Another language can be tricky to learn and tiring to keep up. But it’s worth it! In fact, being a bi- (or tri- or quadruple) lingual is not only neat and handy in other countries, it’s also really good for your brain. There are quite some cognitive advantages to being (moderately) okay in different languages.
But when you snooze, you lose your language just as much as you would lose any other skill you stop training. Luckily, you don’t have to spend your entire day working on your French, English, German, Klingon or Cantonese: some simple ways to keep it up work well enough and they will make you even better. I want to share some tips with you that will amp up your English, Italian, Turkish or Mandarin. Whatevs.
1. Read, dammit. Everything. Anything (but feel free to put down poorly written drivel the moment you realize it’s poorly written drivel). When you encounter a word you don’t know, look it up if you can’t get its meaning out of context. And ‘sort of’ knowing where you can’t explain it doesn’t count.
2. Watch TV without subtitles. Frustrating at first (especially in French or Spanish with the tongue-knotting speed of the language). But once you have heard it for a little while, your brain catches up and it clicks. You’ll start learning and recognizing words in no time.
3. Get acquainted with the beauty of a language. Personally, when I read I underline and jot down not only words I don’t know but also yummy writer-party-in-my-pants phrases. Things like “Septieme Ciel” (7th Heaven), “Screwing Someone Until Your Thighs Ache”, “in need of more personal space than a herd of American bison”. To this day, English is this big gorgeous pool of words I get to splash in daily and I love it, I have fun with it. I play with it every single day.
4. Make sentences with the new words yourself. The main way I usually do this now is by implementing them in my own writing. What I used to do was write poetry and work with the words I had just learnt. This way you become familiar with them and you learn to use them. They become yours.
5. Speak it. Read aloud.To yourself, a drunk friend who doesn’t mind, your foreign friend or family member. Talk to exchange students. Let that tongue struggle a little bit with the foreign language. A little vocal training here and there will make you better than you ever thought you could be.