(before you start, I am very aware of the formatting issues and I am working on it!)
No matter what level you are at, starting to use it as much as you can when you are not used to it can be challenging. That being said, some of the techniques can be reaaaaally disheartening for beginners so I went ahead and precised the estimated level for which it would be the most comfortable to start (if you’re above, then of course you can still use them).
If you are a beginner and you want to try something for fluent people, go ahead. But if it doesn’t work for you (yet!), please please please don’t be discouraged as it is not the reflection of your skills (and your current skills are not the reflection of your worth either).
This is a non exhaustive list. I might make a part two as other ideas come to me, but until then, if you have other techniques, leave them in the comments below!
Use it as a tool (intermediate to fluent)
Wanna learn something new ? Why don »t you try to find information in your target language ?
This might sound a bit strange, so let me explain.
When I was in university, one of my Japanese teacher told us about exchange students that improved the fastest. To my surprise, it was not the students who went to Japan to learn Japanese, but the students who studied something completely different in Japan who improved the most and the fastest.
So why is that ?
Because mastering the language is not the goal in itself. It is a necessary step to complete their goal, something they can’t do without. This need to master it in order the language for an other purpose makes you improve faster.
A more detailed blog post about this particular topic will be coming soon. For the time being, just remember that it works. 😉
Teach the basis to complete beginners (intermediate)
They say the best way to master something is to teach it, and it is absolutely true. Even if you are already at a high level, it is not a waste of time as reviewing the basics can do no harm. If anything, it reinforces the foundation of everything you know. Something might click, something might become clearer in your mind, you might also make some links to something you only learned recently. You never know.
But be careful that you do know what you are talking about. If you try to explain something you are yourself learning, it will backfire. You’ll be confused, the other person will be confused, and both of you might remember something wrong.
If you’re trying to improve a certain knowledge, only use it as an exercise or training. Explain it to an imaginary person, stuffed toy, a baby, yourself, or even better, to a friend/family that doesn’t need that knowledge (a real person will ask you questions if they don’t get it, forcing you to really think thoroughly about it). Make sure that if you use this method as a way to remember what you are learning, you check at the end what you got right and what you might have gotten wrong.
Immerse yourself (beginner/intermediate)
Set your phone language to the one you are learning (memorize how to change the setting in case it becomes confusing and you cannot find it again). You can also set your Facebook account in the target language, try to speak to yourself in that language, try to write a diary (even two sentences) every day or so… If you are a beginner, you can stick post-it to objects to remember basic vocabulary like « table » or « wall » and so on.
Watch the foreign TV channels (or watch it on the internet), listen to foreign radios even if it’s just the sounds.
Find someone to talk to (intermediate/fluent)
If you live in a big city, maybe do some research to see if there’s any community of people that speak your target language, or you can ask the nearest university about exchange students. But even if you are lost in the middle of nowhere, it’s still possible thanks to the internet.
You can join Facebook groups, follow people on social media, try to read tweets without using the automatic translation, watch Youtube videos, join a fandom community of something you like (be « careful » for movie/books/series fandoms though. It might be confusing at first because of specific vocabulary may change. The most obvious one being Harry Potter with words like « muggle », house names….)…
I’m sure some of you have made online friends that way. It’s the same but in another language. You’ll be using it without realizing, not for the sake of learning that language, but for the sake of exchanging with someone who has the same tastes as you have. And that, my friend, is the best way to learn.
Don’t befriend people just for them to help you. It never ever ever last (and doesn’t help either). Genuine friendship is the best.
(Coming soon : the problem with language partners app (trust me I’ve tried it))
Watch movies in your target languages (beginner/intermediate)
and Read books in your target language (intermediate/fluent)
The key with that is to go progressively. These techniques are a bit similar but I have a detailed step by step method you can use so I thought I would dedicate a whole article for it. Stay tuned for the next one because I’ll be going through the entire process !
These are only a few methods and you don’t have to use them all everyday, but you still have quite a lot to work with.
There will be probably a part 2 to this list in the future, but in the meantime, I hope these tips are helpful in some way. Feel free to share yours in the comments, I can’t wait to read your take on this.
Good luck !