Maintain and Build Language Skills this Summer

Working on your language skills during the summer can be a very effective way to both retain your language skills as well as accelerate your progress.

We all love summer. Teachers and students need that break to recharge. It’s ideal to travel and study abroad, but the reality is, many of us won’t be doing that this summer. Check out these resources for some great ways to maintain and build your language skills over the summer.

Quizlet. Lots of language teachers are on Quizlet by uploading sets of vocabulary. Our students can go on and use that set of vocabulary in the form of flashcards, puzzles and lots of different games. You can even export these vocabulary sets into Google Sheets or Excel, and create tab separated values. Import these into Anki, and you have this great spaced repetition activity.

You can find Quizlet vocabulary by themes: family in French, or Japanese greetings, for example. You can also find them by textbook, so if you have a certain textbook that you studied in your school, you can find all the vocabulary from that. Playing the many games all summer long is a great way to keep up with the content you studied over the year.

Flash Academy. This is a fun little app created in the U.K. The creator of Flash Academy was an engineer who wanted to learn Spanish. He decided to color code words based on the different parts of speech, and start labelling his environment in Spain. This led to more ideas, and the evolution of his product. The basic post-it note that you can label what you see with the color coded notes still exists, but there is also now a scanner that will pronounce the word for you. It will take a picture, scan, and get the word in the target language for you. For example, if you take a picture of a door, and it will find how to say it in the language that you’re studying.

The fun part is that it has tons and tons of games. They are really addicting. There’s a basic version that’s free, and there’s a premium level, too. Order the post-its that go along with it, available in several languages. Engaging and fun!

Instant Immersion. I stumbled upon an earlier version of this find about 20 years ago, and I am in as love with it as ever. It’s a simple little program that you can install on any computer and play games at three different levels.

The games for the beginning level are so much fun. The presenters will speak to you completely in the target language. You need to click around to correctly respond. Essentially, this is the TPR method (total physical response-a very effective teaching method) to select the right word, teaching you vocabulary without using English.

You can do the program over and over again until you’ve mastered all of the language presented. It truly is so much fun. It also has dictionaries and some pronunciation guides. Super-useful, fun and addicting.

The Learnables. As I understand it, Learnables is essentially an early version of Rosetta Stone. I’ve not tried Rosetta Stone, so I can’t really speak about it, but The Learnables is a similar idea to the Instant Immersion program, which I’m very pleased with.

I understand that the program has lessons from the Bible, and is used by many homeschooling families. Basically, you are immersed in the target language and you are required to be an active participant to move forward with all the games.

Italki. This site is absolutely brilliant. Italki has native speaking language tutors from all over the world. You connect with them on Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts, and you do a lesson. It is a fantastic way to accelerate your progress and get comfortable speaking with a native speaker. You can even record by using YouTube Live and Google Hangouts. You then can review your lesson and listen later. What a great way to build confidence in communicating with native speakers!

Vocaroo and Voice Memos. Feeling too shy to speak to a native speaker, or you feel your child is too shy? These two apps can record. I always recommend people talk to themselves regularly when learning. While I will admit that it’s very strange at first to talk to yourself, it’s a highly effective way to build your skills and maintain them over the summer.

I would suggest to more beginning students to use a textbook or whatever program they’re using, and bullet point out the things they want to practice and speak about. As you become more comfortable, you’ll start speaking in longer and longer and longer sentences. Each session brings you a step closer to fluent.

Voice Memos is great for your phone, and Vocaroo can be used on your desktop. Record yourself once a week for eight or nine weeks over the summer, and you will be astounded at your progress.

DuoLingo. Last but not least, DuoLingo.

DuoLingo gets better and better all the time. You can use the desktop version or the mobile version. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and it’s a great way to build your skills. You can do it anywhere you have a phone or an internet connection. There’s games, chat bots, reading and stories. There’s even a podcast now for learners of Spanish!

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Reading, journaling, watching Netflix or videos on Yabla or YouTube in the target language are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in languages over the summer, and have fun doing so.

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