Getting your language skills back up to scratch

Getting your language skills back up to scratch
Learning a language is more important than ever. Due to globalization, it's completely normal to work in a foreign country or with colleagues who don't speak the same language as you. As well as providing us with important cognitive benefits, learning a language can also makes us more conscious of different cultures, helping us to become more respectful towards those who are different from us. 

Translated from the original article, written by Sara Maria Toledo Sillero

No matter what we have chosen to study, at one point or another, we have almost all studied at least one foreign language at school or university. Time passes by and we don't get a chance to practice until the moment when we need to use the language we think we know and then realize that our abilities aren't quite what they used to be. Nevertheless, just practicing the language again is usually enough to get it back up to scratch. This article provides some useful advice to help you brush up on your language skills.

1. Create a Portfolio

Portfolio is a tool promoted by the European Council that makes it easier to learn languages throughout your lifetime. Not only is it possible to keep track of different activities that take place during learning, but also to evaluate your abilities and keep an eye on your progress. It's an effective and personal tool that allows you to get to grips not only with the language itself, but also your strengths and weaknesses. It's a good way of knowing what areas need work so that you can start practicing the language again.

2. Make the language your own

Language is much more than just a way of communicating: it's a means of personal expression. As with everything, you can progress much more quickly if you make learning a part of your life, if you can find a way to enjoy yourself whilst practicing it and introduce it into your daily habits. Watch films and your favourite TV shows in the language, listen to and learn the words to songs, read books or write a diary. These are all ways of practicing a language that allow you to associate language practice with something fun and relaxing. headphones, music, ipod, man, holding ipod, park bench, bench, park, chilling, relaxing, grass

3. Practice the language whenever you get the chance

That friend who speaks French or that neighbour who goes on holiday to Spain every year: languages are learnt by speaking and you should make the most of every chance you get to practice them. In most cities, especially university cities, language exchanges are organised which allow people to meet up and practice different languages. Another possibility is to immerse yourself completely in the language by moving abroad for a while. The benefit of moving abroad is that you are forced to learn how to use the language as it's the only way to survive everyday life. Practicing a language also means reading from time to time (books, poetry) in order to absorb the language in written form; something which is particularly important for languages like French, where the pronunciation is very different from what is written.

4. Don't be shy

One of the main reasons children learn languages more naturally than adults could be because are less likely to feel embarrassed or as though they've failed. Fear of failure or of being made fun of means that learning often stops at practice, making learning much more difficult than it should be. When learning a language, it's important to remember that we are all ignorant about something, that nobody knows everything and that if you don't practice because you're afraid of people making fun of you, you will never learn anything! The most capable and intelligent people in the world haven't got to where they are without effort; between ineptitude and ability there are other steps: you shouldn't consider mistakes as failures, but rather as clues as to how you need to improve. By doing so, not only will you feel less embarrassed, but you will also lose the fear of being wrong. shy, timid, scared, afraid, dog, puppy, cute, labrador, black labrador, brave

5. And if grammar's the problem...

If it's grammar you'd like to brush up on (conjugations, syntax constructions, genders, etc), there are many websites designed specifically for this reason, where you can find as many vocabulary lists as grammar explanations, along with interactive exercises to help you practice them. You should start with exercises that suit your current level then try, little by little, to increase the level of difficulty. However, if you haven't practiced the language for a long time, it might be necessary to start with the most basic exercises. I hope that this advice has been useful to you and I wish you all the best of luck for the future. Most importantly, enjoy learning and practicing languages. Read the original article in Spanish here.