Tips and tricks to help you improve your language skills
Maximise the benefits of passive learning through regular exposure to your target language:
- An easy way to improve your writing and spelling passively is by regular reading. Although books are probably a very obvious yet effective option, they can seem quite daunting to some, especially beginners. That is why I would advise to try magazines, as most have editions in different languages. It doesn’t need to cost you much either, since you can visit public libraries or go on the internet for magazine websites or even blogs.
- If you like listening to the radio and keeping up with the hit lists, why not try some channels in your targeted language? They will probably play the same songs, but you will be able to enjoy the radio-programme presenter’s short interventions.
Try to notice your targeted language’s presence in your daily life:
- In Belgium, most products bear texts translated in several languages, which can be an easy way to learn new words and expressions.
- If you walk around in Brussels, the advertisements are often displayed in different languages depending on the neighbourhood you are in.
For those who like to stay connected, technology offers many possibilities:
- There are loads of didactic apps to be installed on smartphones or tablets, which allow you to learn whenever and wherever you want.
- Social media are obviously a tool to meet people easily: why not join a group sharing common interests with you but speaking another language? This would allow you to put what you learnt into practice in an informal environment and to see how that language is actually used in a relaxed and natural context.
- Media consumption in your target language also helps to pick up new common expressions that are not always found in textbooks, as well as the musicality of a language, its accent and typical intonations. Indeed, the accent inside a word is one thing, but the melody in sentences is also very important, and paying attention to it can really better your speaking skills. For instance, if you want to improve your English, you can obviously watch movies or series in the original. At first, you would perhaps need subtitles in your own language, but I would actually advise you to try English subtitles as well. That way, even if you miss some words that went a bit too fast for you, you can still follow the dialogue on the screen while staying focused on your target language. And you are also enjoying your favourites shows, which is always a bonus!
Language is like a muscle: if left unused, it melts away. So by all means, even if it doesn’t all sound perfect, dare to open your mouth and actually use the language you are learning. Don’t let fear of not being good enough keep you from trying to actually become better. And last but not least: be kind to yourself. Don’t expect too much too soon, and allow yourself to make mistakes, as they are an essential part of the learning process. Focus on your achievements, stay positive, and keep learning, because being able to master several languages really is worth it!