Keeping up with a language

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Everyone says that the key to learning a language is to immerse yourself completely. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to move to France for five months to immerse myself in the French language. Every semester I’ve taken a language class at UC Berkeley, I manage to forget three months of hard work during the one month of winter break — or worse, summer break. If you are tired of spending the first three weeks of school playing catch-up, here are five ways for you to keep up on the language you are studying. 

For beginners: 

Read children’s books

If you are a beginner, the first method I recommend that worked wonders for me is purchasing a collection book of children’s short stories. These books are designed for beginners because of their short length, easy vocabulary and grammar structures. Reading just one short story a day can boost your skills in no time!

Check out a learning app

Download a learning app! I know you’ve probably tried this method before and gave up after Duolingo sent you the 10th owl reminder message to practice five minutes a day. However, building a learning app such as Babbel or Duolingo into your daily schedule can help tremendously with new vocabulary and practice. When school was in session, an easy way I fit Duolingo into my schedule was by going to class at the hour instead of at Berkeley time, and using the app until class started. During quarantine this summer, practice while you are waiting in line (6 feet apart!) at the grocery store.

Watch a Netflix show in that language 

Watch a show on Netflix in the language of the country you are studying! Put the subtitles on, and this will help you learn new phrases while enjoying a new binge series. 

Name that ingredient

As you are cooking meals, try to name whatever is in sight, whether it is a spoon, the refrigerator, an apple or a hamburger. This is a great way to pick up easy vocabulary skills! You can even practice “simple sentences” by doing this while getting ready: “I am getting out of bed. I am changing my clothes. I am getting back into bed because it’s too early.”

Check out a podcast 

Another great way to keep up with a language is to listen to a podcast for beginners. There are hundreds of different podcasts on the web for every single language. You can go about your daily errands as you pick up a few new skills and tips each day. 

For advanced speakers:

Read the news from that country

Begin by trying to read the news in an online source from the country you are studying. For example, if you are studying French, read the Le Monde!

Start a book club 

Message someone from your class and choose a book to read together. This way you can FaceTime or Zoom weekly to talk about the confusing parts. Think of it as organizing your own mini book club!

Listen to related music

This one is by far my favorite method … listening to music. Most lyrics can be found on the internet, and it’s a great way to practice listening skills as well as dive into the culture of entertainment. 

Keep a language diary

Keep a diary and write for five minutes each night about your day. This way, you can practice writing about everything you’ve done. This can help you practice practical phrases.

Look into a semester abroad 

Lastly, start planning a semester abroad for the next school year! Whether you want to go for half the summer or a full year, UC Berkeley offers a wide range of study abroad programs that are waiting for your enrollment! If you don’t want to spend any time away from UC Berkeley’s campus, plan a summer trip with your family members and be their tour guide with your skills. 

Whether you are just beginning to learn or whether you have a few years under your belt already, the key to maintaining a new language is to immerse yourself as much as you can. The more exposed you are, the more you will learn!

Contact Natalia Brusco at [email protected] .