18 Tips for Crafting Perfectly Personalized Intermediate Language Lessons
Whether or not you’re crafty by nature, you can still be a crafty language learner by putting together your own study plan.
For intermediate learners, putting together your own DIY lessons might be the easiest way to fix your flaws and catapult you towards an advanced level.
Here’s everything you need to know for putting together your own DIY intermediate language lessons!
- Why Put Together Your Own DIY Intermediate Language Lessons?
- How to Use the Tips in This Post
- The Crafty Linguist’s DIY Guide to Intermediate Language Lessons
Why Put Together Your Own DIY Intermediate Language Lessons?
First of all, you know what you need to work on better than anyone. You’ve studied the language long enough to know what you’re still not comfortable with, whether its a particular grammar rule or certain skill, like speaking. Crafting your own language lessons allows you to focus squarely on the areas you’re least comfortable with, thereby making your skills more well-rounded.
Plus, making your own lessons is more flexible than taking conventional lessons. Whether you want to spend a few minutes or a few hours each day, you can craft your lessons to fit into your schedule. And since you select the activities, you can find ways to make them work any time and any place.
Finally, creating your own lesson plans can make language learning more fun. You can select what activities interest you most, so there won’t be any boring lectures or fatiguing textbook study to bring you down.
How to Use the Tips in This Post
Set specific goals.
One potential pitfall of crafting your own language lessons is losing motivation. That’s why it’s important to set specific goals. Setting these goals will make you more accountable to yourself and give you clear objectives. This allows you to proceed forward in a focused, organized fashion.
Try to set goals that are ambitious but achievable. Setting your goals so high that they’re impossible (“I’ll be fluent in Chinese, Japanese and Dothraki in a week!”) can be demotivating and make you quit trying. However, setting your goals too low (“I’ll say ‘hi’ everyday in my target language”) can lead to slow or no progress.
In addition, make your goals as specific as possible. You might plan to study a certain number of words, watch a foreign language TV show for 10 minutes or read a poem each day. Regardless of how you do it, being specific will give you defined objectives that are easy to achieve.
Keep a language notebook.
Keeping a foreign language notebook is one of the best ways for independent learners to keep track of everything. Here, you can jot down vocabulary lists, keep track of your goals, plan your schedule, etc. A well-maintained language notebook can help you get your learning on track by keeping your most valuable learning information in one place.
Interact with other language learners.
Going at it alone can be isolating. At times, you may have questions or concerns that you’d love to share with someone. Luckily, just because you’re studying independently doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. Interacting with other language learners can be good for motivation and support. You can reach out to friends who are learning languages or even join an online community like Reddit’s Language Learning group.
Incorporate activities from each category.
To craft your DIY intermediate language lessons, it’s important to ensure balance. After all, knowing a few thousands words in a language is useless if you can’t also use them read, write, speak or listen. That’s why it’s important to focus on developing balanced skills.
To do this, try to combine activities from each of the main categories: vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, speaking and listening. Which activities you select can vary day-by-day based on your schedule and interests. For instance, one day you might do a vocabulary activity and a grammar activity. The next day, you might work on reading and writing. The day after that, you can study speaking and listening.
Your DIY language lessons should work for your needs and your schedule, but it’s also important not to lose sight of developing well-rounded skills.
Use language programs in your lesson plan.
Every good DIYer needs a schematic or blueprint. The same is true for language learning.
You don’t have to study completely on your own. There are many programs out there that can help you at every step along the way. Programs and apps are versatile and can be combined in any way you need to suit your goals.
In particular, I recommend using authentic programs to give you a leg up when it’s time to actually use the language. At the intermediate level you should be preparing to interact with your target language as the way native speakers actually use it, so working with content that’s made by native speakers is the way to go.
FluentU, for instance, has a library of authentic content that includes interactive captions, making them accessible and useful for intermediate language students. Each video gives you access to any word’s definition, an associated image and example sentences. Plus, you can click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos, and test your understanding with personalized quizzes.
Whatever programs you end up using, make sure that it fits your goals, level and learning method needs.
The Crafty Linguist’s DIY Guide to Intermediate Language Lessons
Label things in your home.
If you still don’t know a word for a particular object, smack a label on it.
Try doing this one room at a time. Look around you and try to name everything. Don’t know the word for something? Look it up, make a label and put it on the object.
Then, when you want to work on vocabulary as part of your DIY language lesson, just look around you for words to study. When you see an object, say the word out loud to practice it. Once you know the word well, you can remove the label.
Make vocabulary lists.
Think of themes for potential discussions. For instance, if you want to learn a language for business, think of business terms you use or see often.
