If you want to learn a new language—and really learn it—you have to practice speaking a new language in a real-life setting. The most obvious way to do that is to travel to another country where you’re forced to use the language in order to get around. There’s nothing like checking into a hotel room or asking for directions in another country that will make you focus on learning the language fluently!
Although travel is undeniably the most fun way to learn a language, and there’s no denying it’s effective, it isn’t the only way you can practice a new language in authentic ways.
1. Find a Pen Pal
Learning a new language can be difficult because you don’t always know if what you said was correct, or if your pronunciation is good. When you speak with a native speaker or someone who is fluent in the language, they can help you work through the kinks. That way they don’t turn into habits like they would if you practice speaking on your own or with other language learners.
If you live near a college, you may be able to find someone to schedule conversations with. If you don’t, you can always get a pen pal.
There are many ways to find a pen pal online. Once you have made a connection, you can practice your composition skills by writing messages and you can practice your speaking skills by video chatting. If you make friends with someone in another country, you may be able to visit them in the future!
2. Teach a Friend
If you’re relatively familiar with the language you’re speaking and you’re looking for more ways to speak the language in your everyday life, consider teaching someone else.
Teaching others doesn’t necessarily mean you have to teach a formal class, although you could teach a class in your community. Instead, you can teach a friend or two in your home every week. According to Preply, not only will your friends learn a new language, you’ll learn a lot too. Those who teach understand what they’re teaching better and they retain that knowledge for longer, which means you’ll get better at speaking and understanding it simply by teaching someone else.
Another benefit of teaching a friend is that as they learn how to speak the language, you’ll automatically have someone you can practice your language skills with!
3. Go to a Festival
Part of immersing yourself in a language is immersing yourself in the culture. Actually going there is one way to do it, but sometimes, the culture may come to you!
Keep your eyes peeled for festivals in your area that celebrate the food, music, and heritage of other cultures. From Latino heritage festivals to Italian heritage festivals, Chinatown celebrations, and more, you can likely find a celebration near you where you can learn more about the culture and put your speaking skills to good use.
4. Write Your Grocery List
Writing by hand is very powerful. Compared to typing on a keyboard, people who write by hand are:
- More likely to remember what they wrote
- Forced to slow down and think about what is being written
- Able to practice spelling skills
You should take every opportunity you can to write in the language you’re learning, but one of the best ways to do that is to start with your grocery list.
Everyone makes a grocery list! It’s a real-world way to integrate the language you’re learning into your everyday life, and it can help you expand your vocabulary with words that are relevant to your life.
5. Watch TV and Movies
Watching TV and movies is a great way to expose yourself to another language! Try watching your favorite TV show dubbed in another language, or watch a foreign film with English subtitles turned on.
Although you can learn a lot by watching, if you really want to practice your language skills by viewing TV and movies, there are other things you have to do.
For example, you should get out your remote and be ready to pause the show at a moment’s notice. This enables you to write down words or phrases that are repeated often, or new words that you haven’t heard before. Try and write down one word for every minute in a 30-minute program.
Once you’ve made your list, pick out the words that you might actually use in a conversation, commit them to memory, and practice saying them out loud.
6. Listen to Music
Listening to music is also a great way to learn and practice a new language! Try searching for music around the world and discover new artists, instruments, and tunes straight from the musicians who speak the language.
Just as it’s helpful to re-watch your favorite TV show in another language, because you already know what’s going on, it can also be helpful to listen to songs you’re already familiar with in another language. Try searching for covers of popular songs or listen to children’s songs, many of which are translated into different languages.
7. Read Books
You learn a new language the best when you immerse yourself in it. That means you’re speaking the language with other people, you’re writing in that language, and you’re watching programs on TV in that language on a daily basis. The only thing left is to read in that language!
Try reading books in another language. Start with children’s books if you’re just getting started, or read novels in that language if you speak it well. You can also perform a country-specific web search to find articles and content on the internet in other languages!
If you have the time and money to travel to another country to practice your speaking skills, by all means, do it! Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the only way to immerse yourself in learning another language. There are many things you can do closer to home that will enable you to become fluent in the language of your choice.