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Stay Fluent: 10 Ways to Maintain Your Foreign Language Skills

Dec 10, 2010

Learning a foreign language is a major achievement that requires hours of study and hard work. All too often, though, people who don't immediately use their new language skills in everyday life forget much of what they learn. Being fluent requires reinforcing language lessons with use. Here are 10 ways you can keep language skills fresh.

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1. Listen to international music.

One great way to reinforce language skills is by listening to recording artists that feature vocals sung in your adopted tongue. A potential added benefit of this strategy is that musicians often write about points of social and political interest, which can make listening a lesson in culture. Click here for a list of websites where you can find free music online.

2. Get into foreign cinema.

Another great way to 'keep your ear' for a language is by watching films from other nations. If your second language is Spanish, for example, you can check out works by Pedro Almodovar. French speakers might consider the classic cinema of Francois Truffaut. You'll find engaging movies filmed in any language you may have studied.

3. Seek international news sources.

Why not hone your foreign language skills while staying informed about the world? You can do this by reading newspapers from other countries online. (Here are ten options.) Or try streaming radio or video broadcasts from foreign news agencies. International media often provide perspectives not represented in American news.

learn foreign language

4. Read foreign books.

Educators say that reading is a crucial part of developing language skills. If you really want to round out your vocabulary, read books published in your second language. It's a good idea to start out on the easier end of the spectrum with stories you're familiar with (say, Harry Potter) until your comprehension improves.

5. Connect with others in foreign lands.

Consuming media from other countries can be helpful for maintaining your language skills, but nothing can replace direct interaction with a native speaker. Many websites connect English speakers with people all over the globe via teleconferencing, chat rooms and message boards. Check out this list of online language learning communities.

6. Explore neighborhoods.

Virtual communication is great, but it's also a lot of fun to meet people in the real world. If you live in a place where your second language is spoken, get out into the community to practice your skills. Visit dining establishments or community centers where you know you can show off what you know.

7. Join a language club.

Maybe you live in a big city where stepping out your door presents all kinds of opportunities to use a foreign tongue. If not, though, you can consider joining a language club. Such groups often hold conversation circles where non-native speakers can practice. If no club exists near you, consider starting one yourself. Websites like Meetup.com can be useful for finding clubs or connecting with like-minded language learners.

learn foreign language

8. Serve as an ESL tutor.

ESL tutors are in high demand, especially in areas with a large population of recent immigrants. Teaching English not only serves a community need, it can also allow you to learn more about a foreign language by working closely with native speakers. Check out libraries and community agencies for tutoring opportunities.

9. See the world.

Experts agree that there is no more effective means of learning a language than by immersing yourself among its speakers. The best way to do this, of course, is by visiting foreign countries in which the language is spoken. Consider studying abroad or planning an extended trip to a place where you can practice your skills.

10. Revisit language learning resources.

It often isn't easy to maintain foreign language skills - particularly if you don't live in a place with many native speakers. Don't be afraid to go back to those resources you used during your initial acquisition of the language for refresher courses. Click here for a number of free online resources that you can explore.

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