Linguists' New Year's Resolutions
Foreign language students from across the UK have been writing in to let us in on their own New Year’s Resolutions. Here are some of the very best ideas to improve your language skills and, best of all, they’re pretty easy to do...
1. Start your own blog
With great sites like Blogger and WordPress, with easy to use layouts and editing tools, you really don’t have much of an excuse not to...Even if it is just a post of a couple of lines, write it in your target language. Look for videos, photos, research your year abroad destination or post something about it if you’re back, speak of your favourite film/artist/singer...Have a rant, the world wide web is the best thing since sliced baguette, so make use of it. Plus it’s nice to make mistakes and have people kindly correct you, as opposed to getting marked down.
2. Become the next Trevor MacDonald
Most students read some sort of newspaper or get their news fix off the BBC’s website. What they usually don’t do is rewrite their own mini news report (or the full thing) in a foreign language. If you fancy getting into journalism, this could be a way forward. If you fancy making up news as you go along, hey, why not - just do in French/Spanish/German or whichever language you’re studying and you’ve got yourself some practice, for free. You could decide to keep them to yourself or post them up on a blog, too.
3. Follow, fan and feast your eyes on these
Yes, I might have made up a word there - but it was all in my linguistic emotional cry to the reader, by the means of alliteration. Right, so, back to where we were: social media. Twitter, Facebook and Scribd entitle you to a world of languages and communities, straight through your computer screen. You can follow your favourite language sites, such as Transparent Language, where you can hear about the latest news for linguists and language-lovers. Tips and hints about grammar, vocab, courses and much more at the tip of a finger. Fan pages on Facebook can prove to be really useful - why not try Erasmus. Scribd, on the other hand, lets you read up on foreign writing, from newspapers to magazines to literature. Get some followers too, if you sign up and post your very own creative musings, in English or if you’re feeling like getting some feedback on your language skills, in your target language.
Ok so this could go above, but we felt like it needed its own section. The stuff you can find on here ranges from the weird, wild and plain boring, but in between, you can come across some real gems...How about searching ‘Year Abroad’ and seeing what the subscribers have come up with? Or why not follow this lovely lady, as she passes on her year abroad survival advice:
5. Write a film, book or song review
But in your target language - you’ll learn new vocab and it doesn’t have to be essay-length, perfect. And with Blurb's self-publishing advice and platform, you might even be able to make some money from it! :)
6. Read a play (and act it out)
You don’t necessarily have to do this in a group, though it can be more fun that way! Plus you’ll get to hear different accents, intonations and such like, so you’re bound to improve and help others do so in the same way. Reading and voicing out plays gives you the chance to speak more fluently, as although you won’t get as much vocabulary out of it as in a descriptive novel, you’ll get the chance to learn how the language is laid out, cut, altered and shortened orally.
7. Say or think about what you’re doing in your foreign language
How do you say ‘I’m chopping an onion and cleaning the cutting board after’ in German? ‘Washing my clothes before it starts to rain’ in Russian? These are expressions you’ll need if you’re planning on moving to another country. Getting to know vocabulary for daily tasks is pretty basic, but you’re never taught them in class. Learn as you go about your tasks, the linguistic way.
8. Model your accent on your favourite foreign actor
This is a sure-fire way of getting you to gain a better accent, and all the while by watching, re-watching and forever watching shows and movies you love. You can practise a couple of sentences each day, in the knowledge that they are also grammatically correct. Or you could alternatively follow one or two actors, and swap their accents round - say, for example, someone from the North of France compared to someone from the South:
9. Switch your computer/phone/email/google to your target language
Might seem like another silly thing to do, but it does work. Plus if you’re abroad and something breaks down on your trusted laptop, you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about when you ring for help. Google search in your foreign language will also mean that you’ll come across far more articles from your chosen country. Even if you do end up ‘wasting’ half an hour looking through the first few articles, you will have been practising all the while!
10. Get a subscription to a magazine
Fashion in French? Fast cars in Italian? Cooking recipes in Spanish? Sports in German? Or you could go for politics, the news and something more serious - it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re reading about something that interests you in another language.
Bingo! Fluent in no time, and having fun whilst you’re learning. Read up about the best online resources for language-learners here!