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How to keep your language skills longer than your tan

You just came back from a study abroad trip in California. Your English is super awesome, everyone is jealous of your tan and there’s probably still some sand in your suitcase. Soon you will get over your jet lag, and things will more or less be back to normal. But how do you make sure your newly acquired language skills will not fade like your Californian tan?

Read. Then read some more.

An easy and cheap way to practice a foreign language after you return home is to read. Thanks to the Internet, we have all kinds of multilingual content at our fingertips, and we can pick and choose from a plethora of foreign newspapers, books and magazines. Don’t forget to subscribe to blogs, follow people on Twitter or talk to them on Facebook.

Words with friends

Learning a language is more fun with friends and so is maintaining your skills. Grab a buddy and practice away: You can email, chat and even Skype together pretty much for free. You can also find offline study buddies at your local university or join a language club once you’re back home.

Sing a song

Even though song lyrics don’t always make sense, and the magic of a song might disappear once you listen to the lyrics a little closer, actively listening to music is a good way to practice your language skills. You can sing along to practice your pronunciation, learn a lot of new words (that rhyme!) and maybe even start your own songwriting career.

Every night is movie night

One of the best ways to learn and retain a language is to watch movies or TV shows in another language: There, people usually talk the way they talk in real life, so you can practice your language skills while keeping up with the pace and the jokes, and expand your vocabulary with slang and idioms. If you don’t want to invest in DVDs, just check out websites like Youtube, where you can find all kinds of clips and even short films for free.

Network and connect

Some language schools offer Alumni Networks and online tools, so students can continue practicing their language skills after they return home and stay in touch with people from all over the world. Facebook or Twitter would do the trick as well, if you keep using them actively to chat with your language travel buddies in the language you were learning.

Go on a(nother) trip!

Traveling is not the cheapest and easiest way to retain your language skills, but it’s probably the most exciting. Practicing your skills and broadening your horizons – it’s the best, but can also be the most expensive of both worlds. My recommendation: Stay in touch with your friends from around the world. That way, you will not only have study buddies but possibly also a couch to sleep on next time you hit the road again!

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