10 Ways to Maintain Your Second Language

Picture this: It’s one of those rare occasions when you actually get to use that second language you acquired in school or on your mission, but you’re bumbling through with a rusty vocabulary and your tongue is sitting thick in your mouth, feeling all kinds of awkward as it tries to wrap itself around words you once pronounced with ease. 

Many Latter-day Saints, blessed with the opportunity to learn a foreign language, have felt this way at some point, as the social and professional situations in which they find themselves post-school or mission don’t provide opportunities to keep it up. Use it or lose, so the old adage goes, and maintaining a second language can feel like a major chore—but it doesn’t have to.  Here are 10 suggestions for how to get consistent practice by integrating your foreign language into your everyday life.

1. Read the Scriptures. You’re going to do it anyways, right, so why not practice your foreign language at the same time? No hard copy? No problem! You can find the scriptures in dozens of languages online at lds.org.

2. Read More. Read books. Read magazines. Read newspapers. Read as much as you can in your foreign language, even instructions for putting together your new IKEA furniture. Next time you’re browsing online consider getting that new title you’re dying to read in your second language. 

3. Watch Movies. Check out local theaters to see if they offer foreign films and nearby university and college campuses for international cinema offerings. Check out Amazon and similar online venues. Or, simply change the language under the options menu on your favorite DVD.

4. Listen to Music. With free internet radio you can listen to just about anything. Peruse today’s hits or genre specific lists in other countries to find artists you’ll love, or change the country settings on iTunes to explore a different store library.

5. Keep a Journal. Writing is typically the hardest part of mastering any language. Keep current and feed into your childhood need to write in code by recording your thoughts, feelings, and aspirations in another language.

6. Write to friends, especially those you met abroad.

7. Change the language settings on your computer and social media sites so you are exposed to your second language, even just passively.

8. Join or create a language club, host cultural dinner parties, and try to befriend native speakers who may not have many opportunities to speak their own language. 

9. Volunteer. Tutor ESL or language students at a local high school or college, create a language day camp through a community center, or donate some time to the teaching resource center at the missionary training center.

10. Travel. Take any opportunity to visit places where your second language is the primary language. Enjoy the culture. 

Your turn: Any strategies you've found useful in preserving your second language? Please share in the comments below!
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