How do you maintain all your language knowledge once you return home?
Coming home to Melbourne, Australia after 9 months of studying Chinese in Nanjing, China wasn’t always easy.
I was in two minds before I left China at the end of 2013. Part of me really wanted to stay on and I had even started looking for jobs. Part of me was ready to come home though. I think this is a fairly normal experience – feeling both emotions at the same time.
When I came home I was lucky enough to land a full-time marketing contract position (which I had organised with a friend before leaving China). I’d resigned from my job to travel in Europe before heading to China, so I had no position to return to. Having this role definitely eased the feeling of settling back in. My job was only contracted for 4 months too so I knew I had to find another job eventually.
What did I really want to do? I was desperate to combine my new love of Chinese and my new found language skills into a job. Ideally within the tourism industry. But it is surprisingly difficult to find positions that value language skills.
I was getting increasingly anxious about my Chinese language skills deteriorating too. I knew that if I didn’t study and practice I would lose all my knowledge that I had spent a lot of time, money and energy acquiring!
I think these can be fairly common experiences when you return to ‘normal life’ after time overseas.
Have you had this experience when you returned home after studying a language overseas?
I hope that sharing my story can help you if you are in a similar situation and wants some tips on how to continue your drive and motivation for language learning when you return home.
A lot of language learning is about mindset.
We need to be in the right frame of mind to learn a language.
Many things around us can affect how effectively we learn a language:
- No clear motivation or purpose
- The feeling of being overwhelmed
- Lacking confidence
- Not having the right resources
A lot of these issues can be overcome when you are in an immersive in-country language experience, but how do you maintain your drive and committment for language learning when you return home??
It really helps to have another goal
You might have already achieved the goal/s you set yourself for your time learning a language abroad. But it really helps to have a goal for you to work towards on your return home.
Some possible goals might be:
- Study for and pass the next level of proficiency exam
- Interview a friend in your target language and post it on Instagram
- Join a language conversation club
- Give a presentation in your target language
- Watch a movie in your target language without the subtitles
- Take part in the Language Diary Challenge – post something on Instagram in your target language everyday for a month
- Read a chapter of a novel in your target language
- Join the Add-1 Challenge – the challenge of learning a language in 3 months and holding a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker
- Learn 10 new words each day
- Sign up to the LingQ 1000 word challenge
- Create a learning schedule and stick to it
Just remember the best goals are SMART goals –
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
So, for example, a current goal of mine is:
to learn Vietnamese vocab specific to language learning so I can interview a native Vietnamese speaker for at least 3 minutes on their language learning experiences by 28 November 2018.
You need to have a plan!
In order to achieve these new goals you have set for yourself, you will need a plan on how to get there!
This will depend on what you are aiming to achieve, but it helps to set yourself some deadlines and rules.
- Having a language study buddy (they don’t have to be learning the same language) might be a really good to way to stay motivated and connected to language learning.
- You might be interested in signing up for weekly in-person classes as a way of maintaining motivation and discipline.
- The online language learning challenges can be a great way of keeping the momentum
- Planning your next language learning trip is always motivating!
- Seeking out language learning and culture related events could also be part of your plan
The best tools and resources to turn to continue your learning
We really are so blessed with the amount of language learning resources available now, with many completely free or low-priced.
Some of the resources I rely on are listed below.
Online lessons – using iTalki or Rype or My Chinese Tutor or similar
Rype is a similar platform but charges a membership rate rather than a per-lesson fee.
My Chinese Tutor is specific to Chinese language and offers Skype lessons for adults and kids.
Online video classes – YoYo Chinese or others on YouTube
YoYo Chinese offers flexible and interesting video classes in Chinese online.
There are heaps of videos available on YouTube too – let me know if you’ve found a favourite?
Language meetups and tutors
If you live in a reasonable sized town or city, the chances are high you can find language meet-ups. They can be a great place to meet other language learners and practice your skills.
Tutors can be incredibly motivating too and you might be lucky enough to find someone to do a language exchange with. Language exchanges usually work with 2 people both wanting to learn each other’s languages and you usually spend half of your time together talking in one language and the second half in the other language. It’s a great option for keeping up your spoken skills for free!
Of course, you can hire a tutor to talk to you in the language you are learning too. Some students offer cheap rates for tutoring.
TV, film, radio and music
A reoccurring theme in the Language Learning Stories interviews I have been conducting is how many language learners tune into TV, radio, film and podcasts in their target language.
SBS in Australia has a large amount of content produced in other languages.
Language learning inspiration
Like so many things we attempt in life, language learning can be a bit of a hard slog. I feel like I need constant rewards and inspiration to keep focused! Or is that just me?!
Language related inspiration might be seeing a film in your target language, going out for a meal and eating the cuisine from the language you are learning or learning a new phrase that is super meaningful and relevant to you.
There are so many now! I have a whole blog post on the best apps to use for learning Chinese if you want to read further!
Have you come home after a language learning trip or immersion experience to find yourself a bit lost or unmotivated with your language learning?
How did you get back on track? Share your tips with me below!
Until next time,