3 Ways to Sharpen Your Language Skills Outside of Class
There are a thousand different reasons why you might want to learn a new language abroad. Maybe it’s a steppingstone to the next stage in your career. Or maybe it’s a way for you to travel the world with more ease. For some, learning a language is a way to connect with their heritage—to learn the language of their ancestors.
No matter the motivation, it’s a noble pursuit. And it comes with many benefits, both professional and personal. Did you know that being bilingual can make your more creative? Or that it helps ward off dementia later in life?
It connects you with different cultures, different lifestyles. And you come out of it more open-minded and more experienced.
So how can you use all the amazing experiences and opportunities you have abroad to enhance those language skills outside the classroom? Let’s take a look at a few worthwhile ways to put those new skills to good use.
1. Volunteer in the community
Did you know that one of the most significant benefits of learning a new language is an improved sense of tolerance? Tolerance manifests in a number of different ways, and understanding a foreign language makes you more empathetic towards different cultures and customs.
One of the best ways to hone that tolerance is to be active in the community you’re studying in. Find out what charities are working to ensure the community thrives and see if you can help you. Not only will you be able to work directly with the locals, but you can practice your new language skills. You might even be able to pick up more of the local slang!
To find out what volunteering options are available in your country, you can check out the following resources:
- UK – CharityJob
- USA – Volunteers of America
- Australia – Go Volunteer
- Ireland – Volunteer.ie
- New Zealand –Seek Volunteer
2. Join a local sports team
Have a deep seated love for football? Or maybe you always wanted to learn how to play a nationally adored sport like rugby or baseball. There’s no better time than now, especially when you’re in a new country and are eager make connections with the locals.
When you join a sports team, you’re extending your network beyond just your classmates and teachers. You’re meeting native speakers, which means you have plenty of chances to test out your new skills, ask questions and get real-time feedback on how your skills are improving.
Of course, we wouldn’t recommend doing this on day one of learning the language. But once you feel a bit more comfortable with the basics (and feel confident speaking conversationally outside of the classroom) you should absolutely get involved.
You’re exercising your body and your mind, and by putting your skills in a practical context, you’ll retain more than you would just studying on your own.
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3. Start a book club
Let’s be honest, nothing’s better than a truly great book. So, what if you could read some of the great international works of literature in their native tongue? Imagine how proud you’ll feel when you understand the little nuances that are only evident in that original language.
Of course, learning a language isn’t just about reading—it’s about speaking it in practical situations. But if you join (or start) a book group where you can read together and then discuss the work, you’ll be able to start a shared language experience.
And there are plenty of benefits to exercising your language muscles through reading. Learning language through literature promotes metacognition and helps you to visualize the communication of words that are actually used in that language. It’s more than just simple conversations about travel and buying groceries—it’s realistic interactions that help you build a mental context around the words you’re learning.
Of course, nothing beats good old-fashioned conversation
It’s simple: the more you use the language, the faster you’ll become fluent. So, remember to surround yourself with situations where you can put your skills to good use. Whether that’s through volunteering, playing sports or reading with friends—that’s all down to you.
So get out there and start learning by doing. You’ll have it down before you know it.