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How to Do Well in a Foreign Language Class

Whether you choose to take a foreign language class or a foreign language class is forced upon you thanks to the fourth-term proficiency requirement, chances are at some point in your life you’ll find yourself sitting in a Spanish or French or German class with no idea what’s going on. Although foreign language classes can be intimidating, if you follow these five tips, you’ll be killing it in class and impressing all of your friends with your newfound skills in no time.

1. Go to office hours

This one seems a little obvious, but it is so beneficial. Struggling with grammar? Unsure of what to study for the test? Just generally freaking out over the oral exam? Go to office hours. Your professors are there for a reason, and 99% of the time they just want to help. You’ll feel so much better in class if you have a good relationship with your teacher and actually understand what they’re trying to teach you, so stop by office hours every once in awhile.

2. Speak in class

I know, I know. Speaking is one of the scariest parts of a foreign language course because who wants to mess up and look like an idiot in front of the entire class? But, I promise, no one is judging you. Everyone is going to pronounce something wrong or have no idea how to answer a question at some point, so don’t be afraid to take a chance and raise your hand. The best way to improve your speaking is to practice, practice, practice, and one of the best ways to practice is in front of a teacher who actually knows how to speak the language. Plus, speaking in class will boost your participation grade, so it’s a win-win.

3. Watch movies and shows that are in the foreign language

Learning a language in a classroom is one thing, but actually seeing and hearing it in the real world is completely different. Watching native speakers in movies and TV shows is a good way to ease into the fast paced nature of a foreign language. Try it with subtitles of the language first, then with no subtitles at all, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can actually understand. The more you hear the language, the better, so get to Netflix and start watching!

4. Buy a dictionary

As a new learner, you are going to constantly come into contact with words that you don’t know. While you can use the internet to look the words up, it is so much easier to have them organized for you in a compact book that is available at the snap of your fingers. Having a strong vocabulary will help not only your speaking of a foreign language, but also your writing, so you really want to make it a priority to learn as many words as you can. Thankfully, a dictionary will make this possible.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Learning a foreign language is hard. There are going to be days when you just don’t get it, and that’s okay. For most people, a second language doesn’t come easily, and the reality is you’re going to make a few mistakes along the way. But don’t let that discourage you. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Don’t give up, persevere, and have fun. You’ll get a lot out of this experience if you put in the effort and enjoy yourself.


Images courtesy of Open Culture, Her Campus, and Meghan Harrington.

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