Trainee teachers are often initially guided by a set of principles when trying to design compelling and useful learning materials. There is no reason why these principles can’t also be employed by students wishing to improve upon their independent study techniques.

Three language learning strategies for independent language study are as follows:

Language learning strategy 1: Adapt

If you find an exercise particularly interesting and effective, why not try and adapt it to suit your other learning requirements? Equally, if you are presented with an exercise that doesn’t work for you, or is un-stimulating, try and adapt it to better suit your needs or learning style. This leads us nicely onto the next principle:

Language learning strategy 2: Replace

If you are using a work book or set of established learning resources, don’t be afraid to seek alternatives to sections that you find ineffective / cannot adapt. The key when replacing tasks /content is to be systematic and focus on your learning goals – try to maintain the overall structure of the course so that there is a logical progression between learning tasks. Be bold in your choices of source material – some of the most useful information can often be appropriated from the most unlikely sources. I.e. Packaging and advertisements offer examples of specific persuasive language such as comparatives and superlatives, songs are a good source of material demonstrating first and third person forms etc.

Language learning strategy 3: Supplement

As you gain confidence as an independent learner, you will find that once useful resources might start to become redundant – your focus now being on progressing to new levels rather than just practicing and refining existing skills and knowledge. Always keep exercises that have been helpful – you can always return to them and try to expand them with new material and content that meets your current learning needs.

The learner’s journey : building your approach

The journey through independent language learning is a challenging process; however, with a little guidance and the right choice of materials, it can also be highly effective and rewarding too. These principles are intended as a starting point from which to explore your own learning style and discover your personal preferences.


Thomas Young (BA, CELTA) Tom is a qualified linguist, teacher and language enthusiast. He also enjoys travelling, printmaking and writing.