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I Finished my Language Class, Now What?

Often, when I tell someone new that I am a language learner or enjoy learning languages in my free time, I get this response: “I learned (insert language) in high school/college, but I haven’t used it since” or “...but now I forget it all.” Why is this so common?

girl sitting in classroom, leaning on open book, looking to the side, wondering how to keep learning languages

One major reason why this happens is because of the way the school curriculum is set up to teach languages, but that could be a whole different blog post. The second reason is because most people don’t use their new language once their class is over.

Picture this:

You just finished your second year of French class. You know that you have the ability to put together sentences and have decent grammar, but you’ve never used the language outside the comfort zone of your class before. Are you just supposed to go to the neighborhood French bakery and start speaking to people? Do you need to book a trip to France in order to practice? This just doesn’t seem feasible or like the right solution.

So what do you do?

My best recommendation for this point is to USE your new language. But how? Here are several ideas.

woman holding pen starting a language journal with a blank page

1. Start a journal.

Starting a journal is a great way to use your language. This requires activating the part of the brain that helps you retrieve vocabulary and put words together. Journaling also does wonders for your mental health. María Ortega García wrote a wonderful guest post about journaling for language learning on French Sunny Side. Check it out here.

language tutor and language student sitting at a table discussing how to learn a language

2. Book a tutor or exchange partner.

One great place to meet an exchange partner or tutor is on iTalki. This is an online platform created for language learners to meet teachers, tutors and other learners. There is also a space to get corrections to written entries, ask questions, and answer sample test questions. This is a great way to get practice in a 1:1 setting.

man sitting on bus, leaning his head against window, thinking in a new language

3. Think!

That’s right. Practice thinking in your new language. One great option is to listen to a short podcast or audiobook on a slower speed, or read a page in a book, then stop and summarize what happened or what was said. You can summarize by thinking in your head, thinking aloud (good pronunciation practice) or explaining it to another person (this could give you some feedback). Another great idea is to use your commute home each day to summarize what happened during your day in your new language. No one will hear you talking to yourself in your car, right? Might want to think in your head if you use the subway :).

woman sitting with laptop open, participating in language tv club, with language tv club mug beside her

4. Join the Language TV Club!

This is my favorite recommendation of course. The Language TV Club offers so many activities that help continue your language-learning after you’ve finished your class. By participating in the club, you get to work on your listening skills while watching a great show, pick up new vocabulary words (including slang!), practice writing, and practice speaking. You get to use your language skills so that you don’t lose them. You also get a community of other learners who will share the learning with you and a club host to guide you.

This is a great step to take after a structured class if you are still nervous about speaking to native speakers in an unstructured environment. The club is a safe, judgment-free zone, so you’re encouraged to make errors and practice new concepts, but you are still supported to move out of the 1:1 setting that you might be used to. The discussion during the meetings is also structured in that the questions are provided beforehand, but it is unstructured enough where it feels like a natural conversation. Many members report that they feel much less nervous about speaking with native speakers after participating in the club.

Now that you have these suggestions, it’s time for you to take the next step. You don’t have to go out there and speak with natives at the market just yet, but you do need to do SOMETHING. And you are ready for it. Use these recommendations to continue past language class and step into real-life situations with your new language.


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