Getting back to learning languages


Where do you start with language learning when you’ve had a break? Yes, returning to language study is exciting, but can be confusing as we don’t know how much we remember, if we have the right resources or enough motivation. I’ve prepared some ideas to inspire you to get back to language learning at basic level and more advanced levels. I’ll refer to all four skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Basic level

I think I would start really simple. Going through the alphabet, numbers, colours, simple verbs, and greetings. I would try to find simple videos (even for kids) where you can listen to the basics. I would read loudly some simple stories or phrases. To refresh vocabulary, I would prepare or buy  flash cards or a memory game. Then, try to imagine a conversation and use those phrases/words again. A good idea to practise writing is to write down the already memorised words/phrases, e.g. to practise writing months, days of the week, seasons. What sources should I use? I would useonline or self-made materials, unless you have some printed textbooks which you enjoy using. I wanted to refresh my French and use my secondary school textbook, but it didn’t work as it was too childish. I still enjoyed reading some texts from it, though. I have a friend who is raising her child bilingually (French and English) and when she speaks French I listen carefully and occasionally repeat what she says. I bought a book of French phrases which I read out loud, re-write and memorise (the book review is available here).

More advanced level

If your understanding is fairly good, then you have many options for how to refresh your language skills. My main advice would be to follow your interests. Let’s start with reading. I would choose a novel (maybe a translated novel, as usually it’s an easier read or maybe one you’ve already read in your first language), a scientific publication in the area of your expertise, or a magazine. I would try to read as much as possible without a dictionary (unless to check 1-2 words). Now listening. I would try to find a YouTube channel that provides some interesting videos or interviews, or you can follow your favourite sitcom/series if they have dubbing in the language you are learning. When listening, take notes of the phrases/words you found useful or didn’t understand. Once you’ve checked them in the dictionary, re-listen to the video to have a better understanding of them. Writing: Join a FB group or follow someone on FB/Twitter/Instagram and try to read their feeds and publish comments. If that sounds like too difficult a task, maybe consider writing an email or a text message to a person who speaks the language you are trying to learn. Now speaking. Join a conversation club or create one. Ideally you would have at least one native speaker to correct your speaking and provide some valuable feedback. If that doesn’t sound too appealing, then consider repeating loudly somebody’s speech in the language you’re learning (sentence after sentence).

How do you get back to learning a language? How do you maintain your language skills? Please share your comments below.

Kinga Macalla

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