How not to forget the second language one learns in school


One of the most frustrating things with learning a second language in our school system today is that the majority of students report forgetting the language as soon as they stop classes. Use it or lose it, they say. If forgetting what they learned, did they ever really know it to begin with? Most likely, no- Memorizing vocabulary and conjugation lists, for example, is extremely different from the true immersion one faces when traveling to a foreign country. Additionally, when it's all summed up, the little amount of time allocated in the average school to foreign language learning is nowhere near the amount of time needed to become able to actively use the language in real life. 

How then do we work to apply and remember what students learn? A blogpost on names a few of the ways on how to enhance learning a foreign language so it's never forgotten:

  • Language meetings- Consider starting a "Parent & Me" playgroup in your local neighborhood for younger kids, or a cultural interest club for older ones who are more on their own. Kids learn from playing with each other and mimicking what their peers are doing. Regularly conversing with one another in person reinforces the real-world applicability of why one learns a second language in the first place, making it fun and worthwhile.

  • Music and movies- It is important to use active learning with these. The parent (or teacher/tutor) should sit with the child and constantly pause any program to review what they are seeing and hearing. Such resources should be used as a springboard for ideas for vocabulary that is age-appropriate. With music, sing along and have fun! Catchy tunes can stick in the head, teaching lyrics while relaxing and enjoying oneself. Little Pim, for example, has music CD's available in Spanish and French, each offering some classic nursery rhymes as well as new original songs to learn high yield vocabulary from.

  • Audiobooks- Listen to authentic dialogue whenever possible- in the car, on a walk, or during down-time at home. Of course, the original foundation of the Pimsleur language system is learning through listening. Again, this should be active if possible. Book groups, for example, are a great way to reflect on one's comprehension. Choosing books with themes one's interested in is of course an added plus!  

Additional tips from others are: 

  • Set aside time each week to use the target language. Concentrate first on the basics that you will use over and over again. Pattern recognition is a great way to store up information for the long-term.

  • Go into language learning with no particular expectations. Avoid putting pressure on oneself or others. Languages are here to bring each other closer together. Enjoy the journey and above all, have fun!

For more reading on how not to forget a foreign language, check out: