How often do you plan to work a bit on your language skills? How often do you think – well I’m actually quite good but I really should learn some words?
Let’s be honest – in our everyday life it’s simply difficult to take the time one needs to adequately work on one’s vocabulary. As you can tell from my last blog entries, this is exactly my topic. I speak six languages. I’m fluent in three of them (level C1+). 3 of them I speak on an intermediate level (B1-B2).
By all means, this doesn’t mean that I am a language genius. Or the opposite: you never see me sitting in a room, learning the dictionary by heart. Definitely not. However, I happen to have found a few ways how to pick up words in my daily routine without it feeling like hard work. One method is (wait for it) – housework!
Some of you have to take a deep breath now. Yes, I know, how could someone propose to combine dull tasks like vacuuming with the even more boring task of learning vocabulary? Well, hello, I am doing it – for real and for a good reason. Housework tasks usually are repetitive and filled with automatisms and thus leaving enough brain capacity for some good ol‘ language drill.
So, what kind of things can you do during your housework chores to push your skills? Let’s get started, shall we?
Talking to yourself
Look around – are you alone? Good! Talking to yourself is a great way to use new vocabulary in real sentences, to practice difficult pronunciation and to rehearse real-life conversational situations.
Why don’t you give yourself an awesome interview while doing the dishes? Or you use the opportunity to tell your boss what you really think about him. Or you work on that Academy Award acceptance speech of yours.
Advantage: Nobody listens to you – mistakes are ok, and you can jabber as much nonsense as you want, which takes away inhibitions and your mouth is getting used to speaking a foreign language. Always remember: you have to practice with the tools you’ve got.
Disadvantage: Nobody listens to you to correct you. However, I don’t deem this to be a really bad thing. Everyone makes mistakes – hell yes, even natives make a ton of mistakes. You will always speak according to your current level and that is perfectly fine – by the way: this fact also applies to real life conversations!
My advice: Let’s say you are working on those dreadful irregular verbs – you could recite them for example. Or you make it more interesting by recollecting what you did last weekend. Make a story and tell it to yourself – you will be surprised how frequent we must use irregular verbs…
Maybe you are working on grammar structures such as the French subjunctive (bastard). Pick the signal words for example (bienque etc.) and make as many sentences (subjunctive included of course…) with them as possible, say those sentences out loud – repeat them until your ears bleed. Trust me, after 50 sentences, your brain will have rewired and will automatically use the subjunctive from now on, believe me – it works.
You will often find that the labels on cleaning products contain the product descriptions in various languages. Use that to your advantage and check out what air freshener, toilet cleaner and co. are called in the language you are learning.
Advantage: Everyday vocabulary that you can use in the real world!
Disadvantage: The translations are not always 100% identical to the original so make sure to double-check some of the words (using the dictionary duh…).
This tip definitely is one of my all-time favourites – because it’s so simple! Put your headphones on, go to YouTube and chose an audiobook to your liking. Perfect for training your listening skills. By the way: your local library most likely has a few audiobooks in foreign languages!
Advantage: 100% availability, 100% free, 100% authentic.
Disadvantage: It can be a challenge to find suitable audiobooks for beginners. If you are really in the mood for an audiobook (or a huge fan like me), you could listen to audiobooks that are specifically made for language learners – they are available for every level and not too expensive (go check amazon).
Be your own narrator – describe what you are doing at the moment (I am doing the dishes, now I’m going to the living room to pick up after my kids…). You will a) be shocked by how many words you already know and b) even more shocked by how many everyday words you don’t now (yet).
Have a notepad at hand to scribble down any vocabulary you might not know. Don’t check them directly though (too time consuming) but find the translation some other time. The next time you do your chores repeat the story – let’s see how many of the words you have remembered.
Advantage: Talking to yourself allows you to train speaking in complete sentences and enables you to incorporate new vocabulary. You will automatically improve your pronunciation and you will lose your inhibitions to speak the new language!
Disadvantage: As mentioned before – there is no one to check your grammar and pronunciation, but let’s leave grammar be for once … speak away!!
Do you have some more tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!