Campus walkway with banners


Learning Center

The Learning Center helps students in many ways.

Workshops: Each semester, workshops are available on specific topics like APA Format and writing essays. Some workshops are of general help to all students, like “Helpful Test-Taking Strategies” and how to “Learn to Overcome Procrastination.” Each semester’s schedule of workshops is available on the Learning Center's Academic Workshops page.

There’s a great page on “Tips for Academic Success” that includes general tips for studying effectively. There is also information on "Time Management" and "Ten Steps to Success in the Classroom."

Open Computer Labs

Lancaster: Several open computer labs are available on the Lancaster campus. The Learning Center computers have internet access as well as word processing programs and printing. Computers are also available in Business Education building, third floor, room 320. Generally, the Learning Center is open Monday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters and Monday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during summer/intersession (closed Fridays). However, hours do vary, so please check. The current schedule of available hours is posted at the front desk.

Palmdale Center Computer Lab: The Palmdale Center also has computers available in room SV3L. Open hours during the fall and spring semester are Monday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and on Friday, 7:30 a.m. –11:30 a.m. Open hours do vary during summer and intersession. Hours are posted on the door; please check to verify open hours.

Office for Students with Disabilities

The staff in the Office for Students with Disabilities works closely with students to assess their needs and provide those support services and accommodations that directly address a student's functional limitations as a result of their disability


The Learning Center provides tutoring in many subjects, including foreign languages. Click this link—Tutoring—for more information.  Students can make appointments at the front desk in the Learning Center. Spanish tutoring is generally available right away. The programs for our other languages are smaller, and it can take a bit longer to arrange for tutoring, so please talk to the tutoring staff right away.

Tutoring is free. Students work together in small groups; tutors help students understand the material and can help with study tips and test-taking strategies (see the Learning Center’s webpage for more information). Tutoring is a kind of study group—led by someone who knows the subject really well.

Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

The Learning Center’s web page has some great general information on learning, studying, and test-taking. There are, however, some very specific study techniques and some tools that are helpful for learning a foreign language.


A big part of learning a language is learning the vocabulary. Vocabulary is the foundation. Really. We can’t stress that enough:  Vocabulary, Vocabulary, Vocabulary. Repetition is the key to learning the words. It’s best to study vocabulary in smallish blocks of time, over and over. It’s good to study with scratch paper and write the word down at the same time that you’re saying it out loud. It’s important to see them, say them and write them as well as hear them pronounced (see Quizlet).

Flash Cards—making a flash card with the foreign word on one side and the English translation on the other works really well.  You can carry these around with you and practice while standing in line, riding the bus or waiting before a class. Include the gender and the plural form of the word if applicable. Practice by saying the word out loud. Chinese needs 3-part flash cards for the English, the pinyin and the character.

Quizlet ( is a free program where you can type in the words you’re learning along with the English translation and it creates flash cards for you. You can work through the flash cards on a computer (or your smart phone!) or print them up. It also provides a pronunciation for the words you type in (but not for Latin). There are games you can play, like a version of Battleships, to help you learn the words. And yes, Quizlet works for Chinese too! German 101 has the study sets already available—search for Deutsch 101—Antelope Valley College.

Cognates—cognates are words that look very similar in different languages and have generally the same meaning. Chinese doesn’t have many cognates with English, but most European languages have a lot of them. Sometimes textbooks stress ‘false cognates’—words that look the same but do not have the same meaning. And there are always a few of those. Mixing up these words can lead to very interesting misunderstandings:  In German, “Gift” means poison! In French, ‘comment’ means how. It’s important to pay attention to these false cognates, but also to remember that, most of the time, if it looks about the same, it probably is about the same: “institution” occurs in German, French and Spanish as well as English and has pretty much the same meaning. French, Spanish, English, and Latin share thousands of cognates. Sometimes the spelling is slightly different (distributión, dramático, apartemento, rose, professeur, étudiant), but the word is still recognizable. Sometimes learning a key fact, like the ˆ in French often represents an ‘s’ like in forêt/forest helps your recognize the English word. Pay attention to these systematic differences in spelling between English and the language you’re learning. German doesn’t have as many cognates as Spanish and French, but has many more than you might think [Hand, Aktion, Arm, August, Student, braun (brown) singen (to sing), Bank].

