After more than half of a decade of classes with occasional breaks and six months spent in Mexico, I have finally managed to speak Spanish with a certain fluency. But now that I am back in Berlin, after using this language on a day-to-day basis, I feel like something needs to be done so that all of the knowledge doesn’t get lost on me.
The best way not to lose one’s language skills is to use them. In today’s blog post I want to share with you some of the steps that I have taken to do exactly that. While I am specifically working on my Spanish this is actually suitable for any language you may be learning. Some of the points however, may be best once you are at an intermediate level.
1. Pick the original over a translation
This applies to watching movies as well as reading books or newspapers. Since I am at the appropriate level, I try to read books in their original versions rather than their German translations and get out of my comfort zone. I find that especially useful since none of the narrative experience can get lost in translation. This step may be a bit tough at first so it is always a good idea to start with a book or movie that you particularly like and as you become more confident to move on to other content.
To keep up with the events in Mexico I also try to read the local newspapers online since many of the things happening don’t get covered by the international news agencies.
I also tend to look for recipes in Spanish when I want to cook or bake something from a Spanish-speaking country.
2. Find a tandem partner or just someone to talk to
At my university there is the option to sign up for a tandem database. Tandem or language exchange is based on the idea of people practicing languages through conversation. Looking for someone who speaks Spanish, I can in turn offer German or Russian. The tandem partners then meet at least once a week to talk to each other in the languages they are learning. One hour of talking in Spanish and one hour of talking in German or Russian in my case. Since no one from the university has gotten back to me yet, it is also possible to find language exchange partners via Facebook groups or the events section of couchsurfing.com.
3. Take a class and set a goal you want to reach with it
While living in Mexico I have noticed that a direct immersion into a language and a culture in which it is spoken can be more effective than just taking classes. Learning in a classroom is nevertheless a good start to get a foundation and basic knowledge of a language before traveling or going abroad to use it. Now being more fluent in Spanish, I decided to invest in taking classes at the Spanish Institute of Culture in Berlin to get a language certificate at the C1 level. Compared to regular classes, the prospect of obtaining of a language certificate strikes me as far more motivating and helps me to put in extra effort, while at the same time using the Spanish skills I have already learned. Furthermore, a language certificate always looks good on a resumé.
4. Change the language of your gadgets
While my computer still runs in English since high school times, I have switched the language of my phone to Spanish. While it sometimes proves to be annoying when looking for particular device settings, it provides an extra and subtle dose of Spanish every day considering how often we use our phones nowadays.
5. Train your listening skills
Some websites suggest to listen to music and if you are one of those people who actually listen to the lyrics, this may be something for you. Since that doesn’t apply to me, I tend to turn on the radio, listen to the news or a podcast, which goes along with the contents of point 1.