When you start a 10 week or 5 week evening language course with Cactus Language you will need to purchase the correct language course book for your language and level. This course book will form the foundation of your course and will be used by your teacher both in class and for homework. Your teacher will also use additional resources and materials, including their own activities and information from the ‘real world’ to contextualise the language you are learning and bring the language to life.
Purchasing a language course book is an investment and it’s important to use your course book in the right way and ensure you get as much out of your course book as you possible can. No course book is perfect but the language course books we used are published by well-known and well-regarded publishing houses that have years of experience in language teaching and language learning. Now that you have your course book, how can you ensure that you get the most out of it?
In each chapter of your course book you will be presented with new words and vocabulary. In order to familiarise yourself with this new language you need to read it, listen to it, say it and use it in conversation. A good way to reinforce these new words is to keep a vocabulary book which you can transfer new words into. After each lesson go through the pages in the course book that you have covered (and other hand-outs) and copy the new words into your vocabulary book. Rather than recording words alphabetically it is better to record words by topic or by subject. This way you can memorise words that are commonly used together. It’s also a good idea to write down common phrases or expressions so that you learn and memorise whole chunks of language rather than just isolated words.
Most of our course books have a very useful grammar section (by unit) at the back of the book, with examples, model sentences and explanations. After each lesson be sure to read this over to make sure you are clear on the grammar rules and the exceptions! If you are not clear then you can always ask your teacher in your next lesson. At any point, during your homework, or when you are doing some practice, you can refer back to these grammar explanations to help you choose the correct forms to use.
The transcripts of the listening activities are also provided in the back of the course book. For listening activities it is best to only analyse these after you have completed the listening questions and activities. However, once completed, you can use the transcripts to improve your pronunciation. The transcripts usually centre round real-life dialogues between people and provide examples of the things that people actually say. This is a great opportunity to practise copying their speech patterns, intonation, sentence stress and all the other aspects of speech that affect accent and pronunciation. You can also use other texts to practise this but there are usually not as effective due to the fact that most articles are not dialogues and are written to be read, not to be spoken. It is also important to note that the majority of the course books we use are written only in the language that is being taught. Once you are familiar with certain vocabulary and instructions that are repeated throughout the course book you will find that this poses no obstacle to using your course book at home for self-study, and further helps you immerse yourself in the language.
Your course book will be written entirely in the language that you are learning. This can seem daunting at first, however, the materials merely mimic what you need to do in real life – guess and deduce the meaning of words from context. Whether you are listening to someone speak, or reading a text, in real life – even when you have a good level of the language – you will not understand everything you hear and read. Therefore guessing from context is an important skill that you need to develop early on. Often, it is easy to work out what a word means just from the words that surround it. So use your course book to develop this skill and you will find learning a language much easier in the future.