Whether you’re hitting the high seas on your year out or cosying it up in Nottingham, there are certain things that every language student knows they should be doing for the good of their degree. Whether it’s waking up to the dulcet tones of a French radio presenter or sitting down to do grammar revision every Tuesday night, we really aren’t doing ourselves any favours by waiting until the week before our oral exams before really embracing our wonderful second (and maybe third!) languages. Here’s a list of resolutions (and language life hacks) that all language students could do with. Maybe next year, hey…
1. Speaking your chosen language with your language student house mate
How many of us have wished that they had a secret language that only they and their best friend could understand? How much easier would it make a cheeky gossip if no one else had the foggiest what you and your bestie were talking about? Alas, we now technically have the capability to make that dream a reality, but very few of us linguists are making the most out of such a winning opportunity. Give it a go, it might even be good for you! And at the very least ‘franglais’ and language fails on the whole make for comedy gold.
2. Reading, Listening and being your second language
A golden rule of learning a language is to completely immerse yourself. However, even on your year abroad, this is easier said than done. My biggest life hack this year has been my French radio alarm. It’s a sneaky way of making sure I get my French listening hours in and I appreciate its perseverance in making me listen to a French man discussing the European economy at 7am each morning…
As for TV and books, do what you usually do and read and watch what you love. Just because you’re spending your year abroad in Spain doesn’t mean you have to watch a typical Spanish romance drama (although by all means…). House of Cards, Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother are just a handful of series that have been translated into various European languages. I’m currently on Broadchurch (David Tenant, gorgeous in any language, yum!) and I find myself actually forgetting I’m watching in French. Quel succès!
3. Keeping up with grammar work as it’s set
We all know we should do it. We know it would save us a lot of worry in the long term. But there’s just something strangely terrifying about the prospect of regular grammar revision.
I’m going to go all ‘I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made’ on you now. I wish that I had just done my grammar work the week it was set and be done with it. When speaking to people this year I find myself slipping up on really simple grammar rules that we covered in first and second year that I (and around 95%) of the class craftily did either 5 minutes before the seminar or extra craftily did during the seminar (I know you’ve all counted along the row to figure out which number answer you’re going to be asked to give).
I have vowed this year to do at least one grammar point every week. I’m not a changed woman but slow and steady is definitely less stressful than trying to learn an entire language the night before my translation exam. Doing past papers over and over is boring but it’s less painful than learning grammar rules from scratch. Practice makes perfect so keep going and if that fails just pretend you know what you’re doing.
4. Keep a log of new words and phrases
A really good way of managing to convince people that you’re bilingual is by learning bucket loads of vocab. You do see the odd, dedicated and mildly terrifying language student that walks around with a notepad ready to scribble down a new word in the heat of the moment, but let’s be real here, eating three square meals and remembering to shower is an honest accomplishment for many of us. However, one thing that I somehow never manage to forget is my phone, so I’ve found Evernote is a really good way of documenting new phrases and words, either by typing them in, sound recording them or just snapping a picture. The app syncs across all devices so I have a vocab record on my phone, iPad and my laptop. There really is nowhere to hide.
5. Learning the appropriate articles…
I feel you Jackie.
Finally, despite all our good intentions, sometimes, you’ve just got to make yourself a good old cup of English tea and be okay with making some pretty obvious language mistakes. You’re still learning so don’t forget to enjoy and most importantly find what works for you. And if all that fails? Buy yourself a croissant and just hope that next year’s resolutions turn out a little better.
Edited by Nicole Jones