How to practise your language skills (without being afraid of making mistakes)

Let’s say you really want to practise your foreign language once you’re abroad on holiday (or next time you visit that neighborhood that is so full of Spanish people). What can help you to make the most out of your experience?

When I was studying French a few years ago in the beautiful Rouen, I used some simple strategies to practise and develop my language skills anytime I was around the city.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of these strategies and hope they’ll inspire you to be fearless about using the language (see strategy number 3!) whilst you’re visiting your favourite foreign country.

Here we go:

1. Create your visual language portfolio

Posters, signals, ads, menus, leaflets, shops’ names… these are just a few things that you can find around you to learn new words and phrases.

Take pictures of posters, shops or anything that you find linguistically useful or curious. Create a folder in your phone or camera and name it “my language portfolio”.

You can look at these pictures later on and use them as real life flash cards, containing example of language in use. You’ll remember those words and phrases better as they’ll be part of your personal experience.

 

2. Explore local bookshops and newstands

When I was in Rouen, almost every day I used to go to the Fnac and loved to explore the bandes dessinées (French comics) section. French comics were more suitable for my level of French and were much more appealing to me than a book.

You can have a look at local bookhops and newstands and find magazines or books that spark your interest and imagination (by the way, the children’s section in every bookshop is a very good start for beginners!) 😉

 

3. Be fearless about using the language.

Stop someone on the street and ask them the time, directions or where you can find the best food place nearby. Order local food in French. Find ANY excuse in order to speak the language. And it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong. I’ll repeat it. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE.

Remember : 1) it’s unlikely you’ll see the person you stopped on the street again (and even if you will, it’s fine! Make a new friend!) 2) your main goal is to practise your language skills. Don’t miss an opportunity because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Especially in language learning, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn.

If you realise you’ve made a mistake while speaking…great job! You can even acknowledge it by saying in Italian, Spanish or French “I’m still learning”: “sto imparando ancora”, ” estoy aprendiendo todavía”, “Je suis en train d’apprendre le français.”

To help you with this, I’ve created a series of conversational phrases you can use in this scenario. Get them at this link by joining the Language Rose Learning Club.

 

4. Sit back and just listen

Sit down on a bench in one of the main streets, or lay on the beach and listen to the nearest people talking (without staring at them!). How many words can you recognize? This is a fun exercise to do to train your listening skills.

If you want you can bring this exercise to the next level by noting down the words you recognise and challenge yourself to use those words in your next conversation.

5. Journal in your foreign language

At the end of the day, write something in your journal that describes the best, funniest, or even worst experiences you had. It’s  great way to practice your writing skills.

I wrote pages and pages in my journal when I was studying French in Rouen. Here is a little extract of my French journal I used to write when I was studying there- unedited just to let you see that I make mistakes too.  Can you spot all the mistakes?

“OUAH! En France les résultats du baccalauréat sont publiés sur les journaux! C’est-a-dire qu’en France tout le mond sait si une personne a réussi ou échoué le bac. Je ne savait pas celà ! En Italie nous n’avons pas de résultats publiés dans les journaux.
Ce matin, lorsque je prennais mon petit déjeuner, Françoise a trouvée le nom de son amie sur le journal de Rouen. “Elle a réussi avec mention ‘bien’” m’a dit. Après, Françoise m’a expliqué qu’il y a trois niveaux différents: assez bien, bien et très bien. Aussi, elle m’a demandé si en Italie on a un système similaire (Françoise est très curieuse! J’aime bien ça!).

Now, I love writing so my journal entries were always long, but this doesn’t mean you need to do the same. You can just write a short sentence that describes what made your day.

For example, now that I am in England, I write a sentence each day in my journal that describes what I am most grateful for. You could do the same in your foreign language.

 

6. Play make believe

If you’re really into acting, pretend you’re a journalist, a writer or a researcher abroad who is interviewing people about a specific topic.

Write down your questions, go around and talk to people. Don’t take yourself too seriously! just have fun  – remember what I told you in number 3: be fearless!

 

7. Write a postcard in your foreign language

Send it to a friend – even if they don’t speak the language! You’ll inspire them to learn it! 🙂

 

8. Theatre or cinema?

Which one do you like the most?

I love theatre and I like watching plays and shows in the foreign languages I speak. Bear in mind that you don’t need to understand everything; most things are also understood from the context.

Next time you go abroad and, maybe the weather isn’t great for outdoor activities, ask yourself: theatre or cinema?

So here you have them! Some strategies you can use to practice your language on your holiday abroad.

Which one is you favourite? Do you have any more helpful activity you’d like to share? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Happy Summer holidays,

Ermy***

 

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