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Quirky Ways to Improve your Language Skills

Had enough of memorising endless vocabulary lists? Or going through repetitive grammar drills? Or even completing dry comprehension questions? While some of these exercises can help you build up a foundation for your second language, you should know there are other ways – some of them weird and wonderful – to improve your skills.

I still recall when one of my French professors at Oxford delighted in shocking first-year students by claiming he had ‘never once written down a new word in a vocabulary list.’ Scandalous! But clearly successful. While this approach may sound like it’s for geniuses alone, in practice it’s useful for all learners. Much research shows that effective vocabulary learning is context-dependent. This means that you’re much more likely to learn and remember words if you see them in their ‘natural habitat’ and not as a single item on a long list. To this end, you should read as much as possible in your target language as the context will help you to remember new words, particularly as you work them out as part of a story. You’ll soon see that you won’t need to write them down.

One particularly helpful tool for context-rich reading is a comic book. The images in them help cement new words in your memory. Secondly, find dubbed versions of your favourite films or programmes in your target language. This way you’ll already know the plot and can focus on the dialogue and spoken language, which is especially useful for presentations in exams. Pro Tip: Children’s films are nearly always dubbed (for me, watching Harry Potter in Hebrew was not only hilarious but educational). Lastly, practise your spoken language by talking to yourself throughout the day. You may get weird looks, but you’ll see how much more fluent you become by narrating your activities and recalling important vocabulary every day.

Got your own weird trick? Be sure to share this in your next i-Learner class. It won’t be weird if we all do it!