Studying shouldn’t be something that puts you off the idea of learning a new language. Even full-time students can benefit from a language exchange without putting their studies at risk. Not to mention as a student, you’ll likely be able to access helpful resources and have the freedom to learn outside of your course. Learning a new language comes with a range of benefits and opportunities – which explains why it is a popular choice for many students. A foreign language can:
• Prepare you to travel the world and communicate with people abroad
• Enhance your career opportunities and become more appealing to employers
• Provide you with the skills needed to work overseas
• Give you skills such as an improved attention span and memory
We understand that the thought of adding another commitment to your schedule can be quite daunting – especially on top of deadlines, essays, exams and a social life! We also won’t pretend that learning a language is something that happens overnight – but, it is undoubtedly worth it. We want more students to be able to benefit from the opportunities that come with learning a new language. We have written out our 7 top tips; helping you to balance your busy student life with language exchange:
1. USE BOOKS IN YOUR CAMPUS LIBRARY
With all the online resources available – it can be easy to forget that books can provide you with just as much or even more useful skills. As a student, you’ll probably have the luxury of having access to a library – we encourage you to take advantage of it whilst you can! If the thought of adding to your reading list doesn’t appeal to you – there will probably be DVD’s, comics and other helpful material available. You could even find a translation of your favourite novel or film. Reading or watching something you are genuinely interested in will make learning a language feel like less of a chore.
2. SWAP THE TELEVISION FOR A PODCAST
Next time you get in from a long day of studying – why not consider switching on a podcast instead of putting the TV on? There are thousands of free podcasts out there to choose from, and they’re a great alternative to reading or watching something. They’re a way of passing the time on long journeys, whilst at the gym, or when you’re trying to drift off to sleep. You could start by looking for a podcast designed for learning a language – there are many language teachers and linguists that offer free tips to add to what you learn in your language exchange. If you’re interested in a particular topic, then another option is to look for a relevant podcast in your chosen language. Listening to people speak is a simple way of keeping the language fresh in your mind– you might be able to surprise your exchange partner in your next chat!
3. CONSIDER A SEMESTER ABROAD OR WORK ABROAD IN THE HOLIDAYS
This isn’t an option for everybody – but, if you’re given the opportunity to study abroad – do it! There is no better way to learn a new language than by fully immersing yourself in the culture. You’ll often be staying in shared accommodation or with a host family – meaning you’ll be surrounded by people who can support you and help you learn along the way. Just because term-time comes to an end, it doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Working abroad is an exciting way of earning some money whilst really putting your language skills to the test. There are plenty of roles to choose from – from bar work to teaching or perhaps working on a campsite.
4. JOIN A SOCIETY, OR EVEN START YOUR OWN
We recommend trying to find out more about the country or culture of your chosen language. As a student, you’re likely to be surrounded by people who are also interested in this culture – or originate from the country. It’s worth looking out for social clubs that you can join – and if there isn’t one, why not think about starting your own? Meeting up with other like-minded people who want to learn with you is one of the best ways to improve alongside your exchanges.
5. BROADEN THE MUSIC YOU’RE LISTENING TO
This might feel silly at first, but next time you’re making a playlist – why not search for music in a foreign language? Listening to music in the language you’re hoping to learn is a relaxed and fun way of involving yourself in the culture and learning some new words. With all the different ways of accessing free music now – there really is no excuse not to give it a go. You might want to listen to it as background music, add it to your go-to party playlist or pass the time on a long journey. You could even look up the lyrics and try to sing along – however you decide to use the music, is entirely up to you!
6. PUT THE SUBTITLES ON (BUT NOT IN YOUR LANGUAGE!)
Next time you’re watching your favourite film or binge-watching another Netflix series – why not pop the subtitles on in your target language. Subtitles are an easy way of learning whilst taking some time out from your studies. Your language exchange should teach you how to engage in natural, flowing conversations – so what better way to practice than watching other people do just that? If you want to have a bit more fun with it – you might choose to learn how to say your all-time favourite movie quote or even practice singing along to the soundtrack.
7. SPEAK TO YOUR LANGUAGE EXCHANGE PARTNER ABOUT YOUR STUDIES
Once your fluency level begins to progress, you can start to discuss more in-depth and specific topics with your partner. If you’re finding yourself worrying about not spending enough time studying – what better solution than to combine the two? At the beginning of each session, you should be making a brief plan. This should include how you’ll distribute the time spent on each language and what you want your main focus to be. You can try to teach your partner about your studies or your course – and they can continue to advise you on how well you’re delivering information. It’s a win-win.