20 Ways to Develop Language Skills Outside of the Classroom

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IES Abroad
July 17, 2018
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Summer break, a full course schedule, a semester internship. We get it. You might not always have the time to take classes for formal language instruction. However, you can make the most of your time off by trying out various techniques to maintain – and improve – your reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities.

Here are 20 ways to keep up your foreign language skills (or establish some basics) before you study abroad.

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Meet Native & Fluent Speakers

Expand your vocabulary, finesse your pronunciation, and learn cultural slang by regularly speaking with and listening to native speakers in your community. Practicing your speaking skills now may boost your confidence while you’re abroad, allowing you more possibilities to meet new people or see something you may have never discovered on your own.

  1. Sign up to meet with a language partner
  2. Join a conversation club or language meetup
  3. Befriend international students at your university
  4. Play sports with teammates or coaches that speak your target language
  5. Get involved with a local cultural institution or religious organization
  6. Volunteer with a local immigrant population
  7. Work a job with coworkers who speak your target language
a picture of products inside of the fridge with translation notes on them

Get ready for language immersion on your study abroad program by living life in your target language as much as you can now. Using your target language at home as you’re cooking, surfing the web, scrolling on social media, or completing school or internship assignments will make those tasks that much more natural once you’re studying abroad.

  1. Label items around your house
  2. ​​​Change the default language on your phone, laptop, and other devices
  3. Follow Instagram and Twitter accounts that post in your target language
  4. Switch the language settings on your word processor and other software
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Immerse Yourself in Media

Cultural understanding and language proficiency? Work smarter not harder by consuming media in the language you’re learning. Keep up on current events, indulge in pop culture, and learn from the local residents of your soon-to-be host country. 

  1. Subscribe to magazines and newsletters
  2. Read books at your level: novels, poetry, children’s books, or readers for language learners such as those by Fluency Matters
  3. Follow the news of the country you’ll study abroad in
  4. Listen to podcasts
  5. Invite friends over for a foreign film viewing party
  6. Create playlists
a picture of student's hands holding a phone with an educational application open

Take Advantage of Educational Technology

Even though you’re out of the classroom, your language lessons don’t have to end. Challenge yourself with daily practice, or better yet, challenge a friend and keep each other accountable.

  1. Rosetta Stone – once you’ve confirmed your spot on an IES Abroad program, you’ll receive free access to multiple language levels
  2. Download apps like Duolingo or Mango Languages
  3. Keep up on vocabulary with digital flashcards like Tinycards or Quizlet

Decide which language learning techniques interest you most, and set goals, whether it’s reading two news articles every day or having one extended conversation per week. Every little bit helps as you prepare to study abroad.

Which language will you learn when you study abroad? Discover programs by language courses they offer.

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