Leveraging your Languages

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you have studied a foreign language, possibly at university level, but have now graduated or are about to graduate. Or maybe you’re already working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all.

If you’ve learned a language, the old adage holds true that you must “use it, or lose it”.  Even if you studied a language to degree level, but don’t continue using it, you risk losing (some of) the fluency and confidence in the language you once had. In the future, that means that you will be less likely to apply for or look for a job that DOES require your knowledge of languages.

That’s where “Leveraging your Languages” comes in. “Leveraging your Languages” is a phrase that I coined myself. “Leveraging your Languages” consists of two main strands:

  • Using strategies to make sure that your language stays part of your everyday life, so that you don’t lose your ability to speak, write and understand the language.
  • Using your foreign language skills to add value to your current job, or to develop a separate but parallel “career” that involves using your foreign language for professional activities. Leveraging your language in this way means that you will still be able to re-integrate it into your mainstream career sometime in the future.

Leveraging your Languages in everyday life:

Successful leveraging depends on doing as many of the following things and continuing to do them!

  1. Subscribe to daily e-mail updates from a foreign-language magazine or newspaper of your choice and read them each morning on your smartphone. Simply to the website of the publication and sign up with your e-mail address.
  2. Watch news videos or YouTube videos on any topic that interests you in the foreign language. Do this whenever you have any downtime. I find that watching foreign language programmes first thing in the morning sets me up in the language for the day and helps me think in the language.
  3. Make watching or listening to the media in your target language is part of your daily news intake.
  4. Use the language to stay in contact with a friend in the target-language country via Instant Messaging.
  5. Join a Group on Facebook that relates to your target-language country, a city you lived in or one of your hobbies or interests and submit and respond to comments in the foreign language. You can also comment on posts on other people’s social networking profiles or blogs. Make this a regular thing.
  6. Team up with a friend or colleague from your target language country and commit to having a long video call (using Skype or a similar app) as often as you like in your foreign language. Identify some of the topics to discuss in advance and “tune in” to the language beforehand by watching relevant on-line news videos or YouTube videos in the language.
  7. Get involved in groups (e.g. local MeetUp groups that speak the language), committees, organisations and other bodies where you can use your languages outside of work

Next post: Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace