoba every time you grab your broom or espejo every time you look in the mirror. It can't hurt, and it works, not just with single words but idioms, expressions, short rules, etc. Put them on sticky notes, and then on the objects and places you use or frequent the most. Furniture, walls, windows, ceiling!

A simple three-word sign, “Gracias por venir”, next to his bed, helped a student of mine with two things: 1) remembering we always use por when there is exchange: you do something for me, I thank you, and 2) a very important rule in Spanish: infinitive after preposition. "My girlfriend thought I was crazy," he told me referring to his little signs, "but I never told her gracias para viniendo again”.

Say it, record it, listen to it.

We often say we don't like hearing our own voice, it might sound strange to us. However, it can be helpful. First of all, it is an easy way to expose ourselves to the language. Without the need of anyone else, we can record and listen to ourselves on our phone. And second, because doing it repeatedly can help us learn things that keep sneaking away from our memory. There is something important you must remember though: it is essential to make sure you are recording and listening to something that is correct, to avoid fossilizing mistakes. You can also record someone else, maybe a native friend if you have one.

Write, always write.

When you hear something in a video or a movie, or said by your teacher or a friend, taking notes always helps. When writing something we are not only leaving a mark on a piece of paper, but also in our mind, in our memory. The very act of writing helps us, and if we keep a small Spanish notebook on hand we can go back to it later anywhere when we have a spare moment. Words, phrases we like, idioms, can be reviewed later on the bus, subway, while we wait for the dentist, etc. This is a great habit to have.


Repeat it. Sing it.

Frequently students tell me they consistently repeat aloud something they want to learn. Often walking around town. Sometimes using the rhythm of a tune they like. Some even have an unvarying number of repetitions. “It’s always ten times”, a student once told me, “and if the person on the treadmill next to mine looks at me like I’m crazy, I know that will help me to remember the phrase I’m repeating like a crazy person all the more”. I would advise avoiding simultaneously rocking back and forth while doing your repetitions, however. You don’t necessarily want parents herding their kids away from you as you walk down the street practicing your new words, right?

If you enjoyed this article please share it with friends and give my page a like on Facebook! I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been exclusively teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!
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