Word families:  many words are completely different from English in this new language you’re learning, but once you learn the ‘base’ word, you often know or can figure out many new words as you might have a noun, adjective, adverb and even verb based on this new word. Once you learn that “lügen” means ‘to lie, to tell a falsehood” in German, you know that “ein Lügner” is “a liar—a person who lies” and “lügnerisch”is the adjective and means “deceitful, false,” “ein Lügendetektor” is a “lie detector” and “eine Lüge” is  the noun and means “a lie, a falsehood.”

Genders—some students write all the words of the same gender in a notebook with a certain color, e.g., red for neuter, green for masculine, purple for feminine. If you study the list, you can often ‘see’ the word, and the color, and that will help you know the gender. Many words are a particular gender because of the spelling. Pay attention to patterns. Your instructor should be giving you tips and/or lists if there are connections with spelling and gender. A few examples:  -tion words in Spanish, French and German are feminine. Words ending in –ung are feminine in German (die Wohnung). Words ending in –ment and in –eau are masculine in French (le bâtiment, le bateau).


There are two major challenges:

First, there may be new sounds that you have to learn, like the sound ‘r’. It’s quite different in French, German and Spanish than it is in English. You have to learn how to make this new sound and then remember to associate it with the letter.

Second, there are often sounds you already know how to make because they exist in  English (or another language you know), but they are associated with different letters or positions. For example, the ‘s’ in rose is a [z] sound in English and in French, but an [s] sound in Spanish. A final ‘s’ in English is pronounced as a [z], but like an [s] in German. Also in German, ‘w’ is pronounced like the sound for the letter [v] in English, so the word ‘was’ is pronounced like [vas] in German, and, of course, has an entirely different meaning as this word is a false cognate: It looks like a word we have in English but it doesn’t have the same meaning.

Saying the alphabet can help you learn to produce the sounds of your language, but you also have to learn the letter combinations or situations in which you say that sound. Sometimes the same letter can have different pronunciations if it’s at the beginning, middle or end of a word. Sometimes, the letters in front or after it can change the pronunciation. Some languages have long and short vowels and they usually are pronounced differently. Using a program like Quizlet is a big help because you can hear the word and then repeat it to help you learn. A good way to practice is to see the word, say it, and then click on it to verify your pronunciation.

Talking—practice talking to yourself! Just saying simple sentences is good practice or pointing to objects and saying what it is in the language. Try to remember genders and plurals if that’s a big part of your language.


Most programs have recordings for you to work on at home to learn to understand the spoken language. Listen to the tapes several times and break it down into smaller pieces if you need to. Try to focus on the global meaning, not understanding every word. If you can answer the questions that accompany the tape, you’re understanding what’s expected of you at that time. Some instructors post transcripts of the recordings. Ask your instructor if transcripts are available. Following along on the text as you listen can help you understand what’s being said and is  good model for native speaker pronunciation and intonation. Be sure to always listen to the recording without the transcript after you’ve studied it. Going back to a previous chapter and reviewing the recordings is a good way to study. Most programs have the recordings available online and can be accessed by computer or smartphone.


--It’s best to study a little bit, maybe an hour or so each day instead of working 3 or 4 hours at a time.

--Try to use the language as much as possible in class and use it out of class if you can, identifying objects. At first, you can’t do more than use single words, but pretty soon you can think of phrases and simple sentences.

--Try to use new words in a short sentence. Point to the object if the word represents something concrete. Sometimes a drawing or a picture can help you remember the word.

--Homework:  Often, the answers to the homework are available. It’s great to try the homework first and then check it yourself.

--Translation:  Try not to translate when you’re reading or listening to tapes/homework exercises. Don’t use a translation program except perhaps to understand something like directions for your homework. (To write a sentence in English and use a translation program to put it into the language you’re studying and turn that in as homework is plagiarism.)

--Studying with a partner is great—you can drill each other on the vocabulary and go through any partner activities you’ve done in class, work on dialogues or do homework together.

--Work ahead—check out the grammar and vocabulary that you’ll be going over in class ahead of time. Try to say the words and learn them before class. Read through any grammatical explanations and try to work through any practice exercises. Even if it doesn’t make total sense, it will be easier to learn when you go over it in class.