Learning effectively!

Hi everyone!

My name is Maciej Symonowicz. I am a sworn translator of English and a teacher of business and legal English as a second language.

Today I want to tell you a bit about learning tricks.

This is part 1 of a series of videos/blogs charting the main approaches to learning a foreign language.

I have come up with about 10 rules for learning a foreign language. These are general principles as regards learning languages properly, long-term.

They apply to any level and any type of jargon. Everyone should bear them in mind.

This is the first instalment in the series. It is entitled ‘the basics’

So, here we go.

I would really like to convince you to learn languages properly.

To do that we first of all need to be effective, to sort out our priorities.

Our first priority should always be learning the basic vocabulary first, and learning it really well, learning it deeply.

Learn the fundamentals first, do not ignore them, fall in love with them. Do not be impatient to move on too soon.

By fundamentals I mean words, phrases and idioms which are the most common language elements which are used all the time.

Learn them properly, you gonna need them for every situation from now on.

Whether you are talking to someone advanced, intermediate or beginner, whether you are talking professionally where jargon is involved or in everyday situations, you are still going to use the basics. They are your core, always useful.

Since they are always useful, why not learn them properly, why not stop being lazy and superficial and just perfect your basics.

Do you really think that in a stressful or fast-paced situation you are going to use sophisticated stuff? Come on!!

Don’t learn a lot of things superficially. Instead, learn the fundamental stuff first. Do it properly, do it well. Repeat a lot. Use many examples in different contexts.

They will serve you well in every situation. And then, move on.

What do I mean by that?

Well, you want to learn words like:

a car

a ship

a taxi


and only later do you want to learn words like vehicle, vessel, cruise or hovercraft?

Learn the basic stuff first and learn it from every angle, learn how the word or phrase behaves in a longer structure, how it interacts with other bits of language. Do not learn other stuff before you have mastered this really well.

Learn first: taxi, car, ship

Then learn: get into a taxi/car. Get on a ship/get on a bus/get out of a taxi/ get off a bus, etc.

I will give you another example: learn the word ‘predict’ and ‘predictable’ before you learn the word ‘ foresee’ or ‘foreseeable’ or ‘foreseeability.’ Predict is more useful in many more situations.

Learn the fundamentals first, learn them well, and use them all the time, that’s how you get good!!

I have seen very few people among my students, including the advanced and intermediate ones, who have really mastered the basics and can therefore use the language fast, with ease and confidently. This includes speaking.

That is because they neglected the small stuff first, they have moved on to fast. They have unwisely forgotten to create a map in their brains.

If you want to build a tall building, you have to build strong and deep foundations.

If you want to create a huge skyscraper, build extremely strong foundations.

If you do this, the more sophisticated stuff later on will stick in your head better anyway.

Learning is sequential; you need to go from stage 1 to 2, from stage 2 to stage 3, and so on. You get the point. Once you master one stage, start using it. Learn stuff that you gonna use, not staff that sounds cool because it is sophisticated and advanced. You gonna use is much less, therefore you are more likely to forget it. It is not an effective way of using your time.

By all means learn more advanced stuff too, you gonna need it, but learn it later. Remember about your priorities.


Maciej Symonowicz

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