How To Survive a Gap Year: Learning a New Language

So these are my ways I’ve tried/used to learn or improve my language skills the last year, as the kickoff to the series of posts of How To Survive a Gap Year.

1) Take a class or course.

Find a local place or company that teaches classes for the language you want to learn. You can also look for tutors, or take a university course, but compared to local places those two options tend to be more expensive. In order to learn a language well through a course or class, you need to be willing to put in the effort to getting to the class and (most likely) doing assignments or tests. However, an upside to doing a class from a business or university is it’s more likely to get recognized by future employers or for future credit at a university.

2) Immersion

To use this method, it usually involves travelling or living in a place where the language you want to learn is spoken. You have to learn by interacting with people and learning the language as you go. It can be really hard at first to get the hang of not only new vocabulary, but also strange localized accents. However, once you catch on to language in the immersion method, you’ll have rather smooth sailing. Benefits to this method include being able to see new places, learn about new cultures and traditions, and getting very good at using more than verbal communication. The downside is, to travel or go through an organization that offers immersion is usually on the pricier side because you might be travelling halfway across the world.

3) Friends

Learning a language with a friend that a) already know it or b) wants to learn with you it always a great experience. Not only will it solidify your relationship from many hours learning verbs or rolling R’s, but will also allow you to pool time and knowledge to learn faster. However, that being said, learning with a friend can be dangerous because it’s not hard to end up distracted or doing silly things instead of learning.

4) Websites/Online Learning/Software

There are definitely many programs and websites (FREE and paid) that are excellent for learning a new language. The upsides to learning online are that you can learn whenever you conveniently have time, and in a technologically advancing world, be able to access it anywhere. Personally, I have a harder time learning online because of all the other distractions on my laptop, but if you have the motivation or learning online is easier than this could be the method for you.

Some sites/programs I recommend to help learn a language:

  • Duolingo: Free, has lots of languages, multiple platforms, lots of different types of exercises
  • Rosetta Stone: The classic, lots of different exercises, kinda pricey, you’ll need to install software
  • Google Translate: It’s not the best, but gets the job done (useful for chatting with foreign friends)
  • Reverso: Like google translate, but also has a dictionary. And if you need spellcheck/grammar check for english or french texts (they’re very thorough)

5) Advice, in General

Remember, learning a language is like learning anything else. You have to have the motivation and dedication to learn a whole new set of sounds for naming the exact same object (and sometimes even another alphabet!). Practice is really the key to cement vocabulary and verbs in your mind. Also, NEVER be afraid to test out language skills with somebody, even a stranger, who knows the language better than you. I’ve learnt way more by talking to people who know more about a language than sitting in a classroom.

In any case, I hope these methods (and some advice) help you out on your next language learning adventure. Good luck, bonne chance, and buena suerte in your learning.

-Melissa

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