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How To Maintain Languages You've Already Learned

The saying “use it or lose it” is true for most language learners. We have to continue to work out our language muscles in order to retain and maintain what we’ve already learned. Once we advance beyond a beginning level, we have to incorporate maintenance of what we have learned as part of our language learning foundation. If you aren’t located where you can regularly use your target language, here are some tips on ways you can workout those speaking, listening, and reading skills.

Find Events-

Whether at a social event or a language exchange, using your language person to person is the best way to maintain it. If you live in a big city, check out Facebook pages, the app Meetup, or even craigslist to find groups of people getting together to practice in bars, cafes, or parks. If you live in a rural community or a small city where in person experiences might be limited, try a language partner online. It’s the next best thing.

Listen to music in your target language-

One great way to reinforce language skills is by listening to music in your target language. Musicians often perform songs with social and political issues or topics, which can make listening a lesson in vocabulary as well as culture. Finding artists who tackle different issues and topics can greatly help you maintain your language. For Spanish learners, an example would be Ana Tijoux. She is a French-Chilean rapper who sings about political issues and social injustice. Check out my post on 5 Great Songs For Learning Spanish for a variety of genres and topics!

Get into foreign cinema and television-

Another great way to practice your listening skills for a language is by watching films from other countries. If your second language is French for example, speakers might consider the classic cinema of Jean-Luc Godard. For Spanish, you can check out telenovelas. You'll find engaging movies or programs in any language you may have studied. For my Spanish learners, check out my post on the 3 Best TV Programs To Practice Spanish!

Read international news-

Reading news in your target language is both an excellent way to practice, and a way to gain a different perspective on your own country's news. You can increase your vocabulary, as well as being better informed about what is happening outside of your bubble. Read newspapers from other countries online or try streaming radio or video broadcasts online. With the internet, free news media is always available, the key is finding a publication you enjoy and can follow regularly.

Explore neighborhoods-

In my recent post Knowing Spanish in the US, Not Just For Fun, I cover many of the reasons Spanish is important in the US. If you live in a place where your target language is spoken, be brave and get out into the community to practice your skills. Visit cafes, restaurants and community centers where you can find others who speak the language you want to practice. In addition, network with native speakers in communities where your target language is spoken. This way you increase the number of people you can practice with.

As you know, keeping up a language can be a lot of work and time, but the saying "use it or lose it" is true. The more you make a habit of watching foreign media, going to language exchanges, or even making friends with foreign language speakers, the more natural maintaining your language will become.

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I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!

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