How to Pass a Foreign Language Class

Three Parts:Learning TechniquesFulfilling RequirementsGetting Help

Some people pick up languages easily while others need a bit more practice. Learning a language in a class requires special learning techniques and study habits. Unlike non-language courses, you'll need to study vocabulary and speaking skills. But, you'll also need to fulfill course requirements that are similar to your other non-language classes. If you find yourself still struggling to understand the language, whether it's French, German, Spanish, or another language, know how to get the help you need. If you take the time to study the material, fulfill the requirements, and get help when you need it, you should have no trouble passing your foreign language class.

Part 1
Learning Techniques

  1. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 01
    Work on vocabulary. Knowing the meanings of words is the foundation of your language study. Try to learn a group of words that are related to each other. You'll be more likely to remember them.[1]
    • If you already have some language experience and want to build your vocabulary, spend time reading in the language. Look up words you don't know. Experts suggest that free reading is the most effective if you already know 3000 to 5000 words in the language.[2]
  2. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 02
    Use note cards. A classic way to learn a large number of words is to make flashcards. Write the word on one side and write the definition on the other. To make the meaning easier to remember, try to include an image. Have someone quiz you or just go through the cards on your own until you've mastered them.[3]
    • For verbs, try writing all the different tenses on the side of the card where you've written the English definition. That way, you have to recall the forms of the verb as well as the definition.
    • Use different colors to indicate different types of words. For example, use different colors to indicate the gender of nouns, prepositions, verbs, etc. This will help you recall important vocabulary information.
  3. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 03
    Learn grammar. Simply put, grammar makes up the rules of a foreign language. While vocabulary is important, it's also critical to understand how these words interact. For example, words may mean different things when placed in different orders in a sentence. You'll need to learn the rules that are specific to your foreign language in order to effectively read, write, and understand the language.[4]
    • Use memory tricks to memorize key grammar rules (like mnemonics, learn word associations, and study grammar in context).
    • Listen to the way native speakers speak the language. Pay attention to word order and the gender of nouns.
  4. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 04
    Study on a regular basis. Keep study sessions short, but frequent. Try to review the material from each class at least every few days. You don't need to sit down and study for hours at a time. Instead, stay focused and keep the study session brief. For example, spend 10 minutes every day going over your class notes or spend 30 minutes at the end of the week to review all the material you covered.
    • Studying on a regular basis will make you feel more prepared and make it easier to build on information the instructor gives. This is especially important with foreign languages.[5]
    • Avoid cramming the night before an exam. While you may be able to study information to pass an exam, researchers argue that you won't be able to remember the information for very long.[6]
  5. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 05
    Take effective notes. There's no right or wrong way to take notes, but you should develop a style that works for you. While your notes don't need to be perfectly written, you should be able to read and understand them later on. Your notes should include the main points of the lesson with plenty of details so you understand the concepts later.[7]
    • You can develop your own system of abbreviations so you can take faster notes. If you're having trouble keeping up with the instructor's pace, don't be afraid to ask questions or ask the instructor to repeat something.
    • Taking notes will help you follow along in class and engage with the material. If you miss a class, make sure to ask a classmate for good notes from the class.
  6. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 06
    Find what what works for you. Try a variety of study techniques. Once you've found what helps you learn, use a combination of tactics. For example, maybe you've discovered that using flashcards to learn vocabulary didn't help you. Instead, you might learn best by repeatedly writing down words and placing them all around your home.[8] You might also try learning through:
    • Reading stories in the language.
    • Mnemonics (devices to help you memorize).
    • Writing vocabulary into sentences so you have context.
    • Repetition
  7. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 07
    Manage your time. Set aside plenty of time for the class. This doesn't just mean time to attend class. It should also include time to study and prepare for the class, time to do homework, and time that you may need to meet up with a study group or the instructor to get help. Set a schedule and stick to it, so you're not rushing to finish an assignment or get ready for an exam.
    • Don't forget the importance of rest. Research shows that people are able to learn and retain language better when they get plenty of sleep.[9] The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours.[10]

