Language Learning Made Easy: Our Top 3 IB Language B Tips!

language learning lesson

Welcome to this week’s post about the most effective Language B learning techniques! During my time on the IB I loved language learning: I took German B at HL and Spanish Ab initio – as a result I’m now studying in Vienna, in German!

That’s right, your journey learning languages on the IB can actually lead you to complete fluency! Here are my top tips for acing it, covering the aspects of reading, speaking and listening.

Get the most out of reading

For me, the key was always to read texts which were slightly above my current level – in my case, that would be a proper novel in German, but perhaps a kids’ book in Spanish.

The idea is to have texts where you can understand the rough idea (gist), but not every word is familiar to you. Ideally, you’ll be able to understand around 75% of the message of the text without using a dictionary. Bear in mind that you likely won’t find a text of the perfect difficulty every time – this approach does take patience! Ask your teacher for any suggestions.

Read the text once without a dictionary or translator, then a second time underlining phrases you don’t understand (aim for 10-15 words and phrases). Create a glossary of these words, under the title of the text. Translate and learn them, and then read the text again – how much more can you understand?

I tended to find that if I repeated this once or twice, I understood the whole text. The reason why this works so well is that you gradually increase your comprehension of the text. The new words that you learn are instantly put in to practice too, which is a huge benefit. Always do your best to put new vocabulary you’ve learned into a usage context ASAP!

When speaking, mistakes are key

Try to use as much of your target language while in class as possible. It can be nerve-racking, and sometimes you’ll make embarrassing mistakes, but ultimately that is simply how you can learn the fastest. I still make mistakes in German sometimes, and the corrections that my friends make are absolutely central to improving fluency.

Your time in class is prime time to use the language. Try to ask your teacher any questions exclusively in the target language, and try to have conversations in and out of class with your classmates – trust me, it really is the best way.

At home, it’s good to record yourself speaking. Does it sound right? Listen to music in that language, and watch YouTube and Netflix too, you’ll gradually build up a sense of correct pronunciation. It’s a process that takes time, but ultimately it will lead you much faster to fluency.

Language learning = listening

Listening to music is a game changer, especially with most streaming services making it possible to read the lyrics at the same time. 

In German, I listened to a lot of music to find albums and artists I enjoyed. For those songs I loved and listened to repeatedly, I found I was able to sing along without knowing what the words were (essentially, just from the sounds). I didn’t understand at all what they were about, to begin with!

From there, it’s only a short distance to comprehension. Look at the lyrics as you listen to the song, and sing along (maybe just in your head if you’re on the bus). Those are now all words that you’re able to recognise far more easily.

Then, if you wish, you can translate the song into English. I would strongly recommend this, as it really cements those words and phrases as part of your vocabulary. Be aware, though, of translating word-for-word. Often, individual words paired together can have a totally different meaning. Translating these can take research, and generally more effort, but in this way you’ll build a vocabulary you can actively use to speak more like a native.

To find out more details about learning a language with music, read this article from  Lingopie by clicking here!


And so there we have it, my top three tips for building fluency and confidence for your language B assessments! Try to implement these in to your study routines, and I’m sure you’ll be acing those tricky language exams in no time.

If you’re struggling, however, and need some extra assistance, Lanterna can help! You can click here to explore our offering of Online Private Tuition, from top IB graduates who aced the subject themselves.

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