I talk about lifelong learning a lot, and that includes learning languages! A second or even third language can open your mind in so many ways, as well as open doors to all kinds of new possibilities. So if you’re learning a language, how do you practice, how do you immerse yourself in that language to keep your skills fresh?
I am so grateful to have kicked off my love of language learning at a super young age. One thing I’ve come to realize over the years, however, is that YOU GOTTA USE IT OR LOSE IT. Cracking open a book will only get you so far! (File the following under: advice I give so that I’ll feel inclined to practice what I preach, but…)
Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of your language practice.
Okay, so if you don’t have anyone to practice your chosen language with, things can get pretty lonely. But if you’re stuck for a language partner there’s no harm having a conversation with yourself once in a while! For instance, turn cooking dinner into a reminder of kitchen and food vocabulary, or practice all you remember about shopping when you’re looking for a new outfit. You might also want to look into apps like Babbel or Duolingo to help you in your solitary language practice.
Literature and media
Now this tip comes from a recent Facebook post shared by Language Trainers. Thinking about starting a new book or binge-watching a TV show? Why not choose one in the language you are learning! Okay, so a book might be a little daunting the first time you try it, but imagine all the language you might pick up just by reading a single page of a novel? Alternatively, if that is too much, a TV series or film with or without subtitles is an amazing way to practice your language at the same time as doing something fun. Netflix anyone?
[Related: Great YouTube Channel for Practicing Spanish!]
Okay, so the suggestions so far have been pretty solitary pursuits; what’s the point of learning a language if you have no one to speak it with? Look in your area for language exchanges, or check online if there are groups nearby for language practice. Your local library might be a great place to start; even if they don’t host any events they might know somewhere that does!
Embrace the internet
The world is literally your oyster. You can have a real time conversation with a person on the other side of the planet if you wanted to (time zones and sleep schedules permitting, of course). One thing you could consider is downloading an app like HelloTalk to chat with native speakers from all over the world. In the classroom conversations can feel forced–you’re paired off with a classmate, told to discuss a specific topic, limited by a sheet of vocabulary words. But in our connected world you can seek out folks with similar interests and chat about anything under the sun. Something that will feel a lot more like a growing friendship than a group assignment.
Plan a vacation
The most rewarding way to practice a language you’re learning is to use it in a country where the language is spoken. Organize your next break away somewhere to visit a city you’ve always dreamed of; can you already picture yourself ordering some exquisite dinner looking out over landmarks you’ve only ever seen online? Imagine looking up all the museums, bars, or whatever you want to visit in the language you’re learning, and being able to read their websites with ease? How incredible would that feel? Put your hard work to good use and see this big, beautiful world of ours!
What languages are you learning? I’m a lifelong learner of Spanish and, after quite a long break, I’m dusting off my German skillz. Do you have any tips for making the most of a language practice? Or, better yet, got any Spanish- or German-language tv shows or YouTube channels you think I should check out. I’m all ears below! xoxo