Part 2
Fulfilling Requirements

  1. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 08
    Read the syllabus. Your foreign language instructor will most likely hand out a syllabus at the beginning of the term. This contract between you and the instructor lays out what the instructor will do over the term and what the instructor expects of you. The syllabus will include important information, including:[11]
    • The instructor's office location and hours
    • Requirements (like exams, papers, oral exams, homework) and the grading scale
    • A schedule of classes
    • Learning outcomes (several things you should be able to do by the end of the term)
    • Attendance policy
    • Disability accommodation
  2. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 09
    Attend class. This is one of the simplest but most important requirements for passing a language class. Regular attendance lets you practice the content in small but frequent amounts. You should also interact and participate in the lessons. This will help you improve your pronunciation and social skills.[12]
    • Good attendance also signals to the instructor that you're serious about doing well in the course. Don't expect much help at the last minute if you haven't shown up for class in a few months.
  3. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 10
    Do your homework. Homework may make up a large portion of your final grade or it may only account for a small part of it, depending on the instructor. Regardless of how much it's worth, you should complete all of your homework. Homework can help you recall and expand on the language skills you've learned.
    • Again, doing your homework shows your instructor that you're taking the course seriously.
  4. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 11
    Complete essays. Your instructor will probably test your ability to write the language by assigning a written essay. You may be given a simple theme to write about, but this is your chance to demonstrate your grasp of the language. Try to be as detailed as possible, using correct grammar and spelling.
    • Avoid using the same vocabulary words over and over in your essay. Show your understanding of the language by using a variety of words in your paper.
  5. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 12
    Give an in-class speech or presentation. To see how well you can speak the language, your instructor may expect you to give an in-class speech or give a brief presentation about a specific topic. Usually, you're given these prompts ahead of time, so make sure to prepare before hand. Make sure your speech follows all the requirements set by the instructor (uses certain vocabulary, is the right length, demonstrates understanding of the lesson, etc).
    • Ask to see if you can use an outline when giving the speech or presentation. While most instructors don't want you to completely write out your dialogue many are alright with using a brief road map of what you'll say.
  6. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 13
    Speak the language. Practice your interpersonal communication by including dialogue work. Your instructor may use class time to get you and fellow classmates to interact or respond to small conversations. Or, you can get together with another student and try to have a discussion.
    • Practice speaking with a variety of people so you learn different things. For example, speaking with a native speaker or your instructor can help you with pronunciation. Or, speaking with a peer can help you both work on structuring responses at a slower pace.
  7. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 14
    Pass your exams. Most instructors include several exams that are worth large portions of your overall class grade. It's important to be prepared for these exams, so you pass them easily. Find out what material the exam will cover and become familiar with it in the weeks before the exam, not at the last minute.
    • Your instructor may test you by asking you to perform an oral examination. You may be asked to participate in a short conversation speaking the foreign language.
  8. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 15
    Practice your interpretive communication. Understanding dialogue and being able to speak is critical to foreign language learning. While your instructor will probably have you work on conversations in class, you should expose yourself to the language as much as possible.
    • Listen to radio programs in the language to gauge how much you understand. It's also a good way to see if you have a hard time following along to faster dialogue.
    • Watch a movie in the foreign language and put English subtitles on. This way, you can see if your translation of the film's dialogue is accurate.

Part 3
Getting Help

  1. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 16
    Utilize class materials. Your instructor will probably pass out valuable information sheets or outlines for the class lessons. You can often take notes on these sheets throughout the lesson so that you can refer back to them when you study.
    • Don't forget to read and refer to your class textbook. In addition to giving broad themes, textbooks usually give lots of detailed examples which can help you understand key concepts.
  2. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 17
    Work with a study group. Ask several classmates to meet up and go over course material together. Keep the group small so you don't become distracted. Meet on a regular basis and go over coursework. For example, meet at the end of every week to review notes from the week's instruction.[13]
    • Write down any questions or concerns you're unable to work through as a group. This way, you can ask the instructor to explain the concepts and you'll be better prepared for exams.
  3. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 18
    Talk with your instructor. If you have a quick question, don't hesitate to ask your instructor during or after the lesson. This can clear up any minor confusion you might have. But, if you're having trouble understanding a larger concept or theme, you may want to go to the instructor's office hours. This way, you'll have more time to go over the material.[14]
    • Attending your instructor's office hours is also a good way to show the instructor that you're taking the language class seriously.
    • Don't wait until the day before an exam to contact your instructor. Instead, ask questions as soon as you have them.
  4. Image titled Pass a Foreign Language Class Step 19
    Consider hiring a tutor. If you'd like more one-on-one explanation or a chance to work on your conversational skills, hire a private tutor. Make sure the tutor is qualified and will be able to work on any areas you're concerned with. For example, you might want to hire a tutor so that you can work speaking skills. You might hire someone who has experience speaking the language in the country of origin.
    • Consider asking your instructor to recommend a tutor. The instructor might be able to recommend former students who'd be willing to work with you or fellow colleagues that also work as tutors.
    • Your school may offer drop-in tutors for you to work with. Check your program's language resources to find out more.[15]


  • Try to speak the foreign language with friends or classmates when you're outside of class. This can be a fun way to practice.
  • Listen to audios of people speaking the language you are learning everyday.

Article Info

Categories: World Languages