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Using Patterns of Your First Language to Develop Your Language Skills

Any time you are learning a new language, sometimes the best thing you can do is return to the things you already know. Beyond taking advantage of the knowledge you already have, learning to see the patterns in your work can keep things interesting.

Using Patterns of Your First Language to Develop Your Language Skills
Using Patterns of Your First Language for Second Language Acquisition - Second Language Strategies

Sometimes the best place to start your language learning is with what you already know

Welcome, aspiring polyglot! After you spend several months working on your language skills you may begin to feel as though things are becoming too routine. If you are not constantly expanding as a language learner you may find yourself frustrated. This is a normal step in the process, but giving up on your target language is simply not an option.

Any time you are learning a new language, sometimes the best thing you can do is return to the things you already know. Beyond taking advantage of the knowledge you already have, learning to see the patterns in your work can keep things interesting. As always, if you are not enjoying your time studying a new language, you are doing it wrong.

Patterns turn boring stimulus into interesting content for your second language acquisition

The ability to spot patterns in your work can save you plenty of time, but more importantly they can turn boring activities into something more enjoyable. When you take time to actively develop your language skills you will not only improve in your first language, but in your new language as well. If you are working on learning a romance language, take a look at our FREE romance language pattern guide to get yourself jumpstarted!

Repetition is absolutely necessary for success in language learning. Duolingo takes this to the extreme which, at a certain point, becomes counter productive. Doing things time and time again and improving with every repetition will accelerate and enhance your second language acquisition. However, when your sole focus is repetition you will get bored. Of course there are times when you are going to do things you do not enjoy, but if you spend too much time feeling like your time is being wasted you will likely give up on your language learning goals.

Ensuring you have ample content and a diverse set of resources to sort through will help as you can focus on vocabulary words and grammar rules in different contexts. Whereas if you spend all of your time reading writing from the same person or listening to the same orator you will make progress.

That said, you will also find that you are end up using the same vocabulary words and the same grammar structure over and over and over again. It will be difficult to expand into different areas, listen to orators who speak at different speeds, and read things you do not entirely understand, it will be worthwhile. If you need help finding some new resources, be sure to check out our language resource newsletters!

In line with finding resources is continuing to grow within those categories and learn new things. When you can do that you can follow your curiosity wherever it may take you. This will also help with your ability to find patterns. You will struggle to find patterns that pique your interest if you are not looking for them and curiosity is the perfect tool to overcome this. That said, it can be difficult to find patterns in your target language, especially when you are starting out.

Should you find yourself struggling with that, one of the best places you can start is with your native language. Even if you think you do not know any patterns, after spending some time thinking about it you might just realize there are more than you thought. For some tips on how to maximize your curiosity and get the most out of your studies, check out his article:

Curiosity: An Essential Second Language Acquisition Strategy
Curiosity is a superpower when it comes to learning just about anything. If you are able to harness your curiosity to propel your language learning, you will have no trouble reaching fluency.

Need a place to start? Try your mother tongue

At the beginning of your language learning journey you are likely going to spend far more time with your first language than with your target language. Learning a new language is far easier if you have a good grasp of your mother tongue. By learning the patterns that correlate with your native language you may just stumble across patterns in your new language. Writing is one of the best ways to get this process started. Placing an emphasis on patterns will allow you to see them more often and with more ease both in your first and second languages. The first place to start is with writing sentences and doing what you can to track down the grammar patterns.

If you know that in English you can change most adjectives to adverbs by adding an -ly to the end, then maybe there is a suffix that corresponds in your target language. If you know that adding -ed to a verb makes it past tense then perhaps there is a corresponding pattern in your target language. Whatever it may be, when you actively pay attention to the sentences you are writing and how words interact in different contexts you will begin seeing patterns. Once you are beginning to see patterns you can look for example after example and write them down. As per usual, if you do not write down the things you find you will have a difficult time recalling them when it is time to speak.

At the same time, every pattern you find in the new language you are learning is one you should look for within your first language. While doing this will certainly help you in your reading comprehension, you will also be surprised how much more simple speaking becomes. Knowing patterns will ensure you spend less time thinking and more time doing which is what normally holds people back. There are many pieces to fluency, but the ability to speak fluidly is paramount.

It does not have to be perfect, but it does need to be fluid. Above all, though, do not limit your time seeking patterns to only your language learning. Patterns are everywhere and while it is fantastic to see them in languages, the more you see them in the world around you the more this skill will serve you in other areas of your life.

Language learning strategies to enhance your pattern recognition ability

Looking for patterns in everything you do is difficult, but the more you do it the easier it will be. There will also be times when you see patterns that no one else does. When this happens do your best to follow it as much as possible. Just because other people are not seeing the same patterns does not mean they will not be useful to you. The reason we shared the pattern guides in this article is to give you the jumpstart you need to start seeing them everywhere. Pattern recognition is a skill, like language learning, and it must be actively developed.

Fortunately, if you develop this skill outside of your language learning you will be able to transfer that ability into your language learning. Expanding your knowledge of the world will enhance and accelerate your second language acquisition. Being able to determine the meaning of words because you have an expansive vocabulary will save you time and energy in the short, medium, and long term. While fluency will require far more than pattern recognition and an extensive knowledge, it cannot set you back. If you are looking for a place to start, there are some things you can start doing immediately to catapult yourself forward.

1. Look at prefixes and suffixes

2. Look at root words

3. Read often to expand your vocabulary

Above all, if you are going to do these things you need to write them down. Fluency is not simply the ability to speak, it is also the ability to write and read and understand that which people are saying to you. When you write down phrases you learn and practice your listening comprehension actively you are contributing to your fluency, even if it does not feel like it.

Every new word, every advancement in your comprehensible input, every successful self-evaluation is a step in the right direction towards fluency. Learning a foreign language cannot be done without taking the time to develop several language skills, but that does not mean you should not enjoy yourself throughout the process.


There are countless second language strategies out there, but finding patterns in your foreign language of choice is one of the best there is. Unfortunately, there is very little literature on the patterns of various languages and, while we have some, it will be up to you to develop some of your own. Whether you are working on mastering key words or the correct usage of different phrases, further investigation into the patterns that abound will serve you. No matter what your learning style is, the more patterns you find in the vocabulary words you are learning and the grammar rules you encounter the less you will have to memorize.

Practice does not make perfect, but it does make permanent. Adding these things into your routine will serve you in not only your language learning, but in most other areas of your life. Foreign languages are a worthwhile pursuit, however if you can expand your knowledge and expertise beyond the language then you may find that language learning has far more value than simply bilingualism. Understanding the connection between patterns and across the concepts will enable you to advance your skills in multiple disciplines at the same time. Use the confidence that comes from this to begin speaking without fear of failure.

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Learning foreign languages is no easy feat, it will be difficult irrespective of how you approach it. Using the language learning strategies listed here can and will enhance and accelerate your language learning experience, it will not be easy. But you can do difficult things and be great, so continue to do difficult things and be great. I will be here by your side endeavoring to do the same.

Be sure to check out Second Language Strategies to catch up on anything you missed, find me on Twitter or Instagram for some short form content. For access to all the guides we have to offer, be sure to check out the "guides" section of the website. There is a mixture of free and paid guides that is constantly being updated with new content to enhance and accelerate your language acquisition. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.