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DIY language learning materials: a one-page cheat-sheet

Here’s my New Year present for all of you, language lovers! 2013 will surely be a great year for you. When it comes to learning a foreign language, this PDF cheat sheet may help.

Language learning materials: why make your own?

If you want to speak a language well, why would you resort to DIY measures? After all, there are so many publishers out there, and so much good stuff – for everyone, in almost any language! Well, it turns out that rolling your own foreign language materials has its benefits. This short list should be enough to give you the idea:

  • It allows you to choose the language you need – not the language someone thinks you may need
  • It means you can be as specific or as general as you please, and design the length and intensity of practice to suit you
  • The topics, contexts and ideas can be controversial, intimate and extreme – something that big publishers would shy away from
  • DIY foreign language materials would require twice as much effort – in design, and then in use – so they double the time you spend practicing the language
  • Copyright licenses are tricky with published materials – it may be much easier to share what you designed with classmates / friends
  • This requires your time, effort and imagination – whilst saving you money – so it’s a perfect guerrilla language learning approach.

Three steps to a successful materials-based lesson

If you’re a language teacher, you’ve heard of those. But for those who wish to learn, it’s important stuff – what should you do when to maximize the use of any learning aids and materials? The secret is in three “Ps”:

  1. Presentation – a stage used for setting the scene, getting to grips with the text, learning about the context. This could mean reading a newspaper article, or listening to an interview – with a few exercises that will help you notice and identify the important stuff.
  2. Practice – Clearly, some parts of the text will be more important / urgent than others. Chances are, you’ll want to practice those – because you need them now, or because it’s the first time you’ve encountered these structures…This is the “sandbox” moment: by controlled exercises with clear outcomes and answers, you’ll find out how the language works, learn by trial and error – and remember what you wish to use.
  3. Production – This is what the two stages were leading to. Your foreign language study would be nothing without the ability to actually use the language you’d encountered and practiced. This is a freer part, and the answers are not prescribed: if you’d read an article, there is more than one way to summarise it – if you’d heard an interview, there are many ways to imagine and role-play the second part of it!

DIY materials guide

This will not solve everything for you – but the questions will, hopefully, point you in the right direction. Use it as you prepare your language learning library – in planning, designing practice, choosing what to read / listen to. Share it with friends, classmates and teachers – it’s free forever.

DIY language learning guide (PDF) – download here

Most of all, let me know if it’s useful – and Happy New Year to all of you!

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