Every summer, I’m faced with the same dilemma: How to practice my languages during the four month break so I don’t forget everything that I’ve learnt during the year. This summer, that question is even more pressing as I’m going back to final year, which is worth 80% of my overall grade. As a result, I’m more keen than ever to maintain the level that I acquired during my abroad. This is something that worries my course friends as well so I’ve put together a selection of advice on this matter. Here are my ideas on how to practice languages during the holidays.
- Watch TV and read in the target language.
For those of you with a Netflix account, you’ll be aware that this service hosts a wide range of programmes in foreign languages. From Casa de Papel to Ministerio del Tiempo, there is plenty on offer. Additionally, reading in a foreign language is also a good way of exposing yourself to the languages you study outside of class. Start with something you know well (for me, that’s Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal) and slowly build up to more complicated texts. By doing both of these regularly, you’ll be practicing your reading and listening comprehension in a way that won’t feel like a chore. For those of you studying French, keeping up with the French news is also a good idea as you’ll be ready for those pesky news reports when September rolls around.
- Dust off your grammar books
We all have them, those books that weigh a tonne, cost a fortune and we’ve only looked at maybe twice since we bought them. All the free time during the holidays make this the perfect opportunity to get some use out of them. Start writing up notes now and you’ll be ahead for when you have to sit your language exams, and they’ll help keep all those structures and tenses straight in your mind. I recommend A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spain and French Grammar and Usage for a comprehensive overview of all the main grammar points. Buy them second hand off eBay to save some money, I believe mine cost me £3 each.
Write anything, practice essays, news reports, a diary. It really doesn’t matter as long as you do so regularly. You can even kill two birds with one stone and translate your notes from point 2 into the target language as you make them. I also recommend that 2nd year french students practice translating news reports and other texts from the target language into English as this is an important part of language classes.
- Talk to yourself
Above I’ve offered ideas for practicing all the key skills related to language learning, save for speaking. This can be difficult if, like me, you live in a family with no knowledge of the languages you’re learning. During my year abroad, I tried to get into the habit of thinking in the target language as it made it easier and quicker to respond to the people around me. So, with a lack of people to practice with, I recommend practicing with yourself. You may look and feel crazy, but it’ll make speaking in the target language feel more natural and more comfortable when you return to class. Indeed, one of my friends claims this was a key tool in helping her learning English, a language that she is now fluent in so it must work!
So, there you have it, a few tips on how to keep up your language practice while classes are out for the summer! My final advice is to try to find a healthy balance, the summer is a chance to rest and recover after all! If you have any questions or anything to add, be sure to leave me a comment below!