One of the items on my 30 before 30 list that is yet to be scored off is “brush up on my Spanish”. The reason why this goal is still there is mainly that I never seem to have the time to sit down and study. And even when I do have an opportunity, it just seems like too daunting a task. However, this goal is on my list and therefore I’m determined to complete it. Over the last few days, I’ve been looking at some simple tips and techniques for learning and improving your foreign language skills. I’m really hoping that they help to take the fear factor out of this task and help me to just get on with it!
For all you other budding linguists out there, check these out and do let me know how you get on.
#1 Swap your skills
I think a language swap is an excellent idea. A lot of people are reluctant to learn a new language because, as is the case when picking up many new skills, there is often an expense involved for classes, materials, etc. However, with a language swap, no money for tuition is needed because you are exchanging your knowledge of a language for someone else’s knowledge. In other words, I could help a person improve their English and in return, they would help me improve my Spanish. It’s a win-win situation.
You can find out more about language swaps by searching online. Online community noticeboards, e.g. Gumtree, are the best places to find people who are looking to improve their foreign language skills in your area. But just to get all motherly on you, if you are meeting up with a stranger, do take someone else with you or meet up somewhere public. If you are not comfortable with this idea, ask your family and friends if they know of anyone who they could put you in touch with regarding swapping language skills.
#2 Use online materials
If you don’t want to spend your hard earned cash on language books that might just end up gathering dust, use online help instead. There are SO many different websites, apps and tutorials, a lot of which are free, that you can access via your laptop, tablet or smartphone. If you are always struggling to find time to dedicate to your foreign language skills, digital materials will come in handy as you can access them when you are on the move. You can brush up on your vocabulary, ver conjugation and irregular verbs while you wait for a bus, commute to work or during your lunch break.
A simple search online will present you with number of websites and tutorials for learning, practising and testing your skills. Or, check out the relevant apps in the store on your smartphone or tablet. Some resources are much better and more user-friendly than others so do check out the reviews where possible if you intend to pay for them.
#3 Summer holidays!
You probably will have read or heard before that one of the best ways to improve your foreign language skills is to immerse yourself within the culture. With the summer just around the corner, you have the perfect opportunity to brush up your skills at the same time as enjoying a holiday in the sun.
In order for this to be effective you have to try your best to speak the language as much as possible. If you are going to a popular destination for English speaking tourists, the locals will often speak good English. In some places around the world, you can get away without knowing one word in the local language because the natives are so used to speaking English. So, whenever you are in a hotel, restaurant, etc., treat this as a great opportunity to practise what you’ve learnt. If you feel uncomfortable and worried that you will get it wrong, let the person you are talking to know that you are trying to improve. Most of the time they will be more than willing to help you out.
Do be aware that there might be a battle of languages. The person you are speaking with may be just as keen to improve their foreign language skills as you and so may wish to communicate with you in English. Just politely persevere!
#4 Listen, watch, read
Another way to easily fit learning a language into a busy schedule is to listen, watch and read foreign media, books, film and TV. Even if you don’t understand the majority of what is being said, you will pick up on new words, phrases, colloquialisms and pronunciation.
So, tune into a radio station in the language you are learning. Read online newspapers. Follow or friend businesses, magazines and people on social media. Check out the foreign films section on Netflix. Watch YouTube videos. The list goes on. You can use the internet to engage with your foreign language in so many different ways. By doing this, you can make the language a part of your everyday life. And you might not think it at the time, but you will be taking in the words and phrases you see and hear.
#5 Always carry a language notepad
Whether it is in paper or digital form, it’s always a good idea when trying to improve your language skills to carry a notepad with you as much as possible. This means that whenever you hear or read a word or phrase you can write it down, along with its translation. Writing new information down is an effective way to make it stick in your memory. And, even if you forget it, you always have your notepad to refer to.
What I’ve discovered, and I hope that you have too, is that improving my Spanish doesn’t have to be as daunting, time-consuming or expensive as I had first thought. There are many easy ways to fit this goal into your everyday life.
Thanks for reading 🙂