Learning a new language is never easy. What can be harder than learning, however, is keeping up your new language once you stop taking class or practicing. If you happen to be learning a language on site in a country where it’s spoken, you never leave the classroom. Sometimes it can be hard to work up the courage to converse in a language that is difficult or new for you, but in general the day to day of being in a place will make you speak a little more often than those learning a language remotely. My case is that I have a month long winter break coming up, separating two semesters of German and Russian classes. This month is of course filled with family time, travel, and relaxation so I’m a little worried about letting my languages slip in between. For those of us taking a break, or even those choosing to learn a language outside of the classroom, what sort of methods and resources are available for practicing?


First of all, I recommend to you this blog. On Fluent in 3 Months, Benny offers lots of inspiration for quickly picking up languages. Though his method usually involves being in a foreign country, he still has loads of tips for practice, which you might find quite helpful.

My next piece of advice is to definitely find people to speak with! Call up your Polish-speaking granny or skype your old Erasmus pal from Germany. If you have been taking classes, try to get contacts of your classmates, they’ll most likely want to practice over breaks too. If you don’t personally know anyone speaking the language, there are lots of forums for finding folks. Couch surfing has groups in most cities that meet up for language shares. Other websites like craigslist might have posts for community language groups. A good google search of your city name and the language might link you up to some cultural institutions that will most likely have mixers, dance or music performances, and other events.

Besides speaking, I like to bombard myself with the language as often and in as many mediums as possible. First, watch movies in your language of choice, with subtitles in your native tongue if you like. Find streaming radio or news channels in your language. Read articles or books. Start with children’s stories if you’re still just beginning. I try to find any local link to the language and culture. For instance, going to all the nearby restaurants specializing in German food and seeing how well I can read the all-German version of the menus, or catching a San Francisco version of Oktoberfest earlier this fall. Besides practicing the language, it reminds me of some of the reasons I was inspired to learn in the first place!


And of course if you are on a break and it’s within your means, I can’t recommend enough that you travel to a country where your language is spoken! Meeting people and learning colloquial phrases and slang is indispensable. Even 2 weeks of being away can have a profound effect on your understanding of another language. If you love your time abroad, it will be added inspiration to press ahead and keep learning as well!

What do you do to keep up your language skills while still at home?

post by Jackie Clark