How to Learn a Language with Sentence Mining

What’s the most tedious part of learning a second language? For most people, it’s grammar and vocabulary. It usually takes many hours of senseless repetition and there’s no fun in that. Or at least, that is if you’re doing it wrong.

Bored man trying to learn vocabulary without using Sentence Mining

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While memorising lists of words and grammar rules is one of the most common ways to learn a language, it is also one reason many people end up quitting. So, what can we do to change it?

Well, there’s a far more effective technique that will keep you engaged and put you in contact with real-life language from day one: sentence mining.

What Is Sentence Mining?

Sentence mining is the act of learning a new language by understanding sentences instead of isolated words. Instead of translating individual words and remembering them, sentence mining fosters a focus on general meaning. All the vocabulary is acquired in a real-life context, so it is easier to remember.

Now, this means that sentence mining is harder than word-to-word translation while you are a beginner. But if you make the effort and push through, you’ll eventually make faster progress.

The best part is that you don’t study grammar separately. Instead, you’ll incorporate it as you learn new words. For example, let’s suppose you are learning Spanish and you read these sample sentences.

1. Yo corro todas las mañanas (I run every morning)

2. Yo como pizza a la noche (I eat pizza at night)

3. Yo quiero ver una película (I want to watch a movie)

By analysing these sentences, you can see a pattern in how verbs are conjugated with an “o” at the end of the word. As such, you can assume there is a rule to do this when conjugating verbs in the present tense and for the first person.

Why Does Sentence Mining Work to Learn Vocabulary and Grammar?

– Learning words in context is not only more memorable, but also it is more useful to learn how words are actually used.

– Seeing the same word or grammatical item in different contexts will help you innately absorb how it should be used in other sentences, as well.

– If you use audio, you can expose yourself to how the language sounds and improve your pronunciation.

– It is more fun than just memorising words and their translations, so will keep you engaged for longer.

– You will progress more quickly and, so, be more motivated to continue learning.

How Do I Learn Vocabulary and Grammar with Sentence Mining?

Though rewarding, sentence mining is quite demanding and you’ll need to devote some time and effort to make it work. We recommend the following process:

1. Gather many high-quality, real-life resources

Using real-life materials is one of the best ways to learn a new language. Combine this with sentence mining, and you’ve got a solid learning technique!

Man learning vocabulary with sentence mining takes down notes to learn new words

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Start by acquiring magazines, newspapers, books, TV shows, movies, etc. that use the language you want to learn. The internet and streaming services are a great way to get such content cheaply or for free.

2. Look for sample sentences

Search through your resources for any unknown vocabulary that you can understand in context. If you are a beginner to your new language, you may want to start by using materials that have visual aids, like magazines, comic books, or even a film with subtitles in your target language.

You could also use a movie you have already watched in your native language and know pretty well. In this way, you won’t have to rely as much on subtitles.

Another great resource is YouTube. Whether you are learning English, Arabic, Mandarin, Italian, Portuguese or another language, you have plenty of channels to choose between. Write down the sentences you hear and use them to learn vocabulary.

3. Write your sentences in a notebook or use flashcards

Writing things down is a great way to cement your new knowledge in your head, and where you write them becomes a useful tool for recall later.

You can accompany your sentences with drawings, explanations in your own words, or anything you think will help you remember the vocabulary.

4. Review your notes

Allot time to studying on a daily basis: the more, the better. Try to study for at least half an hour at a time, but if you do it for longer, you will see results faster. That being said, consistency is more important than long learning sessions. It is much better to study for 15 minutes every day than for one hour just once a week.

Is Sentence Mining Enough to Learn a Language?

Sentence mining is an excellent method that will improve the way you learn vocabulary and grammar. But a language is so much more!

You will need someone who can help you to practise speaking and give you feedback on your pronunciation and fluency. You will also need someone who can read what you write and tell you what you have to do to improve.

And that is not all. Languages influence, and are influenced by, the way of life of the people who speak them. As such, you need to understand their culture, traditions and beliefs before you can say you have mastered the language.

Though sentence mining will help you with this by exposing you to real-life materials, nothing beats having a native speaker of the language explaining things in a way you are sure to understand.

Our Italian instructor, Piero, and his student during an online Italian lesson.

Our Italian instructor, Piero, and his student during an online Italian lesson.

Fortunately, this is available to you, too! Learn more about our courses with native-speaking tutors and customised curriculums, choose your target language and start learning in-person or online. Complement your language course with sentence mining during your free time, and you’ll become fluent in your target language sooner than you think.