If you want to make real progress in your target language, it’s important to practice it regularly. The best way to do this is by doing things you enjoy doing in your native language. If you are a busy person, it’s also great to be able to learn by doing something that doesn’t feel like work.
Here are some ideas for fun things that will help you improve:
1. Listen to a radio station in your target language
You can listen to radio stations from all over the world online, so it’s easy to find one you enjoy listening to. Plus, if you listen to stations from different regions, you can experience a range of accents and cultural variations.
Tip: the TuneIn app (www.tunein.com) lets you access international stations from your smartphone or tablet.
2. Watch videos on YouTube
You can find countless videos on virtually any topic on YouTube, so it should be easy to find something you like in your target language. By practising this way, you can also choose the level of difficulty based on the content you watch. For example, one person speaking for the whole video against a blank wall can be more difficult to understand that a more visual video where you can actually see the things they are talking about.
Tip: Make sure someone is speaking in the video (you won’t learn by watching funny videos of cats!)
3. Watch a soap or TV series
If your favourite shows are normally dubbed in your native language, you can watch the original versions in your target language or vice versa.
Watching soaps gives you an insight into the kind of dialogue used in everyday life and there are many great, addictive TV shows that will encourage you to keep watching and improving your language skills.
4. Read a book or watch a film in your target language
If you are under an Advanced level, it may be best to read or watch something you already know the story of as this makes it easier to understand the plot and guess vocabulary.
Reading a series like the Harry Potter books can be a great motivator as you will be able to see your improvement in the language with every book.
5. Change the language setting on your smartphone and social media
Surrounding yourself with your target language in your everyday life is one of the best ways to improve. Even if you are not in a country where the language is spoken, changing the settings on your smartphone and social media can help you to feel more immersed if you use them regularly.
Tip: try speaking with voice-activated applications like Siri to see how much they understand when you speak in your target language
6. Make friends online
Using chatrooms can be a good way to practice your target language if you don’t have the chance to do it in real life. The language is informal and close to real-life speech but it can contain a lot of spelling errors and abbreviations.
Tip: speak to people on Skype to practice your spoken language skills
7. Listen to music
By listening to songs in your target language, you can enjoy new music and practice your listening skills at the same time.
Tip: read the lyrics to the song so you can have a better understanding of the meaning and improve your reading skills
8. Do an exercise video
This way you can practice your target language and get fit at the same time! It’s also a great way to pick up some new vocabulary as you learn by listening, watching and copying.
9. Speak to yourself
Say or think what you are doing in your target language as you go about your day. Try to make up sentences such as, ‘I am washing the plates’ or ‘I will meet my friend for lunch later’. This will get you used to thinking in your target language and is a good way of identifying any vocabulary you need to learn.
10. Go on holiday
This is a great motivator to study your target language seriously in the weeks and months before your trip. Try to practice as you are booking the holiday, e.g. contact hotels, arrange transport, and organise guided tours in your target language.
Tip: avoid using travel agents or booking package tours that operate in your native language.