How Not to Lose Your Language Skills this Summer!
Elizabeth Blood, world languages and cultures
Language students know as well as educators that time off from studying a language makes reengaging in language acquisition that much harder when you return to it. As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s why it is important to continue your language studies in the summer, whether you choose to do so formally—in a course or study abroad program—or on your own.
If you prefer the structure of the classroom, the department is offering intensive elementary and intermediate language courses on campus this summer in all seven of our language options (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Latin, Italian, or Spanish), as well as advanced and graduate level options in Spanish. For a real immersion experience, we also offer short-term study abroad programs in French (Quebec), Italian (Florence) and Spanish (Costa Rica or Spain) that offer six to nine credits at any level, beginner through advanced.
If you can’t afford to travel or prefer the informal route, there are many ways to engage with authentic language output and keep your brain in language-learning mode:
- Foreign films or TV shows: Commit to watching at least one film per week! Make it a weekly event with a friend or family member. Turn off the subtitles if you are an advanced-level language student. You will be amazed at how much you can understand and will be challenged to learn new words and expressions. There are also Spanish-language and French-language TV shows available on basic cable in Salem (channel 96 is a French-language TV channel from Quebec), and you can purchase channels in other languages through your cable company, or order TV series on Netflix. TV shows are typically shorter than films, if you are crunched for time, and offer a storyline you can follow from one week to the next.
- Online news: Watch video news broadcasts or listen to online news in a foreign language. Watching videos of news broadcasts will help give context to what you are hearing, through images and story titles. Some online news sources, like Radio France Internationale’s “Les infos en français facile” (rfi.fr), offer news broadcasts simplified for foreign language learners.
- Blog or Online Group: Find a blog in your target language that you read on a regular basis or start writing a blog yourself. Alternatively, join a Facebook group like the ones our department sponsors (Spanish Club @ SSU, French Club @ SSU, Italian Club @ SSU, etc.) where you can read, write, and explore short texts or links posted by others.
- Join a Conversation Group (or Create Your Own!): Salem hosts numerous conversation groups that are open to anyone in the community. The Richelieu Club of Salem hosts monthly French dinners at the Hawthorne Hotel, an Italian conversation group meets regularly at Caffè Graziani on Washington Street, and a Spanish conversation group meets twice a month at the Salem Athenaeum. You can also search for other language practice groups in your area at MeetUp.com. Afraid to speak with strangers? Get a group of your classmates together to form your own group over the summer!
- Download Free Language Games or Apps on Your Phone: Search free language learning apps on Google and you will find numerous options!
- Read a book: Check out a novel or collection of short stories from your local library. Read a little bit each day, and read out loud if you can. You will see great improvements in your vocabulary and comprehension levels.
Remember, learning a language is a lifelong endeavor. Flexing the language muscles in your brain on a regular basis will not only help you to not lose your language skills, but will help to improve them over time. Use these strategies to keep learning new words and expressions and to acquire cultural knowledge this summer and in the future.