I was 17 when I spent a year as an exchange student in Southern Germany. I had studied German at school for a long time, and after my exchange year I spoke the language fluently. I didn’t need to search for words or recall grammar rules. I could say anything I wanted without even thinking about it. I used to gossip with my friends for hours on the phone. We talked about our crushes and weekend plans as any teenage girls would. I still remember how great it felt and how proud I was of my remarkably improved language skills.
Then came the time for goodbyes. Months passed and the communication faded. After a few years I didn’t see, hear or speak German anywhere anymore.
And slowly I started to forget. Sometimes that entire year felt like a dream. As if it had never happened.
I didn’t really pay attention to it until about ten years after my exchange year when I traveled to Germany on holiday. I listened to the language around me and it sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t really get a grasp of what was being said. I was in a restaurant looking at the menu and I had difficulties understanding it. I tried to speak German in stores, restaurants and at local sights but I constantly had to switch to English.
I was shocked.
After that I decided to start taking active measures to revive my long-lost German, and today I want to share with you the techniques I thought worked best for me.
Start with something easy
If your language skills are as rusty as my German was, I recommend refreshing your memory with beginner level materials. When you realize how much you still understand and remember, it will give you an immediate confidence boost. Quickly revise the basic grammar rules and do a few easy exercises.
Surround yourself with the language
This is important: listen to lots of music and radio shows in the language you want to revive. If possible, organize a trip to the country where the language is spoken.
Google the best blogs, vlogs and podcasts in the language you are studying. Browse through them whenever you have some spare time.
Translate your favorite song
Choose a song that you like (in the language you are trying to reactivate obviously), read through the lyrics carefully and translate them into your mother tongue. Look up the words you don’t know and pay attention to the structure. When you listen to the song, sing along.
With these techniques (and a little help from WordDive), I have managed to regain at least a part of my lost language skills. I hope you will find them useful, too.
If you have any other great tips for refreshing rusty language skills, share them in the comments!
Director, Learning Material & Customer Relations
Language loving coffee addict and communications professional haunted by eternal wanderlust.