A fun way to make this part of your lesson plan is to set a time limit and a choose a theme. Challenge yourself to list as many words as you can in your native language related to that theme. For instance, if I gave myself one minute to come up with words related to the beach, I might list beach, towel, swimsuit, lifeguard, sunglasses, water, wave, etc. Then, all you need to do is look up these words in your target language to put together a helpful thematic vocabulary list. Study the vocabulary list for a couple of minutes during your lessons until you’ve learned all the words.
Another way to come up with words for your vocabulary list is to think in your target language for a few minutes. You may find yourself stumbling because you can’t find the words you need to continue your thought. Jot them down in your native language and translate them once you’ve completed the thinking activity.
If you get bored studying vocabulary lists, you can also learn words by entering them into flashcards with resources like Quizlet or Anki. This will allow you to include vocabulary study in your daily lessons using less time and effort.
Practice reading and listening.
Reading and listening are easy ways to grow your vocabulary naturally. Since you’ll see the words used in context, you’ll develop a clear understanding of what they mean. For a little extra help, keep a list of words you encounter that you don’t know. Then, study them using some of the techniques discussed above.
Nail down your verb conjugations.
At the intermediate level, you’ve already studied most of the basic conjugations. Now’s the time to really get them down so you don’t need to consciously think about them.
One way to do this is to make conjugation tables. Choose a verb and one or more verb tenses. Then, list the conjugations of that verb. This can take up just a couple of minutes from your lesson time, but the more practice you have conjugating verbs, the easier it’ll be to do it quickly in conversation.
If you need a little help with conjugations, you can also use online tools for your specific target language. For instance, if you’re studying Spanish, conjugation tools like conjugation.org can help you brush up on your skills or check if you’re conjugating correctly.
Study some more complex conjugations.
You probably know present tense. You may know past tense. But now that you’re at the intermediate level, its time to work on more advanced verb conjugations.
Verb tenses vary by language, so the exact tenses you study depend on your target language. For instance, now would be a good time to learn future tense, progressive tenses and perfect tenses. You also might want to study up on any irregular verbs, which can be tricky to remember.
To do this, it’s helpful to spend some time reading about conjugations and putting together conjugation tables. You can refer back to these for a few minutes whenever you want to work them into your lesson plan.
Study tricky grammar rules.
Every language has a few tricky rules. You probably touched on them in beginning lessons. As you craft your DIY intermediate lessons, dedicate a little time to tricky grammar rules.
Spend a few minutes reading about the rule in your favorite textbook or on your favorite website. Otherwise, look for a YouTube video or podcast that explains the rule. Once you’ve figured it out, write about it in your language notebook. Every now and then, refer back to it as part of your lesson plan.
Additionally, try to use your newfound command of the grammar rule in your writing and speaking practice, and keep an eye out for it during reading and listening practice. This is an easy way to reinforce what you’ve learned without adding any additional time to your lessons.
Read dual-language books.
Dual-language books are an easy way to transition to reading in your target language. That’s because they offer text in English alongside text in your target language, making it easy to refer back to the English version whenever you don’t understand something.
To fit this into your lesson plan, simply set a goal—you might choose to read a certain number of pages or spend a certain amount of time reading.
Use a tool like Readlang to make any online text accessible.
Want to practice reading in your target language but prefer fun websites like magazines or authentic blogs? Unfortunately for intermediate learners, authentic material like this can seem impossibly challenging. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your DIY language lessons.
Tools like Readlang can make authentic written materials accessible to any level of language learner. Readlang is a downloadable web reader that allows you to translate words or phrases instantly from any website. Plus, you can add the words to flashcards, which you can use for a vocabulary lesson.
To add this authentic reading practice to your lesson plan, just set a simple goal. You might choose to browse websites in your target language for 10 minutes each day. Otherwise, choose a website you like that updates daily and make it your goal to peruse the new material regularly.
Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal in your target language can be an easy addition to any lesson plan.
To do this, commit yourself to make a journal entry every day or two. It doesn’t need to be long. You might write about your day, your plans or even your favorite boy band. The choice is up to you. Keeping a journal will help you build your confidence in writing as well as reinforce grammar and vocabulary.
Find a pen pal.
Finding a foreign language pen pal can build your writing skills and help you make a new friend.
Websites like InterPals can help you find friends who speak your target language. You can discuss whatever you want with your pen pal. You might even choose to write about topics related to vocabulary you’ve studied to reinforce your learning.
Since you won’t know when your pen pal will write back, you can’t schedule this into your lesson plan too much in advance. However, since the experience will be valuable, it’s worth changing up your lesson plans to accommodate reading what your pen pal writes, and writing back.
Plus, there’s a major bonus: You can ask your pen pal any pressing grammar or vocabulary usage questions you have. You can even ask him/her to correct your writing to give you a clearer idea of what you need to work on.
