"Will I lose my language skills?"
This is what many au pairs fear after returning from abroad. Indeed, it’s a legit concern - a lack of practice can affect language skills in the long-term. You won’t lose them altogether, but they will slip into a deeper part of your memory if unused regularly.
So you want to keep your language skills fresh? Or sharpen them before an upcoming au pair stay? You’ve come to the right place.
In this post, you'll find find six free and entertaining ways to keep skills sharp and improving - even when you're in your home country.
1. Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are great because they can both entertain and help with language learning. Plus, you can listen to them wherever you want - on a commute, at home while relaxing, you name it. So they won’t take a lot of your time.
The beauty of podcasts is that you can find one about something you’re interested in. This way, you’ll make learning more engaging. Travel, education, sport, science, humor - there’s always a podcast that fits you.
Where to find quality podcasts:
- Google Podcasts. The largest collection of podcasts in English (most are free!)
- iTunes store. Visit it on your Mac or iPhone and change your country settings to get podcasts in that language.
- Spotify Podcasts. A collection of podcasts in a variety of languages and categories from Spotify.
- Audible Podcasts. Exclusive podcasts from actors, athletes, politicians, influencers, and other people in numerous categories.
Extra Tip: Download podcasts where possible to avoid interruptions in case of a poor connection. Also, set your podcast app to download them automatically to get new content regularly. And AuPairWorld has podcasts too. Check this out for example: Turning au pair challenges into dreams come true
2. Read local newspapers online
Reading newspapers is a nice way to maintain language skills, enhance vocabulary, and stay updated on the latest happenings in a target country. It’s a good habit to develop a critical mind and gain an understanding of events outside of your immediate environment.
How to do it?
Simply search Google for: “[City name] + newspapers”. The result should be a list of newspapers published in that particular city.
Extra Tip: Subscribe to a newsletter from a foreign newspaper to receive newsletters and push notifications in a category (travel, culture, etc.). Most newspapers send these and allow you to choose the category for personalization. Just a few clicks away to get a daily dose of content in whatever your target language is – for free!
3. Join a language group on Meetup
Meetup is a service people use to organise online groups to meet in person. The best thing is that it has users from around the world, plus participants come from different countries.
Most groups are interest-based, which is already pretty great, but there’s also a “Language Learning” category.
According to Meetup, there are currently 353 groups with 182,000+ participants you can join. The meetings are free and occur in many countries, the chance is great you’ll find one happening in your area.
Just as an example: There's an English exchange group based in Tokyo. One of the largest on the site - with over 22,000 members - and it’s totally free.
Keep in mind that you must register on the platform - it takes just a minute. Also, to join any Meetup group, you need to send a request. No worries, though, the overwhelming majority of groups accept new folks readily and gladly.
Extra Tip: Choose a free group with native speakers. It’ll help to practice language skills with both learners and natives.
4. Start your own mini “Au Pair” blog
Everybody’s a blogger these days, why not you, too?
Blogging is super fun and helpful to maintain language skills. By writing in a foreign language on a regular basis, you can practice punctuation and grammar and learn new words. Besides, there’s a chance of generating a small community around your blog to communicate with, too.
Want to have some blog ideas? Here you go:
- My experience as an au pair in [country]
- Lifestyle blog
- Cooking blog
- Just a random poetry blog
Basically, you can write about any topic you like - but you'll need to have enough ideas to keep the blog going.
The good news is that starting a blog isn’t hard. And it’s free!
You can get a WordPress account in minutes and start organising your blog (adding your bio, pics, menu categories, etc.). Come up with a list of topics to begin writing your essays and articles, and share them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Need some tips on writing style? I suggest reading the AuPairWorld Blog article on how to develop your blogging skills during your au pair stay. A great example of blog writing in the first person is this article: "Why Are Au Pairs Misunderstood: A Personal Report" by Casey Aubin, founder of the Au Pair Movement.
Extra Tip: Prepare at least ten categorized article topics before writing. This list will help you stay organised with your writing plans.
5. Become a part-time language tutor
You’ve learned a new language, why not share it with others?
Teaching someone else is a great way to maintain your own language skills. Plus, you can earn some money on the side. So it’s a win-win.
Here’s how tutors typically work online:
- Create a plan for a short language course (based on language levels)
- Write plans for each lesson (exercises, explanations, etc.)
- Find materials to assist you during lessons (videos, articles, examples, etc.)
- Prepare homework assignments (essay writing, multiple-choice questions, tests, etc.)
- Install a video conferencing app on your laptop (pick a free one like Skype)
- Post an ad promoting yourself as a language tutor online (local listing websites are perfect for that).
For you as an au pair, it’s important to choose topics and levels you will be comfortable teaching. A proper choice will allow you to share your deep knowledge to enhance your student’s skills.
Extra Tip: in addition to freelancing, consider registering on a tutor website. You’ll pay a small commission but get access to a lot more potential clients. Tutor websites also allow you to get client reviews, which is something that can serve your reputation in the long-term.
6. Find a language exchange partner
A language exchange partner might be someone you know or a person you’ve met online. If you feel like you need more “one-on-one” experience, then it could be a great idea.
Basically, the idea is to have a conversation with a native speaker of your target language. Completely for free, it’s a form of mutual help, and a great way to meet new people.
Apps to find language exchange partners:
My Language Exchange. An online community of over 3 million members from 175 countries. You can choose a partner to speak with based on a great search feature. Video chat, voice chat, text chat, and email communication options are available for registered users.
HelloTalk. A language learning app for chatting with native speakers of over 150 languages for free. You can choose to communicate via text, audio, and video chatting options and even have native speakers check your pronunciation. There are also grammar and vocabulary exercises available for daily learning sessions.
An app isn’t the only option to find a language exchange partner. If you have a friend you’ve met as an au pair, ask them to help. It’ll be a way to keep in touch and learn together.
Also, there are many people on social media looking for someone to practice languages. Visit some language groups on Facebook and see who might be a good fit.
It’s impossible to forget a new language completely. Yet, you should stay linguistically active after the au pair experience to keep it fresh.
If you’d like to maintain the language skills, feel free to use these tips. We tried to make them as engaging as possible for a positive learning experience. You can also watch our video on how to learn a language at home.
Hopefully, they will help you to take care of your language skills. Keep learning, and have fun!
About the author:
Nicole D. Garrison is a content strategist, writer, and contributor at classyessay.com and other platforms for marketing specialists. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research. In her free time, Nicole is a passionate runner and a curious beekeeper. She also runs her own blog LiveInspiredMagazine.