In countries where the main language is not a world language, students often learn foreign languages in school. However, students are not taught about how to learn a language effectively.

Has any research been done on how effective it is to have a language learning techniques course in school before starting to learn these second languages? Do students who have had a course in language learning techniques perform much better than students who don't?

Such language learning techniques course should include learning about several techniques (e.g. flash cards) that have been shown to be effective by research.

  • 2
    Could you clarify your question? I am a little unclear of what you are asking. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:43
  • @callyalater I clarified it by adding another formulation of the question.
    – wythagoras
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:52
  • I don't understand the question. For most people "Starting to learn" means starting to learn at school, at least for the first foreign language (two foreign languages are compulsory at secondary school level in quite a lot of places) so we can expect that the majority of people who learn a second language learn it at school (here you'll find figures about secondary schools in Europe). Learning a second language can start in primary school. So what does "starting to learn these second languages" mean for you?
    – None
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:56
  • To answer what I understand of your question: in some countries learning techniques (i.e. how the student should set about learning whatever subject the are studying) are part of the curricular, not only for languages, for everything that is learnt at school. Not specific to languages, should the question be asked on academia?
    – None
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:06
  • 1
    @wythagoras, I do not belong to the Academia community, so I trust what you say. But what I will be adamant on the importance of learning techniques being taught from the very start of the learning process, i.e. primary school. It is much too late to be fully effective if only started in secondary school.
    – None
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


Some techniques are certainly more effective than others, as you noted.

I think it's definitely effective to learn how to improve your learning process, as long as the amount of time spent learning the techniques is less than the time you saved. Since acquiring a second language often takes years, the benefits seem clear to me. Also, since "use flash cards" is not hard to get across, there's at least an 80-20 tradeoff that can be achieved.

In school, though, I think the game changes. The way language is taught in school is already not always the most effective. Case in point is the American way where we don't start teaching a language until middle school or high school.

In school, the benefit would come if the education system was adjusted and if teachers were taught the best way for their students to learn languages. It is the teachers' responsibilities to apply the most effective techniques in the classroom. Great coaches are highly sought after because they teach their athletes in the most effective ways.

I don't know of any research on the increased language abilities of those students. I would, however, think they would be directly related to the relative effectiveness of different techniques.

  • 1
    While "use flash cards" is not hard to get across, research has shown that many students use them ineffectively.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 16:19

I believe that there are important differences between the pronunciation of American and European vowels that I covered in my answer to this question. Learning these differences (even between American and British English) will help you study European languages.

It would also help if a student learned to trace the "foreign" etymologies of common English words, especially those of his target language.

I haven't seen any studies on my proposals, but their advantages should be self-evident.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.