Use social media or a message board.
Do you love the thrill of getting a new follower? Do you enjoy chatting about the latest trends online? If so, using social media or a message board can get you the writing practice you need in a fun format.
Reddit offers message boards in a variety of languages, including Chinese, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. You can use these to interact with other users and discuss a huge array of topics.
Otherwise, you can also start a social media account in your target language. Write about whatever you feel like writing about, and soon you might even get followers you can practice with.
Message boards and social media are easy to fit into your lesson plan. You can easily commit to writing one quick tweet, message or reply each day. This could take less than a minute. For more immersive practice, you could also plan on writing a longer, more in-depth post on a message board.
Narrate your daily activities.
Narrating your daily activities is one quick and easy way to work speaking practice into your lesson plan. You can do this by setting aside a block of time or just narrating during a specific activity.
If you choose to use a certain time for this, simply set a stopwatch or timer for your target—it might be five or 10 minutes. Then, narrate everything you do out loud (for instance: “I am cooking,” “I am chopping the onions,” etc.). It might feel weird at first but you’ll quickly notice that speaking gets much easier.
It can also be helpful to rotate which activity you narrate. For instance, one day you might narrate your shower. The next day, you might narrate cleaning your house. The next day, you might narrate shopping (though you probably won’t want to do this too loudly). Not only does this give you speaking practice, it also ensures you’re able to talk about a wide array of topics.
Find a language exchange partner.
Finding a language exchange partner is one of the top ways to incorporate speaking practice into your lesson plan. This is valuable because not only do you get speaking practice, you also have someone to correct you when you make mistakes.
To make this part of your lesson plan, you might consider deciding ahead of time what topics you want to discuss or what conjugations you hope to work into the conversation.
Record yourself to assess your own speaking.
When you’re just talking to yourself, it can be hard to assess how you sound. However, if you record yourself, it’s much easier to hear errors and fine-tune your pronunciation.
One way to work this into your lesson plan is to plan on speaking about a certain topic for a couple minutes. You may want to think about it ahead of time to ensure you’re mentally prepared. Then, record yourself speaking off the cuff. This will test your ability to speak without prompts or practice. When you listen to the recording, pay careful attention to your pronunciation. Jot down any words or sounds you struggled with to practice more. Also, watch for any long pauses. These could help point towards vocabulary or conjugations you’re struggling with.
Listen to podcasts.
Listening to authentic foreign language podcasts can help you upgrade your listening skills.
Simply choose a podcast that appeals to you and set aside some time in your lesson plan to listen. You may not get everything the first time. You might even need to listen to the same segment repeatedly to understand what’s been said. However, over time, you’ll notice your listening skills improving.
Whenever a podcast has a transcript available, you may also want to read along as you listen. This will help you connect the spoken and written words.
Listen to simple audiobooks.
If you want an approachable, flexible way to improve your listening skills, try listening to audiobooks in your target language.
Audiobooks can fit into any lesson plan. You can listen for just a few minutes at a time or for hours on end.
There are many options available. LibriVox offers free audiobooks, and you can also purchase a wide selection from Audible.
Children’s books and poetry are good choices for intermediate learners since these are often shorter and frequently use less complex language.
To make your lessons even more effective, you may also want to find corresponding texts online. Reading the text will make it easier for you to understand the audiobook.
Listen to music.
Listening to music as part of your language lessons is, well, music to your ears.
Learning a song is a helpful tool because you may very well remember it forever. In the future, when you forget a word or need a model for a grammar rule, you can run through the song in your head for a little assistance.
To get the most out of listening to music, select one key song at a time. Look up the lyrics and their meanings online. Then, when you listen to the song as part of your lesson, read along with the lyrics until you have them all memorized. Once you get the lyrics down, go ahead and sing along for a little speaking practice.
Once you have one song down, simply move on to the next for an endless source of lesson material.
Watch TV and movies.
Binging TV and watching movies to learn a language is any entertainment junkie’s dream come true.
To incorporate TV and movies into your lesson plan, select something you think you’ll enjoy. If you have a limited time each day, you might choose to break it down into short segments. You might try first watching in your target language to see how much you understand. Then, if subtitling’s available, you can watch with subtitling to get a clearer idea of what’s happening on-screen. Another option is to simply watch the same segment again and again until you grasp most of it.
Additionally, if you hear any lines you like or don’t understand, try jotting them down to study in order to learn more vocabulary.
Warning: Watching TV and movies is known to be addictive. As such, you might find your lessons getting longer and longer each day.
If you want your next DIY project to be a success, give DIY intermediate language lessons a try. You might even feel compelled to give yourself a celebratory glitter shower afterwards.