Like other skills, learning a language effectively means first working hard to acquire the necessary skills, but then working equally hard to maintain them. If you don’t ever practice and use what you’ve learned in a language class, you are doomed to forget it over time.
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It’s always a pity when hard work goes down the drain, so that’s why we’ve prepared some ideas for how you can retain that knowledge and those skills over a longer period:
🧑🤝🧑 Tip 1: Practice with native speakers
The best way to retain anything you’ve learned is to create an environment in which you have to keep using it. What better than periodic practice sessions with a native speaker of that language? This helps you by keeping you up to speed with the latest vocabulary, as well as how to use those idioms and other expressions you learned over the years.
More than that, regular practice with a native speaker will keep your ears better attuned to the language you are learning. There’s no better practice than that.
📺 Tip 2: Use all media at your fingertips
Back in the days when learning a language was all about textbooks, scary teachers and blackboards with conjugated verbs on it, there was little hope of gaining much meaningful practice outside of the classroom. The good news is that the old days are gone, and we are now 21st-century learners! There is a treasure chest of media you can put to work to help you keep on top of your game.
First, there are podcasts. Besides being free, podcasts are also extremely varied, offering something for everyone. Subscribe to a podcast and listen any time you are on the subway, or out for a run, or anywhere else you have a spare minute to use.
Next, there’s YouTube, another fantastic free resource chock full of fantastic short and long videos. Some will offer instruction, others might be clips of TV shows or the news that you can listen to and follow. There are even test videos on there to sharpen your skills before a standardized test you might be preparing. If English is your second language, a free practice TOEFL or IELTS test is an invaluable thing.
Outside of these, there are online magazines, websites, smartphone vocabulary apps and so much more. Learners from decades ago may have given their right arm for those kinds of resources!
🗺️ Tip 3: Travel
Sometimes what you need to keep your skills sharp is a bit of immersion. Taking a trip to a country where your second language is spoken is the perfect plan. It’s like having thousands of native speaker teachers working with you all at once. Every scenario becomes more real, and the pressure to communicate and make yourself understood is greater than ever. For many, that kind of pressure produces great results.
Furthermore, travel means that you get to use your language in multiple situations in a single day. This helps to bring out more of the full range of vocabulary and grammar that you have previously studied.
🎧 Tip 4: Listen to music in your target language
Music is sometimes the forgotten resource of language learning. Between all the podcasting, YouTubing and newspaper reading you can forget that there’s another great place that displays the full beauty and range of a language --- its music.
This is where 21st-century media becomes you best friend yet again. Apple Music, Spotify and other great apps all have huge catalogues of international music, and all available for instant download or streaming. Even if you only listen to one new song each day, you can find yourself reviewing vocabulary, adding new idiomatic and artistic expression to your repertoire, and even gaining some cultural nourishment in the process. You can’t lose.
📖 Tip 5: Try a novel in your new language
This one is more for those on the advanced end of the spectrum who are looking for some heavy intellectual stimulus. A novel in a foreign language represents a significant challenge to even the brightest learners, but the rewards are equally great. These books can transport you to an all-new level of understanding and insight, and will push your skills to the max. It can be arduous the first couple of times, but the steep learning curve keeps your skills sharp as a knife.
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