Anyone learning a foreign language should set aside some time for self-study, engagement with the language, immersion, discovery or whatever else you like to call it. What takes place in the formal language learning setting during the allocated times is not enough if you want to make real progress on your language skills. Anyone learning a language and taking a language course needs to allocate time outside the training room to practise and develop the skills learned in the formal setting.
Practice makes perfect
Although you may not be assigned ‘homework’ between every training session, it’s important that you find the time to review previous lessons and any learning from them. It is only by reviewing your previous sessions in a critical way that you will be able to increase your comprehension and memorisation of new vocabulary and expressions you are learning. In order to memorise vocabulary items so that they can be used spontaneously, research suggests that you have to repeat each item at least 10 times. During training, your trainer will probably use activities that disguise repetition so that the process is not dull, so reviewing the activities you did in the session will help you to further engrain the new vocabulary and expressions into your language repertoire.
A web of language tools at the ready
Exposing yourself to the language you are learning as often as possible is one good way of getting used to its sounds. The internet has a wealth of reading material for all languages, so spend some time searching for the level and content of materials that best suit you. Reading articles and reports can also help you to expand your vocabulary and get used to the way the different structures of the language work.
Language learning can be fun
In addition to podcasts and articles, the internet also offers a wide range of fun activities and games which can help you to develop your language skills while playing something enjoyable. For those learners who have a higher level, there are foreign language radio stations, podcasts and videos. Try not to aim too high as you listen to these programmes as this can quickly demotivate you. Be sure you can understand a large percentage of what you hear so that you can develop your listening skills.
There’s nothing like the real thing
One of the best ways you can improve your language skills is by spending some time in a country where that language is spoken. Experiencing the real use of the language can be a very motivating experience and allows you to experience the language in ‘real’ situations outside the artificial environment of the training room. Having the opportunity to experience the culture of the country where the target language is spoken can give you added reasons for pursuing your training. A love of a language is usually closely associated with the love of a country where that language is spoken. The best way to experience a country and to practise its language at the same time is to stay in a family. This experience is open to all ages and can offer a combination of lessons and social experiences.
Among other benefits, immersion in a target language country can greatly improve your comprehension skills. Understanding the spoken language is vital as it holds the key to being able to participate in meetings, discussions or conversations. If you don’t have the opportunity to go to a target language country, then there are usually foreign language clubs you can join or online language chat forums.
No matter where and how you spend time developing your language skills outside the training room, the key to your success is not to be shy and stay determined. Get involved in as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ‘have a go’. The more you practise what you have learned in your language courses, the more you will develop your skills – leading you to greater confidence and competence in the language you have selected. Don’t let your language learning stop when you leave the training room!
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2012