The best way to learn a language is to be exposed to it regularly – the quickest way you can learn is by reviewing and extending your language skills every single day. The longer you have between classes, the more time your knowledge has to slide away from the active part of your brain, and to wedge itself somewhere that requires a lot of effort to bring back to the surface so you can use it in everyday conversation.
Your aim when learning a language is to be able to speak without having to think about the words and structures you are using. You want to be able to speak naturally, fluently and confidently, so that communicating is less about the language and more about the message. If you forget half of what you learn in between classes, then achieving this goal is going to take a long time.
So what can you do between classes to make sure your classes are spent learning new material, and not revising old material that you know you know but can’t quite recall just now?
Speed up your language learning
Whatever it is you do, make sure you do it regularly. No matter how busy you are, you can always fit in 10 minutes of language learning – at least 6 days out of 7.
As well as revising your notes, reading books and newspapers and watching television (and a million other options) there are also a number of free tools out there that you can use for a short time everyday to make sure you are getting the most out of your language learning, and are progressing at a nice measurable speed. Using these tools can help reinforce what you learn in class, and, most importantly, they can make sure you don’t forget what you’ve learned in between classes, so you are ready to continue forwards and improve when you come to your next class.
Some popular tools that you can use online or download from the internet:
http://ankisrs.net/ has a downloadable software that allows you to either import pre-made flashcards from the internet, or to make your own.
http://www.memrise.com/ is an online “high-tech” flashcard tool, which has a large range of interactive flashcards and memory aids to help you learn vocabulary.
http://www.duolingo.com/ is a language learning tool that takes you through the basics of the language and reinforces your learning through practice and activities.
What these tools can’t do
The main advantage of these tools is you can take them with you wherever you have internet, and can use them whenever you want.
These tools don’t contain any communicative aspects, and you never create sentences or speak with a real person while using these tools. Therefore, these tools are great for maintaining your level by keeping you exposed to the language throughout the week, however they are not very effective at improving your speaking skills. Use these tools as much as you can to obtain from them what they do offer, but don’t expect them to offer more than what they are capable of providing.
The way forward
Whether you are someone who likes using tools such as these, either for their versatility or the fact that they take you through what you need to do that day without you needing to think about it, or if you are someone who prefers to study via watching movies, reading textbooks, reading manga…
Whatever you do with your language learning, make sure you practice everyday. If you do, your classes will be that much more valuable because you will be able to progress in giant leaps and bounds without slowing yourself down by re-learning the same material over and over.
Ten minutes of practice per day in between classes WILL take years off the total time it takes you to become fluent in your foreign language.