Many, many years ago I starting learning French at school, and because I enjoyed learning it so much I have continued to practice and retain all that I have learned over the years.
Without a doubt, total immersion is the best way to rapidly improve in any language and reach proficiency – that would mean moving to a country where your target language is spoken for at least 6 months – depending on your current level. Nonetheless, when learning a new language or improving your current level, consistency is always key, wherever in the world you choose to reside.
Personally, I like to utilise different techniques and resources to maintain my level of French and ensure that I never regress but only progress. It’s equally vital to expand in all areas too (i.e. reading, listening, writing and speaking).
Below are some of my hints, tips and tricks that I hope you fellow language enthusiasts will find useful.
1. Vocabulary sites:
My favourite site for learning new words is Memrise because it is completely free – thank the heavens – and it is also possible to learn a great range of languages covering many different topics such as nutrition and health, common slang words, numbers, advanced, beginner or intermediate vocabulary, specific tenses, and the list goes on. There’s also an app which is pretty convenient too as you can practice whenever and wherever you have a bit of free time on your hands. Highly recommended!
2. Films + Videos
For the most part we all love to watch films because they enable us to escape and/or explore a new world, and watching films is a relaxing pastime, too, as it requires little effort and concentration – relative to our day jobs, that is. Because of this, it is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to actively learn a language without putting in strenuous effort.
It is a simple way to expose yourself to the sound, tone and melody of a language, understand how to properly pronounce words, learn a bit about a country’s social construct and culture, and other important stuff like common interjections used in daily life.
For the same reasons mentioned above, I subscribe to French-speaking Youtubers because I am, like most millennials, 100% addicted to Youtube. That said, it makes complete sense to turn a somewhat unhealthy obsession into a productive hobby.
3. Change the language setting on your device.
Some years ago I decided to change these settings on my phone, laptop and kindle because it has enabled me to pick up useful, everyday vocabulary that I wouldn’t otherwise come across – e.g. words and phrases like downloading, hang up, draft saved, Do you want to install the software update?, and many others that are intrinsic to technology but are otherwise impossible to come across.
Nevertheless, I would only recommend this tip to those who are relatively confident with technology because this change does initially involve a lot of guess work.
4. Research in your new language.
This is a fantastic lil’ thing that I’ve started to implement, albeit quite recently, as often as possible. We all use Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc to answer those small, and typically trivial, questions which need to be explained quite rapidly, and we do so very absentmindedly, too. However, by researching in your target language you automatically increase your exposure to the written language and force yourself to read different registers within the language because search sites provide you with a range of material – forums, articles, videos, published studies, etc. – that relate to what it is that you are looking for.
5. Language exchange groups
As I mentioned above, total immersion is the best way to quickly learn a new language. However, when that is not possible, finding a language exchange group or pen pal is an effective alternative because it gives you the opportunity to converse and connect with native speakers in a relaxing and safe environment.
In the past I have been to a few exchanges that I have found using MeetUp.com, and I’m currently a member of an international French learner’s whatsapp group where we exchange on a daily basis. Moreover, I like to use the app HelloTalk to speak with native French speakers and teach them a bit of English too. Interacting with others is vital for my progression as I get the opportunity to not only practice my pronunciation, use recently learned vocabulary and explore interesting idioms and sayings, but I get to meet different people from around the world without having to leave the comfort of my own home. Oh, the power of technology!
The tips and tricks that I’ve listed are things that I enjoy doing and have found to be effective, thus far. Still, it is crucial that if want to learn or improve a language you work meticulously and consistently on all aspects of your learning (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in order to see the greatest results in the long run.