Language learning is an exciting, inspiring and all-encompassing process. It is not a simple task of memorizing new words – a language should be lived, and incorporated into our day to day lives as much as possible outside of class. This makes the learning journey far more interesting, practical and enjoyable, leading to visible results and increasing confidence in the language.
So, what can you do in your spare time to improve your language skills? Our top language learning tips have been tried and tested by members of the IH World team and are sure to help you out too!
Read and Listen to the News
Engaging with the news in the target language is a great way to improve comprehension, especially via international news stories. You’ll usually have a rough idea of what’s happening in the world via newspapers and channels in your own country. You’ll therefore find that following those same stories in the language you’re learning is a great way of improving your vocabulary, as you’ll be able to associate new words with their equivalents in your own language relatively easily. Your listening skills will begin to improve too, as you’ll already have an idea of what is being discussed and will gradually be able to tune in to the speed, rhythm and intonation.
Even though you may be missing some context, reading and listening to national and local news stories in your new language is also a really useful exercise. It’s great for immersing yourself in the culture and learning more about the country's history, society and politics – particularly when that language is spoken in more than one country.
Some great places to start are the following, although there are many more examples: Spanish RTVE; Italian Rai News; French TV Monde; German Tagesschau. Try following these channels on social media to get even quicker access to foreign language news!
What better way to make use of your commuting time than by improving your language skills – this dead time more often than not goes to waste, so use it to your advantage! The Audible app is a great source of language learning materials that you can download and listen to on your phone; from verb tables and vocabulary lists to short stories and novels, your commute is a great opportunity to plug in, zone out, and fill your mind with your new language. You’ll have already achieved something before you even arrive at work - #winning.
Watch TV Series
After a long day in work, you’ll want some downtime, and to kick-back and relax – but why not do this in the target language? Netflix and Walter Presents are excellent sources of foreign language series, and trust us, some of them are epic! Subtitles are there to help you out with comprehension and new vocabulary – Netflix offers them in both English and the series’ original language. Foreign language series are perfect for tuning in to the language, getting used to different accents, and becoming accustomed to real life conversation styles, away from the more formal news style. They also require very little effort on our part, other than reaching for the TV control – perfect!
Find a Friend
However, learning a new language isn’t all bout absorbing the language via reading and listening, it’s about practical use too – we need to actually speak it. So why not find someone to practise with? Perhaps you have a colleague who speaks the language you’re learning – try and chat to them in the language. Even basic sentences (How was your weekend? Would you like a coffee?) go a long way in building your confidence. And the next time you’re in a restaurant offering your languages’ cuisine, try out a few words on the staff there – the menu can often help start you off, as dishes often use original language names (patatas bravas, penne all' arrabbiata). You can also find likeminded people who are learning languages and also keen to practise at Language Exchanges. Meetup is a great place to find events taking place near you.
Read. Listen. Speak. And Live... Living the language and getting practical with it is a great way of absorbing vocabulary and grammar. We’ve found that following recipes in a new language is a fun (and tasty!) technique of experiencing the language in context, which in turn really helps to remember new words and structures. Trying out recipes from different countries is also an engaging way to learn about the cultures associated with your new language. Here are some good examples for you to try out: Spanish Recetas.net; Italian Giallo Zafferano; French All Recipes.
Book a Holiday
Although not a day to day technique, it goes without saying that visiting a country where your new language is spoken is a must. It’s the perfect opportunity to test out your new skills, put what you’ve learned into practice and into context, and fully immerse yourself in the language and culture. Locals are always pleased when tourists try to communicate with them in their language, and having a successful conversation abroad will give you a real boost in confidence and inspire you to continue with your language learning journey!
Where Can You Learn a Language with International House?
Whether you're interested in learning a language in your spare time, or heading off an a Study Abroad adventure, IH has a wide range of options. Find out about language schools near you here, or get inspired by our Study Abroad opportunities in around the world.