6 Tips to REALLY improve your language skills

Rendez-vous sur Hellocoton !

I cannot count the number of people I heard say they couldn\’t stand English or German or any language classes in my life, be it in junior high, in high school or in college. Languages are the window to an outside world we can only imagine, the wide open door to the knowledge of other people, to foreign makeup brands… but it\’s a fact : many people dislike these subjects (mainly talking about people in France here as it\’s the only country I\’ve ever really lived in).
As far as I can remember I\’ve always loved foreign languages – my dad started teaching me English when I was 3. I can only thank him today now that the long and often boring lessons have built a strong basis that allows me, amongst other things, to have a bilingual blog and to be eager to learn even more languages to understand how life is going abroad. Once you have the communication virus, you\’ll never get over it and for this fourth Back to School episode, I\’m going to give you 6 tips that you can use so that you can improve your language skills faster than with just two or three courses a week at school.
1/ Want it, friend !
It\’s really hard to learn anything when you feel forced to do so. You must want to learn something to really commit, and to want to learn something, you have to find yourself a goal. Find a goal that motivates you like traveling abroad, watching movies in their original version and wanting to understand what\’s being said, an Erasmus year or a job abroad…
2/ Trust yourself and your memory
You have to be deeply aware that you\’re going to make mistakes and try anyway : use your energy to learn, to try again and again rather than blame yourself for every little mistake. Being aware that we\’re not perfect and that we still have much to learn puts us in the right mood for whatever it is we\’re trying to learn.

Credit : Pixabay
3/ Work hard on your listening !
Listening to foreign languages is one of the most important things since you\’re going to build your pronunciation and accent according to the people you\’re listening to. There are so many songs (in English, in Spanish, in Japanese, in German – every language has songs that can help you learn faster), all you have to do is repeat them over and over to work on the most alien sounds that you don\’t have in your mother tongue. In English, those would be maybe \”th\” that becomes \”z\” or \”s\” in most French mouths or the\”r\” with their particular way of being pronounced.
Aside from the songs, watching movies or TV Shows or even short dialogs on YouTube can be a great help to improve your listening skills. There are also apps where you have to repeat the same sentence after a voice that corrects you when you pronunciation isn\’t correct.

4/ Read !
Harry Potter was the first whole book I read in English – maybe that\’s why our bond is so strong. It was really difficult and annoying at first because it seemed like all I did was look up words in the dictionary. Read as much as you can to swallow consciously and unconsciouly words and ways of speaking and writing… Getting used to what you\’re learning is really important if you want to remember it. Habit is a part of learning in my mind.
It\’s also very useful to learn plain words and idioms or even small texts by rote – that\’s something my dad taught me to do and it does work even though some people may hate this way of learning.
I also love writing small texts, fictional letters, lists in the language that I\’m currently engrossed in. Reading and writing really are an efficient mix to learn a language.
Credit : Pixabay
5/ Talking to yourself
When in class, we\’re often afraid to make mistakes lest we\’ll be laughed at. It can be very useful to talk to yourself at home, especially the most difficult sounds and words : it can help a lot in building dialogs later. When I\’m washing the dishes or cleaning up the apartment, I act as if I was talking to someone else and I invent conversations that allow me to work on the place of words in sentences and on my pronunciation. There are websites and softwares like ReadPlease that allow you to listen to a word or a complete sentence or text read by a black man or a blonde woman… that show you differences between the accent and you can check if you\’re saying the word properly thanks to those.
6/ Finding a penfriend
I\’ve had penpals since I was 10 or 11 and I can confirm that aside from being happy to get mail, reading your virtual friends\’ mail and answering it does help improve your language skills since you have to think about the sentence you\’re going to build, about the idioms and phrases and sometimes you even have to look up a few words in the dictionary… and you can also talk to a penfriend via Skype or through the phone, that\’s a great way of testing yourself ! What are your own tips and techniques to improve your foreign languages skills ?

Rendez-vous sur Hellocoton !

Previous Back To School Posts of 2016

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