Taking a class is the best way to learn a new language but once you get to a certain point, the only way to advance is to practice speaking. Everyday phrases are what make conversation sound natural and these are what you pick up in conversation, not in textbooks. My advice – ditch the Duolingo app and practice speaking with other humans because the only way to get better at speaking is to speak!
Take a class
If you’re not studying the language regularly, consider it. Taking a class once or twice a week will keep it fresh and in your life on a regular basis especially if it’s not spoken where you live. There are classes for all levels, from beginner to advanced so even if you think you’ve learned it all, you may learn something new in an advanced setting. At the very least, you’ll meet people who are also excited about the language and likely interested in practicing outside of class.
Schedule 1:1 time with a native speaker
Look for a native speaker who would be willing to help you practice conversation. To work on specific problem areas, you could schedule time with a language teacher and request a conversational hour. If you have friends that speak the language, let go of any embarrassment and practice with them, even ask them to correct you and be sure to take notes. Another option is to look for virtual tutoring. I’ve seen language schools in Spain that offer private Skype sessions which could be offered in other countries as well.
Attend language exchange events
Organized language exchange events have been common in the places I’ve visited in Spain and Mexico; called “Intercambio” they are hosted at bars and anyone is welcome to attend to practice English or Spanish, sometimes other languages too. It’s also a great way to meet people. Everyone comes with patience and a willingness to help and listen. If there isn’t something like this in your city, you could use this format to set one up.
Get a flatmate or book a homestay
Living with someone who speaks the language is a great way to practice through casual everyday conversation. If you need a flatmate, consider looking for someone who speaks the language you’re wanting to practice. You’ll learn vocabulary for domestic things you’re probably not going to discuss outside of the house. Next time you travel, you could look for a homestay through a local language school. Or, rather than booking an Airbnb with the whole place to yourself, consider booking just a room so you can chat with your host each day.
Read books or news
While this isn’t a way to practice speaking, it’s an easy way to observe many styles of writing. Reading will improve your vocabulary especially if you use a dictionary app to look up words along the way. By reading different styles of writing from news to fiction, you will get to know formal vs informal ways of speaking based on the context.
And my personal favorite… Use dating apps
This may only be applicable when traveling but if you live in a city where many people speak the language you’re trying to learn, using a dating app allows you to chat with many people at once. You will quickly learn common expressions, new words, how personalities are conveyed through language; you can practice writing, reading and crafting dialogue with plenty of time to create responses. And hey, you may even meet someone you end up spending A LOT of time with, which would be the best way to practice the language you love.
Good luck! 😉
Photo credit: Alexis Brown