News: Virtual Grad School: Tips for Maintaining your Language over the Summer
Posted May 20, 2020
Summer is finally here! It’s been a long year for our inaugural Master’s class, made even more challenging by a global crisis. In the last nine months, our graduate students have researched international media, achieved advanced abilities in one of six foreign languages, and gained hands-on work experience applying culture in workplace contexts. Now, in the home stretch, each student will spend the last two months of the program completing a project on their own.
Summer can be a challenging time to keep up your language skills. Without the structure of classes, it’s easy to go several weeks without reading or hearing anything in the language you’ve been studying. After working so hard to learn a language, it’s important to keep up your skills -- now and after you graduate!
Summer is the perfect time to build great habits that will help you improve and excel in your language after graduation and in your future career. In this blog post, we decided to share our students’ favorite strategies for practicing their language over the summer.
1. Talk regularly with fellow speakers.
Although meeting in person is not so possible right now, you can still communicate with speakers of your language of focus via Zoom, Skype, or Bluejeans. You can even chat with native speakers in a different time zone. If video calls aren’t your thing, try finding a penpal in your language of focus. It could be someone learning a language that you already speak, so you could help each other learn.
This works best when you meet regularly, such as once a week, or stay in contact regularly, such as through social media, to keep your momentum going and make the interaction meaningful.
2. Read books!
Since it’s difficult to go out and travel right now, let books become a vehicle to explore new places and meet new and interesting people. Reading in your language of focus also gives you exposure to native syntax and phrasing. You may even be able to pick up an idiom or two, and in addition, there could be some books that are so widely-read in your language that they have become common references in everyday speech. Reading these books will help you better think like a native speaker and will give you a deeper understanding of the culture you are studying.
When reading, pick out words that occur frequently and look up their meaning in a monolingual or bilingual dictionary. Writing summaries or describing the book to fellow speakers is also helpful to solidify your memory of the language in context.
3. Learn about your favorite hobbies in your language.
Everyone has a few hobbies that they enjoy doing and make life more fulfilling. Learning about how to talk about these hobbies in your language of focus is a great way to make the language learning process more fun. YouTube and online forums have tons of content on a wide variety of hobbies in any language, and you might even be able to find a native speaker to talk with or make some new friends! Following experts and organizations in your hobby on social media so that the content comes to you.
4. Watch TV shows and movies.
TV shows and movies are a great way to pass the time and/or take a break from your project research or the current situation, but they can also be a great resource for input in your language of focus! You might even be able to find a new favorite TV show or movie! Video series such as TEDTalks in your language of focus could also provide a similar experience. This is also a great way to learn about cultural and historical topics that you might be researching for your project. Avoid using English subtitles as much as possible. If you need subtitles, set them to be in the language of focus.
5. Keep a journal in your language.
To keep your language skills up, you have to produce language. It is not enough to read or hear the language, because these activities build your passive vocabulary (what you understand) To build your active vocabulary (what you can say), try to find ways to write in the language as often as you can. Think about the way you use writing in your daily life, and commit to doing some of that writing in the language. You could maintain to-do lists, keep a daily journal, write down favorite quotes, take notes, or have a group chat with friends.
6. Set a specific time of day to work on your language: daily practice is key!
Language ability can decline over time if you are not making sure to stay on top of it. That’s why daily practice is key when improving your language skills. Even 15 minutes a day, as long as it’s every day, will produce results. In order to stay on schedule and not forget about practicing your language, it’s a great idea to set a specific time of the day for language practice and/or enjoyment. Blocking off this time can also allow you to have “mini-immersions” where everything you consume during that time period is in your target language.
7. Subscribe to Newsletters in your Language.
Daily or weekly newsletters in the language from companies or organizations that matter to you are a great way to get constant exposure in your language! This is also a great way to learn about an industry or sector in a particular country, as you will get information about current issues in that context. This is a great way to have professional-level content come to you, and maybe even build your network!
8. Review quick grammar topics.
If you have some down-time during the day, use it to review and solidify quick grammar topics in your language of focus. This not only improves your language abilities, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment. Pick a textbook or bookmark a website you like, and take 10 minutes to review one grammar point at a time. You’ll be surprised how much you remember later on!
9. Persistence is key.
Learning a language is a lifelong process. There might be days when you don’t feel any results, or when your mind seems blank and forgetful. Don’t give up. Take a long-term perspective and stick with it. Whatever you do, make sure you’re having fun!
By Campbell Beadles and Jenny Strakovsky
Georgia Tech Undergraduates:
Summer M.S. Admissions now open!
For any current students reading this blog post, we'd like to remind you that Master's Admissions for Fall 2020 have been reopened. Our M.S. programs are open to anyone with intermediate-advanced ability in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, or Spanish. Georgia Tech students can take up to 12 credit hours of graduate courses during their B.S. studies.
Application Deadline: June 12th
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