Coordinators’ Perspective: Language Learning Tips | GUTS Tip

Learning a second language is an extraordinary and immensely rewarding experience. As part of the process, you learn and embrace new cultures, perspectives, and ways of thinking. Many of our coordinators, including myself, are learning a second language and we want to provide you with some tips we have found helpful throughout our language-learning journey that may help you in starting, or improving, your own.

Cole Navin | Spanish

I recommend that you do what you can to speak to fluent speakers…

Fortunately I met some speakers of Spanish as a first language earlier this year, and my experience talking with them for the past several months has significantly improved my Spanish learning and acquisition. The reason why it is important that you try to do this is because there are subtleties and slang that native language speakers understand and employ that you would not know simply from class. To really understand a language, you need to know how the speakers actually talk, not only how they are supposed to talk like we learn in classes.

Also, it is simply a great opportunity to improve your conversation and comprehension skills. They know how to speak in their language and know how to help you sound more fluent as well.

Sam Miller | Spanish

One language learning strategy that has helped me is consuming as much Spanish-language media as possible

This could include watching a movie in Spanish with English subtitles, or reading a translation of a book I know really well. Also, if it is possible to find someone fluent to talk to, that helps a lot. The more exposure you have to the language you are learning, the faster you will master it. This strategy has been recommended to me by multiple teachers and professors and I believe it really works.

Loreli Litney | Chinese

Learning Chinese has been a very challenging yet rewarding experience…

Throughout my language learning journey, I have experimented with various methods to improve my Chinese language skill set and see which ones best fit my needs. For me personally, using subtitles while watching different Chinese entertainment dramas has significantly helped me. By watching these different forms of t.v. entertainment, I also gain a better understanding of the differences in the spoken Chinese language during ancient and modern periods. If you are an avid watcher of historical dramas (like me), you should like “Story of Yanxi Palace” and “The Untamed.” If you prefer modern dramas, you should watch “Falling Into Your Smile” and “You Are My Glory.” Everyone has their own language learning goals, so it’s really up to you to find what works best for your language learning goals!

Wenqi Chen | English

I think as an ESL (English as second language) student, one thing I find helpful to learn English is to have conversations with native English speakers or those who have better speaking skills

From my personal experience, it can be very challenging at the beginning as I have to be able to follow them and to be able to express my thoughts. It gets particularly tricky when it comes to small talk or casual conversation which I can hardly learn from textbook or English classes. But that’s also why it can be useful. I can always learn something new from the conversation I have. It helps me gain more insights about American culture and local culture and improve my vocabulary. In everyday life, I also pay close attention to how other people describe a situation or an event. If it’s a phrase I don’t know, I would look it up later and try to use it next time when I need to describe a similar situation. 


In addition, one of our coordinators, Kordan Kopp, is earning the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, so I have asked her to provide us with some tips in learning languages in general.

Kordan Kopp | Languages in General

When learning another language, the most useful tool for me to remember is the purpose of the language, which is always communication

While I was taking classes to learn how to teach English to speakers of other languages, the most important factor was always communication. Language is how we communicate with the world around us, so the most obvious reason for learning a new language is to communicate with more people all over the world. Another important aspect of language learning is understanding how your native language (your L1) can affect the new language(s) that you are learning (your L2s). Depending on your L1, you may struggle with learning certain languages, and find it really easy to learn others. It’s always important to understand your personal strengths and use them to improve your communication. Learning a language can be tricky, but if you remember to always focus on skills that lead to better communication, whether that is through in-person conversations, virtual meetings, or even just emails, you will be successful in growing your communication skills. 

Written by Cole Navin

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*This is an opinion post based on personal experiences of the persons listed above.

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