How to improve your language skills?

How to improve your language skills?

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Everyone knows that when we finish secondary school even if we have learnt various languages, we feel bad at French, Spanish, German, Italian or another language. Here, you will find some advice to know how to get fluent in languages and how to memorise vocabulary.

Language bases

As it was previously mentioned, admittedly we are not good at languages leaving high school, for all that we are not starting from scratch. A lot of parameters are taken into account to get fluent in languages. As we can notice in classes, we have to practice the 5 language skills which include written and oral comprehension, written and oral expression and culture awareness. Usually, oral expression is the least practised language skill whereas it is fundamental to improve language skills.

Even if you cannot speak in a foreign language, you have acquired some bases: you know how to form a sentence (syntax), how to conjugate a verb (at least the first person in present simple: I + verb in present simple and the third person in present simple: he/she + verb in present simple). You also know vocabulary words and perhaps set phrases which means that you know how to pronounce words and to read in this language. Being aware of all those things is at least a start! Thanks to this awareness, you can read the language and by reading, you can discover new vocabulary and become familiar with this language, written comprehension is a fundamental language skill!

Oral comprehension permits you to better understand the pronunciation of letters and words and it also allows you to accustom your ear. It is repeating different tasks that will help you learn more and more about speaking the language.

Written expression is good training for sentence constructions, for memorising vocabulary, etc. and then putting it in practice by the oral way. Also, improving skills in written expression permits you to visualise the written form and then to pronounce the word better.

If we try to conclude, we can say that language bases are alphabet and pronunciation awareness (phonology), phrase constructions (syntax) by way of conjugation, so generally both are included in grammar, the acquisition of vocabulary by reading for example, what also shows the importance of the written form. To resume, these 5 language skills need to be worked to improve your language skills and to get fluent in languages because, this way, you will know how to write, understand (written and oral forms) and speak languages. It is not an easy task but as we know – “no pain no gain”!

Improve your written and oral comprehension

To improve your written comprehension, it is no secret that you must read. To start, it is easier to read picture books or small articles like blog posts before trying to read press articles. Then, when you are more accustomed, you can try to read literature. It is a good way to deeply improve your language and culture awareness. When you reach the level and when you know both of them: the language and the culture, we can say that you are fluent in this language and you mastered it.

To improve your oral comprehension, there exist different options that we can expose by steps of difficulty. The first one is listening to music searching for the lyrics to understand them. It can be a good idea to nicely start to accustom your ear (and to be aware of another cultural element). The second step is watching short videos like podcasts about what you like or what topic you want to learn about. This training will really help you improve your oral comprehension skill and you will also learn a lot of vocabulary and the one which is useful for you. The next step is watching series in OV (from cartoon series with short episodes to television series with long episodes) and progressively trying to watch whole movies. Obviously, subtitles are helpful, you can use them in your mother tongue to understand all the sentences or you can choose to put them in the studied language to also work on your written comprehension. The last step is to watch some TV shows and listen to radio broadcasts. As you can see, in both cases (written and oral comprehension), the final stage includes culture. De facto, you have to focus on the first 4 language skills and then the fifth one, culture awareness, will be memorised automatically.

If we try to summarise what training you have to follow to improve your language skills in an ascending difficulty order for the written comprehension, it is:

  • read picture books (comics, children’s books…)
  • read blog articles
  • read articles
  • read press magazine
  • read literature

For the oral comprehension:

  • listen to music searching for the lyrics
  • watch podcasts
  • watch short series in original version with subtitles
  • watch series with longer episodes in original version with subtitles
  • watch movies in original version subtitled and then only in original version
  • watch TV shows and listen to radio broadcasts

In all cases, you have to note imperatively all the vocabulary that you learn to memorise and go back to it easily.

Improve your written and oral expression

To improve your written expression, there is only one answer: you must write. But to practice, several exercises exist. Following the idea of giving you different steps of difficulty regarding your training, it is better to start learning a language doing simple exercises like answering to questionnaires, filling in blanks in sentences (which can also allow you to work on your written and oral comprehension), doing some crosswords or other kind of games which include words and written forms. Then, you must try to do your own sentences and progressively write kinds of articles and essays, etc.

Let’s finish with oral expression. If we come back to our previous context, high school, we can say that very few people are participating in language classes. Of course, speaking another language is frightening or it needs too much effort and we are too lazy, but now are we not regretting it? Because now we have understood that improving our language skills means, among others, improving your oral expression and to conclude we should move ourselves! At least we know that it is a small step for the Man but a giant step for us!

Therefore, oral expression is an essential element to improve language skills because it allows you to hear yourself and to be aware of what kind of mistakes you do or what are your lacks, etc. It allows you to know what you must focus on training to improve you. Given that, while speaking, if you are stopped every second because you do not know a word, you must learn vocabulary; if you are stopped because you do not know an operative word, you must revise your grammar; if you cannot tell a story because you only know present simple, you must learn more conjugation, etc. Consequently, the only thing to do is improve oral skill practising < strong> for real, talking, singing, whispering, as you want but whatever you do, practice creating your own sentences!

You have several options to do that. If you are going to university, you must force yourself to participate in language classes (like in the others of course)! If you don’t have this opportunity, you can check if some events are organised in your town like meetings for people who want to speak a language in particular. If you cannot find one, you can try to make some discussion sessions with a close relation who knows this language to improve both of you. And, even if it seems weird, you can also speak alone this language or try to think in it, it is a very efficient method! A good reaction, after having found the alternative which corresponds to you better, is, one more time, to note what you lack to express yourself. Then, in an appropriate time, you will solve this issue by studying. For instance, if you decide to think in French for 30 minutes, and you lack vocabulary words, you can write them all and then, in the evening (or any appropriate moment according to you), you must search the vocabulary and do some vocabulary worksheets.

To sum up, to improve your written expression you have to progressively follow these steps:

  • do some simple exercises revising words and learning how to write them correctly
  • do exercises focusing on syntax and grammar
  • write shorts stories, articles and then essays

To improve your oral expression you have to choose the way that you prefer to practice as much as possible.

It is primordial to save marks about what you have studied, even more when you want to improve your language skills and memorise vocabulary because every lesson will help you. That is the reason why you must do vocabulary worksheets, it is a vital tool for learning.

How to do vocabulary worksheets?

As we have seen, for any language skill training, we must search vocabulary words, forms or other kinds of problems we meet while practising. So, we have to do some vocabulary worksheets and doing it by hand is boring. To help us and to save time, there exist applications and websites which create and save these vocabulary worksheets, also called flashcards. What is the best site to learn languages? Perhaps you do not know it but it is called VocApp. It allows us to learn languages, improve our language skills and memorise vocabulary, all we need by the way! Thanks to this application, you can, one more time, when it is the most appropriate moment according to you, study, learn and improve your languages creating your own vocabulary worksheets/flashcards. You will enter a word in the language you want and it will translate it for you, then you can add a picture. These can be photos that remind you of something and this way, you will memorise vocabulary easier. For example, if you watched a touristic podcast about Warsaw, you can create a folder called “Warsaw” and then enter flashcards with vocabulary adding pictures you have seen in the podcast. This way you will easily remember references and in consequence, the translation (for more details, read the article how to learn languages faster?). These vocabulary worksheets or flashcards will be saved and you will revise them when you want, learning depending on your needs.

All the following questions have one common answer:

  • how to do vocabulary worksheets?
  • how to memorise languages?
  • how to learn languages?
  • how to improve your language skill?

using the VocApp Vocabulary builder – application and website.

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