I will not graduate from high school for a while, what can I do now?
There are many different ways to improve upon and maintain your language skills. Below are a few suggestions.
- Join a language club that meets regularly to speak a particular language.
- Visit a cultural center in your area; go to foreign festivals or take a cooking lesson.
- Rent movies and watch them in your foreign language. Set movies to another language and leave the subtitles OFF (if you can). Or, if you must, change the language and turn on English subtitles. Getting used to listening to the language is an important step in maintaining your skills of comprehension.
- Listen to language tapes or discs in your car on the way to work, school, while traveling, etc. If you have satellite radio, search for foreign stations. Listen to music and talk radio in another language and see how much you understand.
- Read books. If your skills are limited or if you are just starting out, look for children’s books. They will have simpler language and great illustrations. Foreign children’s books can be great entertainment. If your skills are more advanced, look for foreign versions of classics—if you have a basic familiarity with the story you will be able to enjoy the subtle nuances of language instead of struggling to understand every aspect of the story line.
- Use your language skills when you eat out—look for a restaurant that has a menu written in their native language. Check out the menu and learn while you indulge in tasty entrees and desserts
- Volunteer with an organization that works with different immigrant communities in your area.
- Set your Internet home page to a foreign newspaper. Review daily headlines each time you log on. You will keep your language skills honed and also expose yourself to another culture.
- Most importantly—keep it fun! Languages should always be enjoyable. Find the most pleasant way of practicing every day and you will easily fall into a routine of learning.
You can also apply to NSLI-Y, a Department of State program that offers merit-based scholarships for American high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer, semester, and academic year overseas immersion programs. The program is open to all American citizens, 15 to 18 years old, with any level of language experience. To learn more about this program, visit the Web site http://www.nsliforyouth.org/
For national summer student opportunities, please visit the Startalk Web site: www.startalk.umd.edu/students
For resources for less commonly taught languages, please visit UCLA Language Materials Project Web site: http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/
To learn more about Language Resource Centers (LRCs) at U.S. universities, please visit their Web site: http://www.nflrc.msu.edu/
For information on international and area studies as well as foreign languages and cultures, please visit this Web site: http://www.outreachworld.org/