Whether you’re learning a foreign language with a teacher or trying to improve your language proficiency on your own, making the most of your time is important. What can you do to achieve tangible results and speed up your journey? The answer is as simple as using the language in real-life outside of the classroom.
It's just like going to the gym a couple of times a week; it's great for your progress by itself, but if you combine it with regular morning exercise and stick to the right diet, you'll double if not triple the results.
Just go over these fun tips on how to improve your speaking, writing, and vocabulary through simple activities to establish a routine for yourself. Start making the latter part of your everyday life from today onwards and you’ll be improving in no time.
The simplest tip here would be this: surround yourself with people who can speak the language.
- Involve Native Speakers
This is certainly easier with international languages like English or Spanish. You can still, however, find ways with less common languages. Check it! italki even has someone teaching Blackfoot. One way is to volunteer as a tourist guide in the country of your language. Social networks can also be handy if you want to find foreign friends from practically any country. Finally, italki offers a wonderful opportunity to find language partners from all over the world.
- Involve Language Learners
Talking to people who are also studying the language can be a great way to go. One thing you can do is play the 30 Minutes Without L1 game with friends who’re also trying to improve their speaking skills. The rules are simple. When hanging out in a pub or a cafe, just make a resolution to speak only your target language for a set period of time and avoid uttering any words in your mother tongue (L1). You have to pay a fine (let’s say $1) any time you fail to do so.
Writing is not just about compositions and essays. You can improve your writing skills by following simple, routine tasks as well. The key word here is routine. The simple activities below need to become part of your everyday habits.
- Keep Diaries
First, decide on the content of the diary sections so that they suit your personality. You could go with topics like:
- My Day, What I'm thankful for today
- What I'd like to achieve today
- My ideas, observations and quotes
Try to have two or three sections to start with and decide on the regularity and the exact time for you to write in each section. You could, for example, write in the My Day section right before going to bed and in the What I'd like to achieve today section early in the morning.
Similarly, you might choose to fill in the My ideas, observations and quotes section every Sunday afternoon. Set a word and time limit. I'd recommend around 50 words within ten minutes for each section. You could then share your work with a friend or your teacher for a further discussion on the topics as well as a language review.You could also share some of your writing pieces in the Italki Community Notebook.
For related reading, look at what italki has to say on The Benefits Of Journal Writing For Second Language Acquisition.
- Make Use of Chats & Forums
Your language thinking develops faster if you use it in real-life situations talking about simple things that matter to you. In this respect, social networks are irreplaceable. Again, you could ask a friend to join you and chat with you in the target language for ten minutes, three times a week.
Just as with your writing skills, when it comes to vocabulary you should make sure you follow a certain routine.
- The Fridge Method!
Find an item or two in your house which is the center of your attention every now and then. This could be the fridge door, your mirror, your PC monitor or anything else. Then, stick word lists to them that contain pieces of vocabulary that are comparatively new and difficult to memorize. This helps you remember to test yourself every day. It's important to update the list once you feel you've memorized the vocabulary items and are able to make up sentences and situations using those.
- Fun Stories
At the same time, it's important to recycle your vocabulary once in awhile. Students often complain that they work on new vocabulary items but fail to actually use them in practice after a little time passes. So, do not throw away the expired word lists from your fridge or your mirror. Collect them and when you have around 40 words, make up a story while trying to use at least 30 out of the learned vocabulary that you’ve acquired. Do not try too hard to keep to a logical storyline. Often, it's more fun to have absurd stories with fun characters. Try to write down your stories within limited time periods: ten minutes is a good target. The time pressure and the random word lists will probably lead to pretty funny outcomes!
Finally, remember this: the clearer your timing is, the more routine your activities become and, most importantly, the more fun you have and the more effective your learning will be. Thank you for reading and happy learning!