How to learn a language
How to learn a language

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

How to learn a language

3.1 Linguistic

This is what is most familiar to aspiring language learners – the language itself. You need to master the various elements of that language, from the words it uses, to the order you put them in.

Activity 2 Matching the linguistic elements

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Look at the various linguistic elements of a language. Match each one to its definition.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Grammar

  2. Pronunciation

  3. Syntax

  4. Vocabulary

  5. Reading

  6. Listening

  7. Speaking

  8. Writing

  • a.The set of words you know in a particular language.

  • b.The way a word or a language is spoken.

  • c.The set of structural rules governing a language.

  • d.The ability to utter words or articulate sounds with the voice in order to communicate.

  • e.The process of expressing or communicating something by representing spoken language through the inscription or recording of signs and symbols, traditionally on paper on another such support.

  • f.The set of rules, principles and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a particular language, specifically word order. 

  • g.The ability to pay attention to and effectively interpret what is being said, sung, played etc.

  • h.The process of decoding symbols (such as letters) to derive meaning.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = c
  • 2 = b
  • 3 = f
  • 4 = a
  • 5 = h
  • 6 = g
  • 7 = d
  • 8 = e


Learning a language means learning the elements of that language. In the following weeks, you will look in particular at learning vocabulary and at the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, which you will focus on in Weeks 4–7.

Laura says:

I think it is very common as a learner to focus too much on certain elements at the expense of others, simply because they are easier and more in your comfort zone. I think a balanced approach is key, and I have found that the different language elements are interdependent, so, for instance, a good grasp of pronunciation can also aid listening comprehension and so on.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371