I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things is learning or experiencing something new. It keeps life interesting, can help us with our career and even keep our brains healthy. When you know the basics of your target language (the one you are learning), you are ready to use it to gain new skills. By doing so you can change the focus from ‘how can I ever learn this language?’ to ‘what can I do with this language?’ or ‘what
can this language give me access to?’
It can be tempting to learn new skills and try new activities in a language you already know well, but I would like to encourage you to give activities in your target language a chance. At the moment many of us are limited to finding activities online, but on the other side of the pandemic there will be more opportunities available to learn new skills in person in Switzerland in your target language. So, the benefits of learning new skills are obvious, you say, but what are the benefits of learning these new skills through the language I am learning and haven’t totally mastered yet? Isn’t that too hard and inefficient?
Not only is it possible, but I heartily recommend that you try it! I myself, a native English speaker, have previously learnt skills like sailing, pattern drafting and several languages through German.
- Consistency is key when learning a language (and other skills). Getting consistent practice in the language shouldn’t just be about attending a class, but rather integrating it into your daily life. Doing a hobby or some training in your target language can provide valuable language practice on top of targeted language study.
- Concentrating on developing your skill can distract you from embarrassment surrounding mistakes because you are concentrating on the new skill, rather than making perfectly formed sentences.
- You learn relevant vocabulary matching your interests quickly; no fears that you won’t need all the vocabulary in the textbook.
- Real context to learn new vocabulary and a lot of repetition will help it sink in. Sailing vocabulary will be stuck in my brain forever because I heard the same words over and over in context and connections in my brain were strengthened by connecting physical movement with language. I had to respond to various commands by subsequently pulling a line or trimming a sail etc.
- Motivation is vital. Here at VOX, we always encourage students to find their inner motivation to learn. Learning exciting new things through your target language rewards you for learning the language because you are actually using for something that benefits you in other ways in your life. You’ll also give yourself more confidence to speak when you know the relevant vocabulary about particular topics and are used to using it. Locals might even be impressed by your vocabulary knowledge.
- You can learn words you don’t know even in your native language. This might sound strange, but it can be fun to learn new vocabulary that you don’t know in your native tongue (you can learn new words twice!). No one knows all the words in their own language after all, not even teachers.
- Cost efficient: you are practising two skills for the price of one!
- If you’re able do attend some kind of class, club or training with locals, you’ll reap the benefits of increased integration and a feeling of belonging. You might also get to try something unique to Switzerland or the German-speaking world that you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
How to make the most of this exciting opportunity:
- Prepare a bit in advance and look up some words you think you might need (if just reading about a topic then look up as you go). You could also look for extra materials like videos, articles on relevant topics.
- Note down new words and expression as you go or afterwards if not possible to write as you go so you know them for next time.
Language is a tool rather than an end goal. Learning through your language makes it more than just a decoration for your CV or something to fulfil some kind of official requirement. Teachers like me help you to build a foundation so it can then become part of your normal life.
So what are you waiting for? Look for books or videos on topics that you want to learn about, attend an online class e.g. yoga, join a club (when we can get close to each other again), enrol in a course or some kind of training… but please, all in your target language!