In your native language, you don’t have to listen very well. You only actually hear some of the words being said and your brain fills in the rest. You can’t do this when you are first learning a language. You may have to train yourself to listen. If you are musical, you probably already have. This is why your language class almost certainly asks you to listen to cds or watch videos. Do this in small amounts at a time not for an hour straight. Build up your listening time just like you do for training for a sporting event.
For any modern language, translation is considered a no-no, although you will not be able to avoid it at times. Consider the following expression in English – “to be in a pickle.’ If you were to translate this word for word into another language it would be non-sensical. This may be an extreme example but the point is to understand that other languages say things in other ways and do NOT mirror English vocabulary or structures.
Study often and in small time periods. Four half-hour study periods are usually more effective than a two hour block. Your attention span in another language is not as long as in your native language. Study every day, even if it is only for a short period of time.
Use your instructor’s office hours for grammar help or additional listening practice. Go and just speak the language for a few minutes. If you do decide to get a tutor, prepare for your tutoring session. Know what you want to work on and why. Study ahead of time. Don’t think a tutor will pass the class for you.
Don’t take a semester off if at all possible!! You will forget your language at an alarming rate. If you are planning a break in your language sequence for any reason, see an advisor to come up with a plan.
If you have trouble learning languages, continuing over the summer may be to your advantage. Continuing over spring/summer means no break and thus less time to forget what you just learned. These classes may be smaller than those during the academic year. This means more chances to speak in class and more individual help. Spring/summer is also more intensive so you are more immersed in the language. If it is the only course you are taking you can really focus on it. On a cautionary note, some students feel overwhelmed by the intensity and can’t keep up with the pace of language acquisition so you should speak with an advisor to help you make a decision about whether a spring or summer class is right for you.
Did I already say this? Well, it bears repeating. Repeat, repeat, repeat!