Beyond the classroom, beyond homework – here are some quick ways to get your bilingual on.
There are specific tips and tricks in every language, but in this case we’re keeping things general. Or, as the French say, général.
Have conversations with native speakers
Since we invented the internet, this has become easier and easier. Back in the day you’d have to hunt down someone who spoke the language you’re studying, move to another country or find a penpal. These days you slide into some DMs and try not to be creepy. Pracitising your skills on someone who grew up speaking a language is a great way to iron out any basic errors. It can work the other way as well – I taught an Italian girl that “g’day” means “hello” not “have a good day”.
Use it or lose it
If you’re not speaking the language you’re using, it’ll start to fade from your brain. It’s not enough to copy out the Japanese word for “pencil case” and leave it at that. You should get in the habit of calling it fudebako, even in other classes. Use the greetings and other common phrases wherever you can – this is especially useful if you can con your friends into saying konichiwa and sayonara like it’s NBD.
Don’t worry about sounding dumb
It’s going to happen. You’ll be chatting to your online buddy from another country and they’ll crack up laughing because you’ve totally stuffed up what you meant to say. Embarrassing errors are all part of the process. Find out where you went wrong – was it local slang, pronouncing a word incorrectly or something entirely different? – and make a note to not do that again.
Find some apps that help
Two great examples are Memrise (for vocab) and Duolingo. They’re free, they’ll annoy you to keep using them and they’re a great way to strengthen your skills outside the classroom. For a little while there, I could read some of the Chinese words on the menu. See point two for why I can’t anymore (although I remember the symbol for “pig” is made up of the symbols that mean “industrious” and “little dog”).
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