The time has come. You need to use the foreign language you were learning for a couple of years. You haven’t used it for a year because there was no opportunity but here it is. You are in a cafe and this poor foreigner needs help in communication with the waiter. His credit card doesn’t work.
You try to make a sentence but the what comes out of your mouth are some random words with a strong accent. Your hands start to sweat. Your heart rate increases. The more stressed you get the hardest it is to speak the language.
Why is that?
Because you haven’t used it at all for so long. How to avoid such situation? How not to forget a foreign language?
I speak English fluently, Russian quite well and I currently learn French. I have no problems with English because I use it every day but keeping my Russian at a stable level and constantly improving my French is quite a challenge. Here are 5 methods I use in order not to forget foreign languages and to improve them. They work perfectly for me – check them out 🙂
How not to forget a foreign language? 5 proven ways.
This is a fantastic method, one of my favorite ones and very effective. What you need to do is to listen to audiobooks in your target language which you don’t want to forget.
I love this method. It’s much more effective than reading books in the language. In result you get used to the sound of the language. You can do it “in the meantime” in addition to other daily activities.
I listen to audiobooks in my car, which means I am exposed to the language for one hour every day. I also listen to audiobooks in public transportation or while doing household chores which don’t require my full attention.
Remember you don’t have to start with Shakespeare. Winnie the Pooh should do the job at the beginning 🙂 The only problem is that sometimes it’s hard to find an interesting book and well read. Some readers can turn an amazing book into a total disaster. But don’t get discouraged. In such cases use podcasts, news, radio…
It’s important to listen. By listening you can learn the language without cramming grammar and vocabulary. And you certainly can keep your level. I see that after a longer break in listening it is much harder for me to use Russian freely.
2. Language meetings, multi-cultural meetings etc
It’s an amazing initiative which does help not to forget the language and improve your level a lot. It also helps you break the communication barrier. What’s more, you can meet a lot of interesting people there. In many big cities (and smaller towns too!) language meetings or multi-cultural meetings take place.
People speaking a given language come there in order to practice together. Your level is not important, you can meet both native speakers and the very beginners who can just say a few sentences but are willing to listen to others.
The meetings are informal with a glass of beer in a nice, friendly atmosphere. Nobody laughs at others’ mistakes or accent, the fluent ones help these who struggle. I attend such meeting in French and it really helped me a lot to break my communication barrier.
And the barrier was really huge, the thought that I have to say something in my broken French to a stranger or a native made me cover in cold sweat instantly, my hands were shaking, my face burning.
Now I can talk to a native speaker quite freely. I make a lot of mistakes but you know what? Nobody cares and nobody criticizes me for that. We can communicate.
Look for such meetings in your area. I’m sure that there are some organized at least in English (unless it’s England, USA, Australia etc… 🙂 ) and probably other languages as well. Even if you don’t find a meeting in the language you want to practice the most (like I didn’t find a Russian meeting) but you did find it in any other language which you know, go there anyway.
I’m sure you will meet people speaking other languages as well. It happens sometimes that I finish my French meeting speaking Russian to a Ukrainian or Armenian person whom I just met there… 🙂
3. Music and movies – on one condition
Listening to music and watching movies in your target language is a very popular method. Is it effective?
Music – yes provided that you focus on the lyrics, sing along with the singer and know what you’re singing :)) You have to judge your talent to tell if you can do this in public – I can’t so I tend to sing when I’m home alone or in my car (in which whenever I don’t listen to an audiobook in Russian, French music is on :)).
And then when I speak, useful words, phrases and grammatical structures just appear in my head. And then I realize I know them from a song 🙂
The same with movies. If you watch a movie in your target language with subtitles in another language you know better, it is harder to gain from it. It’s much better to watch a movie in your target language with subtitles in this language (or with no subtitles at all). But it’s still not enough.
The best thing to do is to grab a piece of paper and a pen and note some keywords or important expressions which appear in the movie in order to be able to tell the summary of the story after watching. And do it – tell it to yourself aloud (or anyone else if you find someone who wants to listen 😉 ). Our brains connect words to images very well, they will stick easily if you focus on them and repeat. Added value – guaranteed 😉
Technology helps us develop, it works for languages as well. Even though Skype is not my favorite method and I definitely prefer to speak in person I have to mention it, it’s very effective. Many of you met some speakers of your target language during your travels, student exchanges, internships, volunteering or work abroad. Or just on Friday evening in your home town.
Instead of exchanging messages on Facebook or Whatsapp, drink a beer with your international friend on Skype if you can’t in person. Firstly, it’s nice to talk and get to know the news about the other person. Secondly – you can practice the language 🙂
Except for this Skype offers you a lot of possibilities of language exchange. You can find a lot of people in the Internet who want to practice the same language. I can’t share my own experiences here because I’ve never tried.
A short explanation for those of you who don’t know what Couchsurfing is all about – it’s a website which connects travelling people. During your travel you may find yourself a host who will invite you to his place (to “surf his couch” :)), if possible spend time with you, show you around, talk with you. You can also invite other travelers to your place.
How can we use Couchsurfing to help ourselves not to forget a foreign language?
There are three options.
Either you can host people speaking the language you want to practice or while travelling you can stay with hosts who speak it. For this you might want to learn how to write a good couchsurfing request.
But my favorite method is different. You can use Couchsurfing to look for people speaking your target language in your surroundings. The same way you look for hosts but in your home town or around.
Then you can contact some of them and propose a meeting for a beer to get to know each other, enjoy your time and practice the language together.
Couchsurfing gathers open-minded people eager to make new acquaintances. You don’t have to be afraid that someone will be suspicious or angry about your message. People register on Couchsurfing in order to meet new, interesting people. Before contacting someone you can read their profile and look for people with similar interests.
You just learnt the 5 methods how not to forget a foreing language which I use almost every day. In result if a foreigner needs help in communication with the waiter when his credit card doesn’t work., you won’t say random words with a strong accent. You will help him solve the issue. With no stress 🙂 And if you’re still stressed, check these methods how to break your language barrier.
Do you know any other methods how not to forget a foreign language? Let me know! But we both know that in a lot of countries you won’t be able to communicate in any language you know. Learn these 4 tricks helping travellers communicate with locals. And your life will be easier 🙂
If you liked this post please use the buttons below and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+! Thanks!