Tips for Successful Summer Language Learning (Grace)

The Nepali language learning goals I had for this summer term were:

  1. Conduct an interview in Nepali and translate with limited guidance and assistance from my Nepali language mentor. Transcribe parts of interview (questions targeted at education experience) with assistance from Nepali language mentor into Devanagari, but be able to re-translate from written Devanagari script with limited assistance. (Intermediate High for listening and translation, Novice Mid for transcribing)
  2. Develop vocabulary and conversational skills about education and COVID-19 in Nepal (Intermediate High for speaking)
  3. Create a short presentation in Devanagari about the education system and situation in Nepal considering COVID-19, and present orally in Nepali (Intermediate High for speaking, Novice Mid for writing)
  4. Be able to ask questions to students and adults about feelings using appropriate idioms/culturally cognizant ways of expressing oneself through hardship (Intermediate High)  
  5. Improve pronunciation and fluency (Intermediate High)
  6. Develop vocabulary surrounding non-profit work to engage in a meeting and understand enough to come up with 5 follow-up questions (I was not able to focus as deeply on this goal due to “spreading myself a bit too thin,” so this goal was absorbed into my presentation goal).

Over the course of this language seminar, I changed my ISP multiple times. These changes included tweaking what my learning goals were and how I anticipated that I would reach them. So, ultimately, I would like to express that your ISP is very much a working document, and to not be afraid to alter it throughout your language learning process based on how your own goals may be shifting or how you feel you are engaging with the tasks at hand.  I have outlined some tips I have learned from self-instructional Nepali language learning in this course below. They are divided into tips to bear in mind before you dive into your ISP and during your language learning.

Tips to keep in mind before you begin language learning:

  • Do not overwhelm yourself with activities/resources! Sometimes, less is more. As someone who engages better with “real life” scenarios and the application of language, I wanted to focus most of my language learning around watching movies, tuning into non-profit meetings, and engaging with other resources. However, I quickly found that trying to watch one movie a week was too much! I did not think holistically about all the rich activities I could gain from just watching one movie in greater depth. So, think deeper about all the ways you can engage with one language resource before getting ahead of yourself. For my language learning goal of being able to gain vocabulary about COVID-19 in Nepal and education, I should have truncated the number of resources I would engage with because the first few weeks were a bit overwhelming thinking about how I would engage with so much material.


  • Zoom out before diving in. I think if I had known about the guidelines for the final assessment beforehand, I would have structured some of my activities differently from the beginning. So, before diving into the course/your studies REALLY think about what you want to accomplish in as much detail as you can in the beginning. For me, it was difficult to think so far ahead to what I would be able to do in great detail, and the final assessment tool toward the end of this course made me realize how much more refined practice I should have been doing in the beginning in order to produce a more measurable “product” of my language learning in Nepali. For example, I began with re-learning the Nepali alphabet and then dove into some LCC documents. They were above my reading level, but I was gaining some good vocabulary from them. However, in hindsight they were not a good level of practicing reading for me, especially if I am focused on fluency and pronunciation. I wish I had been aware of this in the beginning and had come across the Nepali government textbooks sooner in order to build my reading practice.


  • If you’re unsure how long or how much time a task will take you, anticipate requiring more time than you think- and plan accordingly! One of my goals was to create a presentation in Nepali on the education system. I have been chipping away at this task throughout this course, even though at the onset I did not think it would require much time or work. I read some educational documents and watched a Nepali movie to gain vocabulary, and created an outline for the presentation for additional feedback from my mentor. This has made it so I am not scrambling in the last week to put it all together! Now, it is just the presentational speaking practice I must focus on 

Tips while language learning:

  • If you are a visual learner, come up with posters documenting a grammar point or new vocabulary that you learned to decorate your room with! This gives you good writing practice and can be a good way to review while brushing your teeth or doing other day-to-day activities. Finding as many ways to immerse yourself in the language is helpful. None of my language goals was targeted at grammar specifically, so this tip is more based on my own metacognitive strategies as a language learner.


  • Try out different focus techniques to see what works best for you. This could change weekly, as well, so do not be afraid to switch it up. I was struggling to come up with a daily routine to complete my list of tasks (like speak to someone in Nepali every day, practice Anki, complete a journal post, respond to four people, etc., etc.) and came across a Focus Timer that used the Pomodoro technique. This was helpful to focus and then be forced to take breaks throughout the day. However, there were some weeks where I did not use it as I had motivation through other means to get assignments done. Essentially, do what works best for you, and if you find yourself in a rut then try out something different.


  • Anki is wonderful! Do not be intimidated if it is your first time using it. Ask friends for help who may use it for other studying purposes. It is motivating to do daily practice with the Anki cards because the longer you stay away from them, the more review and catch up it forces you to do. So, you are held more accountable! This was helpful for me to practice the newer words and phrases focused on the Nepali education system, feelings, COVID, etc.


  • Music can be a great passive or active language learning task! Taking even just 10 minutes to learn the lyrics of one line of a song you are listening to as background music is a great way to subconsciously be engaging with the music. Just be aware of “reading between the lines,” as there are oftentimes lots of figures of speech. In this case, it is important to clarify lyrics with your language mentor! This was not a specific target in my language goals, but rather just an overarching goal to engage a bit more actively with Nepali music since I enjoy it as background noise.


  • (In a good way) take advantage of your time with your language mentor! Their expertise with the language and cultural understanding of figures of speech or sayings is innumerable to your language learning. Studying a language independently can be difficult to get consistent speaking practice in, so it is best to arrive to your language mentor meetings fully prepared. Also, do not be afraid to ask your language mentor questions!! Make sure they are aware of your goals and what support you may need from them. And, again, even for the smallest bit of clarification ask them questions! It is also helpful to send out a list of targets for your sessions with them weekly. This way, they understand what you hope to focus on and how to best help you.


  • To focus on pronunciation and fluency, try recording yourself! Using Voice Memos (if you have an Apple device) is super easy and straightforward. While it may seem strange to hear yourself talk, it can be really helpful to pick up on discrepancies you hear in your own speaking. You may also try recording a session with your language mentor to listen back through to find what your strengths and weaknesses may be while speaking. These recordings are also handy to have if you are bored while walking or driving and wish to work on your language learning simultaneously! Recording myself (and the interview I had with a student) helped me target my goals of improving my pronunciation, fluency, and engage repeatedly with the interview translation and transcription goals I had.


  • Celebrate even the smallest of achievements! Even if you may have “off” days with language learning, you are still putting in work to study and make progress in your target language. I was excited because one of my language learning goals was to develop an interview guide, interview a student, and translate and transcribe the interview. This directly aligns with my research goals and overarching targets I have to continue to engage with Nepali beyond this course. Even though the interview went over differently than expected, it was important for me to celebrate the fact that I had achieved part of my goal! So, hold on to the small points of progress during times of frustration or exasperation.



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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.