I’m bilingual in French and German and I’m convinced that the best way to learn a language is to be surrounded by the language.
When babies learn a language, they have to hear the words and understand them before repeating after their parents. I think it’s nearly the same for grown ups although it’s more difficult to acquire a second language.
I’m an Erasmus student here at UL and I’m convinced that I’ve learned more about the English language in these 4 weeks than my whole exam session in may this year. The reason is simple: I’m really surrounded by the language and I’m practising it all the time. I’m not only speaking to people in English, I watch the telly, hear the news in the morning, have Irish roommates (so lucky to have the opportunity to ask them for the meaning of irish idioms!), live in the culture itself. Even when I’m doing my shopping on saturday morning at the Milk Market, I learn a lot! All this to say that to learn a language, long vocabulary lists don’t really work on the long term. You really have to practise every single day.
But wait, how can I keep improving my English level once I come back to Belgium?
And there I come to language and technology! Without entering in deep explanations (which I’ll do in another post!), I’d just written a short list of 5 things you can do to improve your English (or other language) while using technology:
-As a student in translation in my home country, we’re always told to find synonyms. Once you have a basic level of English, explore the different ways you can say the same thing. This makes your English more interesting to the listener and it shouldn’t be too difficult for you because you already know the basics. You can easily practise it with line games for children on the internet.
-Unlearn your mistakes. You probably make the same grammar mistakes over and over again and you’re also likely to find them on the internet. Good thing because you’re able to identify them! Use English tests results as a study tool. Go over your mistakes and choose one or two that you want to focus on. When I had to define my level in English before coming to Ireland, I had to take an online test. Here’s the link, if you’d like to know your level in English: http://erasmusplusols.eu/assessment-test/
-Make use of the internet in general. It’s full of resources to help you learn: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/ But watch out, there’re also many mistakes! It’s up to you to be critical enough to judge the accuracy of the webiste.
-Idioms can be difficult to memorise, but they are great fun to use and they’ll make your English more colourful. You should try to organize idioms in themes. I found a blog of a lady who teaches English through her blog and she made this great post about war idioms used in business English, really interesting! http://englishwithatwist.com/2015/09/22/business-is-war-lets-explore-10-war-idioms-used-in-business-english/
-When I cam here, I realized how English textbooks are often different from the way people casually speak. To learn casual ‘slang’ watch movies! Yesterday I watched “The reader” with my roomies. I understood almost everything and I’m really proud of it! It’s the proof that we also learn passively during the day (this is going to be the subject of another post too!).