Whether it’s at school or university, studying full-time offers lots of unique opportunities for trying something new alongside your course. Students have amazing resources at their disposal that they will not be able to access later, and lots of freedom and time to pursue their hobbies and interests alongside their studies.
Because of this, learning a language is a top priority for many students, even if they are not studying a language as their major. You can see the appeal – foreign languages can:
- Enhance career prospects
- Open up opportunities to work abroad
- Improve communication with people when you travel
- Make you more attractive…
…Okay, we don’t have any scientific evidence for the last one, but we suspect it’s true! 😉
Though most people are already aware of these great reasons to get going with a foreign language, still many students find it hard to fit extra studying into their day. With deadlines, essays and exams on the horizon, it isn’t always easy to take time out to practice a language as well.
We’re not denying that learning a language is hard work – you’ll need plenty of motivation to get there! But luckily, there are plenty of ways to make practicing every day fun while staying on top of studies or other commitments.
Here are 10 top tips on how to squeeze language learning into your student schedule without breaking the bank.
1. Take advantage of classes
Most universities offer language courses at cut prices to enrolled students and locals. Start by checking out your Modern Foreign Languages department to see what the deal is before you fork out for expensive private lessons. It is also worth checking noticeboards in the department for tips and study groups.
2. Find a language partner
You’re more flexible with time when you’re studying, and take advantage of this by meeting up with a language exchange partner. Ideally, you want to find someone who is learning your native language, so you can talk in both languages equally when you meet up. Look for someone with similar interests and things in common with you and your language exchange partner could turn out to be a friend for life!
Even on an international campus, it can sometimes be hard to find someone to practice with, but actually finding someone face-to-face is no longer necessary with modern-day technology! The Tandem app can help you find a native speaker who is learning your language in seconds. Once you’ve signed up, you can use search filters to find partners that match your learning goals. And best of all, you can start chatting straightaway through instant messaging and video chat! Find out more about how the app works here.
3. Learn vocabulary in your spare time
Aside from Tandem, free vocabulary trainers like Duolingo or Memrise can be great for reinforcing vocabulary and simple grammar. Just spending 15 minutes with an app like these every day will do wonders for your retention and recognition of new words and phrases, and their game-like structure will keep you entertained in the process.
Don’t get too dependent on these addictive games though… you’ll only really start improving once you get talking!
4. Check out your library
While there are millions of resources online that you can use, when you are studying you have access to a really special resource – your library! Take some time to explore and ask the library assistants what material they have for language learning. Often there will be magazines, DVDs and even translations of your favourite books (Harry Potter has been translated into over 68 languages, for example). Reading or watching something you are interested in will make language practice SO much more fun and so much less like a chore!
5. Look for work abroad during your holidays
One of the biggest advantages students have is long holidays. This is a great opportunity to put your language skills into action! Your university or school may have some work abroad programs you can participate in, or at least some job boards which you can filter by country. If your university can’t help, it’s time to get inventive – look for au pair, camp counsellor, or teacher positions, which are often available short-term over the summer.
Many job ads go live early in the year, so keep an eye out from January onwards for opportunities. Even if you leave it until the last minute, you can still work in a bar or cafe abroad to really put your language skills to the test!
Here are some more ways that you can make money while living abroad.
6. Download podcasts
Podcasts are the perfect accompaniment to long bus rides, jogs around campus and sleepless nights during your finals. And best of all – they are totally free. A good place to start is by looking up a newspaper or radio station website in your target language, as these often have podcasts attached. Look for one on a topic that interests you, such as politics or film. You may even find that they have some especially designed for learners – DW Deutsch Lernen is a good example for German, or NewsInSlow offers news stories slowed down in five different languages.
You can also listen to some by language teachers, linguists and polyglots who offer useful general language learning tips and inspiration. Some of our favourites include include:
7. Go on a semester abroad
If you are offered the chance – go! Semesters abroad are an amazing opportunity to get immersed in a new language and culture, with support from your school or university. You may even get the chance to stay with a host family, which will expose you to a unique slice of life in another country.
8. Find a tutor online
One of the most effective ways to learn a language quickly is through 121 tuition. Tutors are especially helpful alongside language exchanges, as a tutor can help you get to grips with particularly difficult concepts and grammar that your language exchange partner might know how to use, but not explain. Tutors aren’t free, but smartphone technology means you can find a tutor that fits within your schedule and price range and speak to them through video chat, which greatly cuts costs.
For example, Tandem has Tutor slots available for dozens of languages. Just filter for the language you want to learn, and choose from a selection of Tutors to see which slots they have available. You then have a video call with them directly through your phone! It couldn’t be simpler…!
9. Make a foreign language playlist
You love it for your Friday night party playlist, but Spotify is also a treasure trove of music in languages all around the world. Type “Latin” into the search bar and you’ll see what we mean. Spotify’s playlist repository means there are thousands of amazing mixes to choose from, in genres and languages from all around the world. Listening to music in another language can seem quite challenging at first, so it’s worth looking up the lyrics so you can read along and translate anything you don’t understand.
And best of all – Spotify is totally free if you don’t mind a few ads!
10. Join (or start) a cultural group
Most people like to find out a bit more about the countries and cultures where their target language is spoken. A little bit of research is likely to help you find other people also interested in this culture, and likely enough there will be some clubs already set up that you can join. If not… perhaps it’s time to gather some like-minded people and set up one yourself!
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Reading is an amazing way to improve your language skills. By doing lots of reading, you’re exposing yourself to new vocabulary and structures in a totally natural way, which helps you gain a better understanding of how the language really works. If you’re stuck for ideas, here are some great options for getting started on reading in a foreign language!