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With three-ish months of freedom from school and projects and exams, you’re sure to have plenty of time and brain power at your disposal. So do yourself, your brain, your career, and your personal life a favor and take on a new language this summer. Not convinced? Here are 10 good reasons to learn a new language right now! Go read that, I’ll wait right here…
Now that you’re on board, how should you go about learning a new language? Lucky for you, we at Transparent Language have a little experience when it comes to learning languages. Here are a few of our favorite ways to immerse yourself in a new language this summer, from tried-and-true methods to a few unorthodox practices:
1. Invest in an online course: We’re all for diving head first into a language, but you may want to test the water first. Starting with an online course will provide the structure you need to get started and keep going. Why online? Because it gives you the flexibility to learn whenever you want. If you feel inspired to learn some vocab at 3am, nothing is standing in your way! If a spontaneous beach trip interrupts your day, you won’t have to worry about missing a class or lesson. You can learn at your own pace, on your own time!
2. Learn on mobile: Ideally, you should be studying for 20-30 minutes every single day. But let’s face it, summer is the time for traveling, spending the night at a friend’s house, visiting relatives, and doing whatever else you feel like doing. So what if you’re out and about and you don’t have your favorite language book or online course? Chances are, you’ll have your phone or tablet with you, for which we recommend Transparent Language Online.
3. Change the language on your devices: Now that your phone is your BFF, change the system language into the one you’re learning! While you’re at it, change over your Facebook, too. At first it may feel strange, but over time, it will become second nature and you’ll pick up on a number of new tech-related words (like, share, send, delete, etc.) These tiny bits of exposure each time you pick up your phone or log on to Facebook that will keep your brain engaged and prompt you to begin thinking in the language more often.
4. Watch children’s TV shows: Scour YouTube and Hulu for children’s shows in the language you’re learning. You may feel a little silly, but the vocabulary and language use will be simple—perfect for a beginner! The visual element will provide context and keep you engaged, and you just might find yourself invested in the plot.
5. Read comics and kid’s stories: Along the same vein, stories written for younger audiences are great resources for beginners in a language. The simple plot lends itself to simple vocabulary and shorter sentences, giving you a chance to walk before you run.
6. Listen to music: Music is one of the most enjoyable gateways into a language. Search the world music sections on Spotify, Pandora, or Last.fm to find artists you enjoy, and shuffle some of their songs into your summer playlist. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics of a song, just hearing the language will help you pick up on sounds and individual words. You may find yourself enjoying it so much that you want to look up the lyrics and learn more!
7. Subscribe to blogs: Read language and culture blogs for grammar lessons, new vocabulary, and cultural insights. After all, what’s the point of learning a new language if you know nothing of the cultures in which it is used? Learning about traditions, travel destinations, and current events in your country of interest will keep you motivated on the language-learning front.
8. Hire a tutor or take a summer class: If you have really lofty goals for your summer language-learning fiasco, working with a tutor or teacher will definitely give you a leg up! It forces you to spend a certain number of hours each week engaged with the language, and you’ll have a language expert at your disposal for questions!
9. Celebrate foreign holidays: Learning a new language doesn’t have to be all studying and reading, though. Research holidays celebrated in your country of interest and have a party! That’s what summer is for, right? It will give you a chance to learn about the history and traditions associated with that day and share it with your friends. Chef up some traditional foods, watch YouTube videos of the celebrations in that country, listen to traditional music, dress up in costumes, and just have fun with it.
10. Exchange letters with an international pen pal: Depending on your proficiency level at the beginning of the summer, or how much progress you make in the first few weeks, consider signing up for an international pen pal! Services like InterPals will match you up with someone your age, and you just might find someone who will help you practice your language skills.
11. Use the buddy system: Spending an unlimited amount of time with your friends is undoubtedly one of the best parts of summer! Work double duty and convince one of your friends to learn a language with you, so you can improve your skills together while tanning at the beach, baking cookies late at night, or doing whatever it is you feel like doing that day. Learning with a friend is motivating, holds you accountable, gives you someone to speak to and share resources with. Not to mention it gives you a pretty good excuse to hang out all the time!
12. Find a relevant summer job: Surely you can’t spend your entire summer lazing around (or maybe you could!?), and who doesn’t need some spending money? Look for summer jobs that might give you the opportunity to practice your new language, or meet people who speak that language. Learning Mandarin or Hindi? Apply for a position at a Chinese or Indian restaurant. There’s no better place to find native speakers with whom you can test out your skills and learn new expressions.
13. Explore community resources: If you haven’t visited your local library, you’re missing out. Most libraries have a foreign language book section, CDs and tapes, even some even offer free online courses. Depending on where you live, your library may also sponsor cultural events, so go check out what’s available to you!
14. Take a language-related staycation: The best way to immerse yourself in a language and motivate yourself to keep learning it? Surely that would be traveling abroad where you can use it on a daily basis. But, if that kind of travel isn’t in your cards, you can still plan a trip and have something to look forward to! Look for cultural festivals, international film nights, relevant museum exhibits, concerts, foreign cooking classes, or whatever else may interest you. Live in a small town? Search for events in the bigger cities in your area, and turn it into a road trip instead of a staycation.
15. Go to language camp: Really want to get away and practice, but can’t afford to go abroad? A simple Google search for “summer language camp” brings up more than 180 million results, so it’s safe to assume there’s an option out there for you. Many colleges and universities offer language immersions camps for several weeks or months each summer, and there’s a number of private organizations who host similar programs. The best part of escaping to a language camp for a few weeks? You’ll meet dozens of other kids your age who are also learning the language, so you’ll make some new friends to practice with when you return home.
Are you learning a language this summer? What else is on your language-learning agenda?