1. Team upDid you hear about the boys who were learning Italian whilst playing rugby What a fun and imaginative way to learn language! Why not organise get-togethers that reflect your interests as well?! Cooking, drawing, football, cards, gallery trips...? It’s brilliant not only to help you brush up on your language skills but it’s also a good excuse to socialise (when you’re back home too) – so even if you’re not able to mix with native speakers, you could still meet up with other language students to maintain your skills.
2. Get writingHow about writing a daily journal or blog? That way you’d be able to improve and perfect your understanding of grammar and expand your vocabulary. Another great thing about keeping an online blog is that you can interact and make friends with native speakers online. Who knows, you might be able to pick up a more colloquial style of writing and a little slang along the way! Click here to start your online journal on ThirdYearAbroad.com.
3. Carry a notebookIt’s always handy to keep a notepad and pen with you at all times, just in case you come across a new word or expression or you have questions about something, you can jot them all down in your notebook and then ask someone later.
4. Make flashcardsAnother language tool you might want to carry around with you is a set of flashcards for vocabulary! They’re especially great if you’re a more of a visual learner and want a quick and effective way to refresh your memory while you’re on a bus or in a queue – why not choose a theme a day (e.g. magic) and try to learn 5 new related words (e.g. disappear, prestige, magic wand, illusion, sparkly tutu...)
5. Gear up your iPod!To get the hang of an authentic accent, search for informative language learning podcasts that you can download and listen to on your MP3 player. Don’t miss the ‘native-singing’ musicians on the radio and making a year abroad compilation disc of your favourite songs is a great way to remind yourself of your time away once you’ve returned home.
6. Translate your techWho says learning languages has to be boring? Have you ever considered playing computer games in a different language? Whether you’re a PC nut or a Nintendo aficionado, try purchasing games in different languages to test your skills. It’s also worth having your phone in the local language, for obvious reasons.
7. Watch and learnGo to movies without subtitles to test your listening skills. If foreign film isn’t quite your thing, why not get some DVDs and watch your favourite movie or television dramas with foreign subtitles or dubbing?
8. Get chatting on SkypeYou can use all kinds of internet messaging programmes to talk to people over the internet. We particularly like Skype because it’s easy to use and it’s also free! It’s a great way to keep in contact with people all over the world without running up expensive phone bills!
9. Read between the linesCheck out the local newspapers not only to find out what’s happening around you but also to get to grips with the grammar and language. If you not keen on reading those kinds of publications, don’t forget you can purchase foreign editions of many bestsellers. So if you’ve already read the epic adventures of Harry Potter in English; why not test yourself and read it in French next?
10. Notice the Notice boardMosey on down to your university notice board and you’ll probably find a flyer or two advertising for a conversation exchange partner; a brilliant way to not only perfect your own language skills, but to help a local master your language – you’ll both get loads out of it and who knows: you might make some really good new friends and discover someone who won’t mind proofreading your 5,000-word dissertation when you’re in final year!
11. Listen to local radioLearn languages subliminally by listening to foreign songs! Well okay, it’s not as simple as that but if you listen carefully, you may find yourself picking up interesting phrases and useful new vocabulary from the song lyrics. You can always have a look at our Youtube videos for songs and lyrics and you can also add some to your profile!
12. Take a creative evening class in the local languageWhether you have a burning desire to burn up the dance floor or become a gourmet chef, try taking some classes in your chosen language where precise requirements and instructions must be followed. With the guidance of a teacher, you’ll find your language skills will improve greatly!
13. Ditch that DictionaryIf you really want to improve your vocabulary then resist temptation by locking up your trusty dictionary and throwing away the key! When you’re stuck with a word, ask someone nearby what it means. If they reply with a synonym of the word, it’s an absolutely fantastic way to expand your vocabulary.
14. Lingo with the LocalsLooking for a shortcut to fluency? Throw yourself into the deep end and live with locals. You’ll find yourself picking up the subtleties of the language such as the slang, colloquialisms and even the accent. Improvements in all these areas will definitely add up to your final score when you hit your language finals.
15. Become an au pairIf you’re wondering how best to prepare for your year abroad, why not work as an au pair for a couple of months in your destination country the summer before? It’s a very rewarding experience and means that when you do finally commence your year abroad, you’ll not only have a home away from home; but you’ll be able to integrate easily with locals, since you’ll have already gained a good foundation in the language and understanding of the local culture.
16. Remember!Don’t be afraid to speak in the local language and try to be less self conscious. You will make mistakes but that’s to be expected! So learn from them, it will help you make great strides in your language learning.
Check out our language games, find friends to practise with online and learn all about Skype here!