One of the biggest roadblocks that people come up against when learning a new language is simply time. Where do we fit all of that vocab practice when our days are already so busy? As someone who has spent years learning different foreign languages, it is really all about consistency and I can guarantee that we all have that little extra bit of time to dedicate to our linguistic prowess, whether we are long-time students or just looking to learn a few extra phrases in Spanish for our next holiday in Marbella.
Number One. Technology is your greatest friend!
Whether this is changing your phone’s language to German, or deciding to download a vocabulary-learning app like Quizlet, technology is a huge gateway for language learning. It is immensely ubiquitous and is a constant part of our lives and so is the perfect way to incorporate a bit of linguistic variation into our daily routine. I myself have found my TikTok overrun by German influencers and rather than calling my scrolling through it procrastination, I now call it revision.
Number Two. Authentic language.
We can all agree on one thing - sometimes language textbooks are not the most helpful. Sure, they can teach you the basics, but actual, real language? The real stuff that you hear out in the real world, on the streets? Not so much. This is why the use of authentic media - for example, TV shows, movies, music, etc from the countries of target languages - is so important. Instead of rewatching your old favourite anglophone TV shows, pick up something new! Culturally, you're also learning a lot and may even find yourself immersing yourself in the cultural background of a new country. For me personally, as a German and Spanish student, (these are for older audiences) La casa de papel and Deutschland 83 are undoubtably some of the best shows out there.
Number Three. Daily news.
Keeping up to date with local news and keeping yourself educated is a normal part of most of our daily lives. So why not make it part of your language learning? Naturally, this tip is directed at those who have a certain level of proficiency in their target language. However, if you are a student like myself and have hit a roadblock in your language studies, consistently exposing yourself to higher level language, such as in newspapers, is immensely helpful. This is what skyrocketed my Spanish in my first year of university and cemented my current abilities.
Number Four. Be realistic!
You are not going to learn a language overnight. This much we know. But I find that people can be unnecessarily harsh on themselves when it comes to memorising a list of vocabulary. That being said, being realistic is also understanding that you always have to have your learning mode on! Keep a vocab list, whether digital or in a notebook, as words pop up in the most unexpected of places. These are usually the most interesting ones!
Number five. Talk to someone.
Some people are lucky enough to have friends or family that will practise their speaking skills with them; this is not the case for everyone, but fear not! As embarrassing as it sounds, talking to yourself really does work. If you are practising your responses for a speaking exam or just saying words out loud, a little bit goes a long way. I myself used to narrate my morning routine, speak my thoughts out loud and even talk through my essays in German and Spanish and it really does help so much.
So whether you’re just looking to learn some new words or if you’re preparing for your C2 exam, I hope this helps you realise that even a little but of language a day, keeps the monolingualism at bay.
About The Author: Julia is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Modern Languages (German and Spanish) at the University of Cambridge.