Thursday, July 27, 2017

How To Keep Learning In Summer


Photo by Carol Blyberg

Summer is probably the best and the worst time for language learners. Summer breaks and vacations give you a lot of spare time. Nobody tells you what to do—no busy office schedule, no boring one-size-fits-all (or rather, one-size-fits-none) curriculum. You are finally free to do what you want, for example, start to read books in the language you are studying or watch movies or listen to podcasts that you had downloaded months ago. On the other hand, there are too many distractions in the summer time—everybody tries to catch sunny days on the beach, and there are travel plans that have been put off for so long and that grass in the backyard to mow and all those house renovation projects... It seems that people tend to postpone everything until summer, and when it finally comes, everybody gets even busier than ever.

Language learning, however, can't be seasonal. It takes consistency and persistence. However important your other summer projects are, it is necessary to dedicate sufficient time to languages—frequently and regularly—or else, you'll forget everything that you've learned before. Think about your language studies like an intellectual gym. You need to keep training your language muscles. Otherwise, you'll lose your shape. And just like with a gym, it is better to have short language sessions every day than one long and exhausting lesson a week.

Here are a few ideas on how to keep your language studies on track during summer.

Use language applications that offer language courses, flash cards, and language exchange chats.
Though applications alone are not sufficient for achieving language fluency, they are extremely convenient: they are always with you as long as you carry your smartphone, they remind you when it is time to spend another 15 minutes on languages, and they track your progress. Here is a list of popular language apps:

Language courses
Flashcards
LE and chats
Start a meaningful language project. Nothing motivates better than a pragmatic reason to carry on. Being passionate about languages helps in the beginning, but then the time for tedious, routine practice comes. When you have something useful to do, it is easy to convince yourself why you have to spend your time on that instead of having the usual summer fun. Your meaningful project could be a resume and cover letter in your target language, a few articles or a book about something that is in the field of your professional or personal interests, translating and learning your favorite songs in your target language, and so on. The rule of thumb is: do what you usually do, but in your target language.

Finally, you can find a personal tutor and take online lessons. As a language teacher, I hate to think about my work as enforcement, but, objectively speaking, it partially is (learn more about my lessons here). When you have booked an appointment with a teacher, it is more likely that you will arrange your chores in a way that will allow you to find an extra hour for a language lesson than when you learn on your own. Language exchange sessions with a native speaker help, too, but my experience tells me that the cancellation rate for lessons with a tutor is much lower than for language exchange sessions, where both partners don't take it seriously enough.

August is just a few days away. Make it the most productive month of the year, and the coming fall will reward you with the most pleasant feeling ever: a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.