Having a regular language class or tutoring session is a great way to give yourself structure and dedicated guidance for your language practice. To get the most out of your language classes, what should you be doing in between? The key is frequency. Just like working out, the more often you do it, the quicker you’ll see the results. Sure, some have the time to work with a teacher on a daily basis which is a sure-fire way to get that frequency in. If you’re like most, you’ll be meeting once or twice a week. So what to do on those off days?
Like any practice, you will want to develop tools to get the most out of your language classes. Ideally, you’ll spend at least 5 minutes every day doing something and have a few extra activities to mix it up. With even a little daily practice, the language will stay fresh in your mind and keep you on track. Here are some tips on how to spice up your practice, arrive prepared and get the most bang for your language lesson buck:
- LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE IS FUN. Keeping it fun is up to you. Forget what they taught you in high school. It’s not a competition unless you’re the kind of person who loves competition. If you didn’t do this week’s homework, no problem. Just do it with your teacher in class.
- USE A LANGUAGE APP 5 MINUTES A DAY. This is an easy way to make sure you are regularly interacting with the language and keeping it fresh in your mind. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as they will all give you exposure to the language. The most important thing is to find the one that you appeals to you so you stick with it. No matter how “good” it is, if feels like a chore, it will be and you won’t do it. If you find it enjoyable, then you found the right one. Some apps you might want to try are: Duolingo, Babbel, Busuu and Memrise.
- KEEP A DIARY IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE. Start with one sentence a day. It can be anything. “I ate a sandwich for lunch. It was delicious.” “It’s raining today. My shoes are wet.” Just an observation or two about your day. The nice thing about this exercise is that you will direct yourself to vocabulary that is relevant to you so, rather than learning words that are given to you, this is a way to reverse that pattern and seek out words that will help you express your thoughts using vocabulary that reflects you.
- WATCH MOVIES AND TV IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE. Even if you need the English subtitles to follow the story, having regular exposure to hearing the language is a great way to develop your listening muscles. By just picking up a word here and there, your language learning brain is still being engaged. If you are an intermediate or advanced student, try watching with the captions in the target language or, for an extra challenge, watch with no captions. You could even watch it through once with captions and then a second time without to see how much you follow. If you find you’re getting lost and frustrated, just put the subtitles back on and enjoy the picture. Always try to have fun with it!
- FIND A PRACTICE GROUP. We have drop-in conversation classes and other fun pop up classes to add to the mix at ABC. You can also look into Meetup, Eventbrite and Coursehorse for a wide variety of one-off classes, workshops ad practice groups to supplement your learning and get the most out of your language classes.
- MAKE LOTS OF MISTAKES. Do not underestimate the power of the mistake. If you make one, it just means you’re trying which is exactly what you need to be doing. Maybe you’ll get it right the next time, maybe you won’t. As long as you are being understood, you’re most of the way there. Forming a perfect sentence is great and a worthy goal. Managing to get across, albeit imperfectly, that you would like a cup of coffee and then getting one is…mission accomplished!
- ADD LANGUAGE TO YOUR NEXT VACATION. Planning a trip to a country where your language is spoken is a wonderful way to give yourself a goal and a treat for the energy you are putting in. To max out this time, find a school or a tutor who can provide you with daily lessons while you are there. You can practice the situations you will find yourself in during the day, get tips from a local and still have loads of time to enjoy your stay. Even if it’s just for a week, you will get a big injection of language that will have a lasting effect.
- STAY ZEN AND KEEP ON TRUCKING! Along the way, you will have moments when you feel your language glass is half-empty and all you can see is what you don’t know. That’s okay. You will also have breakthrough moments that make it all worth it. If you keep at it, you will progress and the moments that make this whole process thrilling will happen. Just don’t quit before the miracle.
Looking for a class or a tutor? Check out ABC Language classes.
This guest post was written by Elizabeth Zackheim, co-founder of ABC Languages.