You’ve gone from speaking up a storm in your second language, to forgetting simple words and phrases in a few months flat. Yikes! It may seem like your newly acquired skills in your second language are doomed to wither away after returning home. However, that doesn’t have to be the case! Here are some tips and tricks on how to maintain language fluency when you return home from living abroad.
If you’re looking for a formal, structured way to practice your second language, register for a language course at your university and hit the books! Taking a class in your second language every semester is great because it guarantees you the opportunity to speak and read in your second language for a few days a week, a couple hours at a time. Taking a language course or two will also help you build upon what you already know by teaching you more vocabulary, grammar rules, or even perfecting your accent.
If you choose to make your language studies into a minor or major, even better! This sign of language mastery will make you more marketable when you graduate by distinguishing you from your monolingual counterparts.
Language clubs and language tables
Some language departments at universities host weekly “language tables” weekly. This is where students of all levels of language come together to practice and converse in that particular language. In addition to weekly language tables, seek out a language club! Joining a language club is not only a great way to practice the language, but also to get the opportunity to host or participate in cultural events on campus related to that particular language.
If your university doesn’t offer a language table or club in the language that you would like to practice, create one! There is a very good chance that there are other students and faculty who would love the opportunity to come together over a language that interests them.
You can also check to see if there are language groups in your community. There may be a group of people who meet at the library, community center, or local school to practice a language. To find out if there are intercambio groups at the community level, you can ask a language professor at your school, the staff at your local library or community center, or other leaders in your community.
Incorporate the new language into your everyday activities.
Combining your second language with your hobbies will provide you with plenty of opportunities to stay sharp. If you’re a music lover, try adding some international flavor to your music playlists. If you can remember at least one artist you liked to listen to abroad, or a song that you heard repeatedly on the radio or out on the town, music apps like Pandora and Spotify can recommend similar artists. Listening to music and singing along is an effortless way to to use and not lose your second language.
You can also channel your inner film critic while practicing your second language. If you’re watching an American movie, switch on subtitles in the language that you would like to study. Hearing the dialogue in English and then reading it in the new language will help build your vocabulary and reading comprehension in the target language. If you would like more of a challenge, find a film where the characters speak in your second language. At the beginning, turn on the English subtitles, and only read them to piece together the meaning of sentences that you didn’t quite understand. Eventually, you’ll find yourself needing to read the English subtitles less and less.
You could also do something as simple as change the language setting of things that you use everyday. Facebook has a number of languages that you can view your account in. Because you’re probably already familiar with Facebook, navigating Facebook in another language might not be as hard as you think. You could also change the language setting on your GPS! This is a fun and slightly challenging way to stay sharp on your second language!
Lastly, hop on the internet! There are many great resources on the web to help you practice a language. Youtube is an especially good resource. There are several Youtube channels that are dedicated to help people learn a new language. In addition to informational videos, you can also find Youtubers who create casual content that speak in the language that you want to brush up on. This is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with a particular dialect, or learn an informal way of speaking that language.
There’s an app for that!
In the age of smartphones, there’s truly an app for everything; Even practicing languages! Downloading a language learning app means that you can practice a language virtually anywhere. Language learning apps are also very handy because they allow you to learn at your own pace. Here is a list of some language learning apps deemed “outstanding” by the Huffington Post.
Volunteer in an English as a Second Language class.
Volunteering as an aide to an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher is great way to come in contact with your second language on a regular basis while giving back to your community. There are a variety of settings in which you can volunteer your time. You can work in a school setting or with a non profit organization that provides English classes for immigrants. You can also work with children or adults. These are just a few of options that may be available in your community. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service webpage allows you you to search for English language learning resources in your community by typing in your zip code, making it a fantastic place to start your search for volunteer opportunities.
(Side note: Assisting an English teacher back home will also give you an idea of what it might be like to teach English abroad).
Chat with friends.
If you’re afraid that you’re slowly losing your language fluency, keep calm and stay connected. Use apps like Skype or WhatsApp with friends that you made in your host country, and ask them to only speak to you in their native language. If you stayed with a host family, chat with them, too! These two ideas allow you to catch up and stay connected with the friends that you grew close to while living abroad with an added bonus – Staying on top of your language skills.
Realizing that you’re losing your language fluency can be very frustrating, but incorporating some of these tips into your everyday life will help you maintain your level of fluency, if not help you build upon what you already know!