If you live in the United States, chances are you took language classes in school. Perhaps you took high school French or college Spanish, and you got a strong foundation for the language. Then, you graduated and never practiced again.
It may seem like you blew any chance to speak another language, but much like learning to ride a bike or memorizing a song, the language you learned is still kept deep within your mind. It’s just been latent for a while, so you’ll need to pull it out and bring it back to life.
We recently sent two Babbel French learners on blind dates with fluent French speakers to see how they would fare. One of our learners was 25-year-old Gigi, who studied French in school but was very rusty. See how she did in the video above and read on to learn her secrets for refreshing your old language skills, no matter how many years it’s been.
1. Review Vocabulary (But Be Selective)
Vocabulary makes up a huge portion of the material you study when you learn a new language. The sheer volume of words related to various topics makes it nearly impossible to remember all the vocab you learned in school.
We recommend taking Gigi’s approach and reviewing words and phrases related to topics that are useful in real-life situations. Babbel offers lessons covering specific vocab, like words and sentences related to food and drink, transportation and travel — even feelings and attitudes. Review the sections that are most relevant and practical for you, rather than getting bogged down with thousands of words you’ll never use.
2. Speak, Speak, Speak
Getting comfortable with speaking a new language is often the most difficult part of language learning, and going years without practicing can make it particularly nerve-racking. When preparing for her blind date, Gigi made use of Babbel’s speech recognition technology to get back in the speaking groove and to make sure her pronunciation was on the mark.
Our app has sections on speaking to help you fine-tune your pronunciation and get comfortable talking out loud. You can review vowel and consonant sounds and even try your hand at some foreign-language tongue twisters!
3. Run Key Conjugations
Yes, grammar can be a chore, but it’s an important part of communicating effectively in a new language. You don’t have to waste time memorizing every tense under the sun. Start by reviewing the conjugations you know you’re going to need: obviously the present tense is crucial, and you’ll probably want to run through the past and future tenses as well.
Gigi knew that on the blind date, present and past tenses would be the most useful, so those are the ones she focused on. In Babbel’s grammar section, you can pick and choose lessons based on the tenses you want to review. And don’t forget to brush up on those pesky irregular verbs.
4. Practice In The Real World
Once you refresh your memory and get a renewed grasp on the basics of your new language, it’s time to move from the app to the physical world. It’s hard to know for sure whether you can really speak the language until you try to have a conversation with a real person in real life.
In Gigi’s case, we created the real-world scenario for her by sending her on a blind date with a fluent French speaker. When you’re ready for this stage, you’ll have to find a way to make this happen yourself, whether through world travel, a language meetup group in your area, or any of these methods for immersing yourself in your new language.