Tips To Quickly Recover Your Fluency In A Language You Previously Studied
If there’s one unavoidable fact when it comes to learning languages, it’s that it takes a time commitment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge amount of time each day, a lot of us are busy, and only in a position to study between other responsibilities. The key is consistency, putting in at least a little time as frequently as possible.
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for ‘real life’ to get in the way, and it’s very easy to break your routine. Before you know it, quite a while may have passed since the last time you practiced your chosen language. The most common symptom of time away from study is a loss of fluency and a lack of confidence. The need to then think carefully about what you want to say leads to a slowdown in your spoken production.
If this describes you, then don’t worry! You’re certainly not alone; a lot of language learners take breaks in their studies and then manage to get back to their previous level - and then surpass it. Here are a few tips for those of us who are coming back to a language we’ve studied before.
Immerse Yourself In The Target Language
When you’re learning a language, there’s no such thing as too much input. This is equally true when you’re returning to a language that you’ve studied before, with the added advantage that your level will be higher than when you started, so things should come back to you quickly. You should read as much as possible, from language apps or the internet.
If you’re a beginner, then you may want to put Post-It notes in your home to label objects in the target language. If you're at a higher level, then try reading stories and news articles with your native language side-by-side, or even listening to TV shows on Netflix that are in your target language. Feel free to use subtitles to help you out; the goal is not to understand every single word but just to restore your familiarity with the language.
It can be harder to find opportunities to produce the target language, especially spoken production. Again, using the internet is your best option here. Try looking for websites that allow you to chat with other people in your target language, either native speakers or even other language students. Writing should be easier, as you can always find social media channels or blogs in your target language that you can contribute to. Remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about exposing yourself to as much of the language as possible.
Schedule Your Study
If you only study when you feel like it, or when it’s convenient, you’ll probably find that you study less than you really want to. Pick your preferred language app and set yourself a time each day when you plan to use it. For example, with Beelinguapp you can plan to read a story, or a part of a story, every day just after you eat your lunch. The most important thing when it comes to scheduling is not to give up if you need to break your routine.
Once again, ‘real life’ may not allow you to study at the same time every day. If this happens and you miss your scheduled study, don’t give up! Just try again the next day and, if possible, do a little extra work to make up for your missing day. If you find that you frequently break your schedule then try shifting it to a different time, until you find something that usually works for you.
When you’re ‘in the moment’, it can be difficult to accurately gauge how well you’re coming along with your language learning. But as well all now carry a video camera in our pockets, it’s easier than ever to record ourselves speaking our target language on our cell phones and then watching it back. This can be a little uncomfortable at first; a lot of us can be uncomfortable seeing and hearing ourselves speak, especially in another language. However, this is a really great tool when it comes to language learning.
Watching a recording of yourself is an important way of practicing self-correction. You may notice errors when you watch a recording that you weren’t aware of when you were concentrating on speaking. And in terms of pronunciation and fluency, it’s a way of taking an external view of yourself and comparing it to the native examples of the target language you’ve been studying. Once you get over the initial nervousness of hearing your own voice speaking a foriegn language, it’s an ideal way of improving pronunciation and fluency.
No Fear! Accuracy vs Fluency
It’s normal to want it all when we’re studying a language. We want to speak, read, write and listen, and we want to do it quickly, accurately and sound good when we’re doing it. That’s a great goal, but it’s important to understand that sometimes we have to study skills separately from one another. A good example of this is fluency and accuracy, which are often at odds with one another.
When we consider fluency, we’re usually talking about fast, smooth and confident production. However, speed usually comes at the cost of accuracy. The more we try to be fluent, the more likely we are to make small errors in our production. The key here is to strike a balance between the two. There are times when we will want to improve our accuracy, which usually means being as slow, methodical and careful as possible. But the other side of the coin is that, if we want to push our fluency, we have to accept that small errors are going to creep in. When you’re aiming for fluency, don’t be afraid of making small mistakes, especially ones that don’t cause problems with communication. As long as you’re getting your message across, it’s fine to sometimes sacrifice a few errors.