Random tips for language learners

      Language learning, in addition to reflection, memorization, study of grammatical structures and so on, involves acquiring practical skills.  This acquisition requires active participation on the student's part: daily practice, interaction with other students, professors and native speakers, participation in cultural activities and so on.  In other words, don't just learn the language to use it, but use the language to learn it.  At every stage, it is clear that students need comprehensible input, that is, language which can be understood even if it is not fully mastered.  Many ways of obtaining such input are available in Calgary: the French Centre, French language radio, television and movies (for the latter, see the Plaza Theatre or the foreign language section of your video store), cultural activities (French theatre, l'Alliance française, immersion weekends, French restaurants, Librairie La Ruelle (which, in addition to selling books and other materials, organizes activities), and so on.).  This active participation is doubly important because it is clear that language learning cannot take place in isolation from the associated society and culture, and these cultural contacts will no doubt reflect and reinforce students' original interest in the language.

     Because of the need for continuous exposure to a second language, it follows that class attendance is crucial.  It is not possible to benefit from class activities by copying a friend's notes, by recording a lecture or by extra reading done later, since the active involvement has been missed (despite the intrinsic benefits of such additional work).  Establishment of regular, daily work habits--class, study, listening to music/radio/television (at a level you can understand, at least partially), laboratory work, reading, visiting the French Centre--will bring the best results.  Cramming can never take the place of short but systematic and regular periods of study.  It is also useful to keep a diary including study plans, work accomplished, successes and frustrations.

     Learn about the resources available to French students: the French Centre (Craigie Hall C301), Language Laboratories (Craigie Hall E210, 212, D328) as well as software installed in other locations on campus (e.g. the Tri-faculties Lab and the General Studies Lab in Social Sciences), the Library (both main and reference collections).  Be aware, in particular, of the types of dictionaries and reference books available to supplement your texts.  Inquire about exchange, bursary, study abroad and Co-op programmes.  Take advantage of the material in the Com-Media collection (films and videos; one-day advance booking required; full information available on CLAVIS, the Library's electronic catalogue).  Explore the Internet and the World Wide Web (detailed information on access is available from the Department).  General information and support are available from the Student Resource Centre and the International Centre.

     Develop good study habits: prepare for assignments, go over work covered in previous classes, prepare for the next course/unit/chapter in advance, rehearse answers in class when someone else is responding and check your answers against theirs, do the homework, find a fellow student or group of students with whom to work or converse outside of class (French language lunches), work on your pronunciation, consult your professors.  Ask questions in class and out of class.  Be an active learner.  Don't be afraid to get help (better too soon than too late!).

     Some useful strategies for language learning:

(Research by U of C counselors has shown that top students often interact with other students, contact professors outside the classroom, and are involved in extracurricular activities.)

Some useful references:

Brown, H. Douglas. 1989. A Practical Guide to Language Learning. New York:  McGraw-Hill.

Manley, Joan, Stuart Smith, John McMinn and Marc Prévost. 1994. Qu'est-ce  qu'on dit? Boston: Heinle and Heinle. (The Student Preface, pp. xix-xxvi,  contains a particularly useful student-oriented discussion of second  language learning, including sections on Goals and Expectations, Motivation and Learning Techniques.)

Morton, Jacqueline. 1989. English Grammar for Students of French. The Study  Guide for Those Learning French. (Second edition.) Ann Arbor: The  Olivia and Hill Press.

Rubin, Joan and Irene Thompson. 1994. How to be a More Successful Language  Learner. (Second edition.) Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Walter, Tim and Al Siebert. 1987. Student Success. How to Succeed in College and  Still Have Time for Your Friends. (Fourth edition.) New York: Holt,  Rinehart and Winston.

(With thanks to Nadia Anton and Brian Gill for many useful suggestions.)

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