Learn a Language Outside Class?
What if I told you you could learn a language without actually stepping inside a classroom? When I moved to Medellin, Colombia, in 2015, my proficiency level was intermediate Spanish.
I was confident enough to get around on public transportation, ask for directions if I got lost, navigate the supermarket, and use the subjunctive tense. However, when I moved into an apartment with six foreigners and one Colombian, I realized that I would speak my native language – English most of the time, and how little Spanish I was actually using. Not wanting to take classes, I found other ways to improve my language skills, to challenge myself, and to make friends in Medellin.
Here are some of my top tips for learning a language without stepping inside a classroom!
Erin’s Top Tips: Learn a Language Outside the Classroom
Living With Native Speakers
Yes, learning a new language can exhaust even the keenest learner, and at the end of a long day, all you want to do is relax and speak your first language. This is where living with native speakers comes in: it forces you to think in the language. It pushes through those challenging moments. After I moved out of my shared apartment and into a home with locals, I found that my confidence and fluency in Spanish improved. Eventually, I stopped feeling so tired when speaking Spanish, and it became more natural to me.
Take Another Class!
No, not a language class!
Take a class on another subject that interests you! A few months after arriving in Colombia, I decided that I needed to take dance lessons if I was going to keep up on a night out.
Not only did taking Salsa and Bachata at Dance Free classes improve my moves on the dance floor, but I also drastically increased my Spanish vocabulary.
Not into dancing? Try an art class, a yoga class, or a cooking class with Via Cocina (in the native language, of course).
Going on a Date
Dating in your first language can be a cause of stress and anxiety for some, let alone dating in your second language. Expats living abroad always joke that one of the best ways to learn the language is to date a local! I can vouch for it by firsthand experience. After dating a Colombian who didn’t speak any English, my Spanish did in fact improve. You could download Tinder or Bumble, or strike up a conversation with someone at a bar; I guarantee your fluency (and confidence) will improve!
Check Out a Local Language Exchange
If you aren’t quite ready to jump into the dating world, language exchanges are a great option for those looking to make friends and improve their language skills. A couple of my favorite language exchanges in Medellin are at Toucan Spanish School and Colombia Immersion! I met some of my best friends in Medellin at language exchanges.
One of my favorite all-time ways to learn Spanish is through volunteering. In Medellin, there are many organizations to get involved with. Check out Volunteers in Colombia; they can help match you with organizations that meet your interests.
Wherever you land in the world, I recommend connecting with local organizations. You will see your language skills improve!
Whether you are getting involved through a class, a language exchange, a volunteer opportunity, or going out on a date, it will boost your language proficiency, increase your confidence and help you connect with your new home. What’s your favorite way to learn a language?
by: Erin Colton-Enberg