How To Avoid The Summer Language Learning Slump

It’s not just school-aged children who fall behind during the summer.
A woman avoiding summer learning loss by sitting in the middle of a park and reading.

If you’re a parent or you’ve ever been involved in early childhood education, you’ve probably heard of this thing called summer learning loss. For the uninitiated, it’s when kids fall behind in their learning over the summer because they’re not actively exercising the skills they acquired during the school year. Research has found that on average, American students fall one month behind in their math and reading skills over the summer months. For low-income students, it’s often closer to two months.

But even if you’re a working adult with a full-time job, you might find yourself in a summer slacker mood when it comes to your language studies. Summer learning loss is a concept that can be applied more broadly to anyone who’s engaged in any sort of extracurricular learning. You might find yourself, for example, a bit mentally checked out due to an upcoming vacation, the gorgeous weather outside or the cultural imperative to go out and socialize after a winter spent in hibernation.

There are lots of resources and solutions designed to keep kids engaged in their schooling over the summer, but what if you’re an adult trying to learn Spanish and there’s no designated language summer camp for you to attend? Here are a few of our suggestions for having a productive (yet summer-y) summer.

Strategies For Combatting Summer Learning Loss

1. Curate a summer reading list

Remember being a kid and having a summer reading list that was designed to prepare you for whatever literary challenges awaited you in the new school year? You can keep that spirit alive by putting together a summer reading list comprising books written in your learning language. Sure, it can be kind of challenging to read in a language you’re not totally fluent in, but isn’t that the whole point? The trick is to pick reading material that’s appropriate for your proficiency level — something that’s not so hard that it discourages you, but also not so easy that it doesn’t feel challenging. If you’re looking for some suggestions, here are some tips for reading in another language (plus a few of our favorite titles for learners).

2. Replace summer camp with a retreat or vacation

Back in the day, you could just pack your bags for summer camp and have all the fun (yet educationally enriching) activities planned out for you. There’s an adult version of this though, and it’s called a retreat. You won’t be short on options if you’re into yoga (and can afford the often hefty price tag), but you can probably find structured getaways that are tailored to your own hobbies and interests, too. So what does this have to do with language learning? Well, the most obvious thing you can do is plan your summer vacations around the language you’re studying — a.k.a. visit a country where the language is spoken. Similarly, you can try to find a retreat that’s conducted in your learning language (and not English), or at the very least located in a place where you’ll be immersed in the language during your free time.

3. Take your creative writing up a notch

There’s a reason why the summer slump is often counteracted by activities that don’t make kids feel like they’re stuck in school. You can keep up your language learning without cramping your summer mood by stretching your creative muscle and perhaps giving yourself a mental break from drilling grammar rules. Why not commit to a creative writing challenge in your learning language? You can post your work on social media to keep yourself motivated (and hold yourself accountable). Even a paragraph a day will keep the summer learning loss away.

4. Watch sports in another language

For a lot of people, summer is synonymous with sports. Sometimes, the whole world gets involved in a single game (we’re looking at you, World Cup). If you’re going to be glued to your television anyway, find a station or live stream in another language. That way, you can still keep up with the score while you’re absorbing bits and pieces of the language through osmosis. This is one of those multitasking things you can do while you’re performing another mindless task. Even if you’re not fully concentrated on what the announcer is saying, you’ll still be familiarizing yourself with the cadence and pronunciation of the language.

5. Give your summer a soundtrack

Summer goes hand-in-hand with a well-curated party playlist. Fortunately for you, it’s really easy these days to come by music in another language — and to keep the music playing in the background all summer long, making you that much more productive without too much extra effort on your part. Not only will you absorb the pronunciation, contemporary expressions and idiomatic references that you can’t always get from a language lesson, but also you’ll put yourself in the same cultural headspace as a native speaker of the language. For Spanish and German students, we’ve got some great songs already selected for you.

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