Ten Habits of Strong Language Students, or Things You Can Do When You Think You Are Done With Your Homework



  1. Make it mobile. Take your language learning wherever you go. Use the process of getting from point A to point B part of the process: name landmarks, give and get directions, translate signs. You can also invest the time you spend getting from A to B studying language. Google Translate and Quizlet are very good vocabulary resources. Euronews offers brief news videos in many languages with scripts to accompany them.
  1. Make vocabulary a priority. Name everything you see. Don’t think in lists, think in categories of words. Visualizations and manipulatives like Flash Sticks, or virtual ones like Langapore, can be most helpful.
  1. Learn and review your parts of speech. This will help in your language class and will serve you well in English class too. You should know the definitions for the following terms: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, phrase, clause, subordinate clause, pronoun, article, direct object, indirect object, subject, predicate and agreement. Flip through the Appendices of your textbook. Every book has many. Have a look at grammar terms, verb conjugations, and vocabulary. I tell students that these pages at the end of the books should be worn from so much flipping through. Try to look for patterns in verb conjugation and connections between and among words.
  1. Study the verb conjugations for the most important irregular verbs. In Spanish these are: ser, estar, ver, ir, dar, decir, saber, conocer, tener and hacer. In French they are: être, voir, aller, donner, dire, savoir, connaître, avoir, and faire.
  1. Read the news in the language you study in an online newspaper. The Paperboy is the perfect place to start. Keep track of the news and new vocabulary and expressions. To take your reading one step further, try to compare the coverage in two different papers and see what differences in perspective you notice.
  1. Review your notes. This makes it necessary that you take them in class, right? If it is on the board it is in your notes! What is there? How are words/topics/ideas related? I tell students that language teachers do not write notes on the board because we have an exorbitant budget for markers…we do it so that students will take down the notes. Learning Management Systems (LMSs) like Schoology and Google Classroom make finding and sharing notes a snap.
  1. Study words in groups of two and three according to their related meaning. The terms for these are “lexical relations,” but call them “Two-fors” or “three-fors.” (Two or three for the price of one!) Here are some examples:
amar (v.) – el amor (n.)llover (v.) – la lluvia (n.)bañarse (v.) – el baño (n.)escribir (v.) – la escritura (n.) – escrito/a (adj.)

ver (v.) – la vista (n.) – el punto de vista (n.)

Aimer-l’amourPleuvoir-la pluieSe baigner-la salle de bainsécrire-un écrivain- écrite

voir-la vue-le point de vue


  1. Study prefixes, suffixes and word roots. These can be your keys to learning or understanding new words. Here are some common prefixes, suffixes and word roots.
Prefix Meaning Examples
an(ti)- against antipático (Sp.), antipathique (Fr.)
in-, il- opposite, not inseguridad (Sp.), illicite (Fr.)
inter- between internacional (Sp.), international (Fr.)
omni- all omniciente (Sp.), omniscient (Fr.)
equi- equal equivalente (Sp.), equivalent (Fr.)


Suffix Meaning Examples
-dad (Sp.)…-té (Fr.) “-ty” in English libertad (Sp.), liberté (Fr.)
-mente (Sp.)…-ment (Fr.) “-ly” in English (adverbs) rápidamente (Sp.), rapidement (Fr.)
-ito/a, -illo/a (Sp.)…-ette (Fr.) little hermanito (Sp.), maisonnette (Fr.)
-ería (Sp.)…-erie (Fr.) place where charcutería (Sp.), charcuterie (Fr.)
-ero/a (Sp.)…-er (Fr.)-ista (Sp.)…-iste (Fr.) person who carnicero (Sp.), boucher (Fr.)artista (Sp.), artiste (Fr.)


Word Root Meaning Examples
-dict- [Latin] say dictador (Sp.), dictateur (Fr.)
-vert- [Latin] turn convertir (Sp.), convertir (Fr.)
-demo- [Greek] people demografía (Sp.), démographie (Fr.)
-fil- [Greek] love of filosofía (Sp.), philosophie (Fr.)
-fon-, -phono- [Greek] voice, sound fonética (Sp.), phonétique (Fr.)


  1. Practice and perfect your pronunciation. Listen to the audios that accompany your book, find a podcast you like, or listen to radio programming in the language you study. I wrote about some of my favorites and how I got my students creating podcasts in this previous post.
  1. Look ahead! What’s coming next? How does what you did today fit with what you are going to do tomorrow? Remember that learning a language is a cumulative process. Successful students can integrate new and learned material seamlessly.