Are you a parent seeking to raise a bilingual child in a non-native language?
A teacher who teaches a language that isn’t your mother tongue, or a subject where you must use a second language in your instruction?
A translator or interpreter who wants to continue sharpening your language skills?
Or maybe a student or language lover who would like to improve your ability more quickly and more enjoyably?
If you fit one (or more) of these profiles, I urge you to read the book Maintaining Your Second Language by Eve Lindemuth Bodeux. Eve, a professional translator and parent to two bilingual children, has done the language-learning world a tremendous service by compiling a treasure trove of practical tips and tools for sustaining and strengthening one’s second (or additional) language.
While most language learners will be familiar with at least some of the strategies she describes, and many of these techniques might be gleaned from diligently scouring the Internet, the beauty of Maintaining Your Second Language is that Eve has brought all these ideas together in one smart, concise, accessible book. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more useful, more digital-savvy resource for practical and productive ways to fortify your language learning. After reading this book, you’ll no doubt come away with a number of new ideas that can motivate your efforts and help fuel your progress.
A key resource for the bilingual journey of non-native parents, and a valuable reference for language professionals and language learners of all kinds, Maintaining Your Second Language is a book that I’m very glad to make use of personally (in my own quest to learn Japanese and Spanish) and very pleased to recommend professionally.
Eve’s Top 10 Tips for Maintaining Your Second (or Third, or Fourth, or Fifth…) Language
10. Define Your Goals
“Speaking” a language fluently actually entails speaking, listening, reading, and writing. If you don’t live in a country where your second language is the majority language, you have to make an effort to keep all these areas active in the second-language part of your brain. Take the time to define what areas of your second language need the most work and focus on them. Write down your goals. Refer back to them to gauge your progress or update as needed.
9. Read, Read, Read and Read Some More
No matter what your overall goals are for maintaining your second language, reading can get you where you want to go. It will bring you knowledge that will also be applicable to speaking, listening, and writing. Reading imparts new vocabulary and solidifies our understanding of grammar almost unconsciously (so it’s painless!). Read books, read magazines, read recipes, or read online, but do make time to read (to yourself and your children).
8. Listen Up!
In addition to reading, listening to your second language on a regular basis helps keep you up to date on pronunciation, grammatical trends, and new vocabulary, as well as what’s happening in your second language’s world. You can listen to audio books, podcasts, news reports, online radio stations, and more.
7. Make it a Game
Keeping things entertaining makes the language maintenance process enjoyable. Play board games with friends who also love your second language. Play word games, learn puns, jokes, and onomatopoeia. Play card games and pick up new things about the target culture. Learn games that have particular cultural significance. The family that plays together stays bilingual together, so don’t forget to have fun!
6. Pursue Your Creativity
Express creativity in your second language. Are you musical? If so, be sure to listen to—and make music—in your second language by singing or playing an instrument. Love poetry? Explore nationally revered poets and poems to learn new terminology and gain cultural insights. Like to cook? Have a blast digging up new recipes to share while getting exposure to cultural techniques and tastes. Whatever your creative outlet, practice it within the framework of your second language to maintain and increase fluency.
5. Embrace “Bad” Words
As far as second languages are concerned, I believe there are no “bad” words. It’s actually very important to know what words are considered to be curse words in a second language. Knowing them can help you gauge social situations: Is there danger afoot? Is someone being rude or just making a joke? Knowing bad words doesn’t mean you have to use them. But it does mean you will have more information about what is going on in the world around you.
4. Be Guilt-Free About Watching “TV”
Today, of course, it’s not just about watching “TV” since there are so many ways to get visual content, such as streaming, YouTube, DVDs, international cable or satellite packages, and more. However you choose to consume visual content, when you watch it in your second language, feel free to let go of any guilt that you should be doing something “more useful.” Video content is a great way (for you and your kids) to get second-language input and visual cues about culture.
3. Go Back to Virtual School
Learning about something other than language can be the perfect avenue for improving and maintaining your language skills. Want to know more about history, science, sewing, or business theories? Take an online class about any subject that interests you, in your second language. There are many courses online (and many are free), on many different topics. Check out iTunes U, Spotify, Ted Talks, MOOCs, and more. They each offer content in multiple languages.
2. Write it Down
Being able to write coherently in a second language makes us a fully literate member of that language’s community. Keep your writing skills fresh by practicing them in your second language whenever you can. Keep a journal, write letters and emails, make lists, write stories or essays, or even write notes to yourself. The next time you have to communicate in writing with a friend or colleague who speaks that language, or help your child with second-language written expression, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Make it Relevant!
You may have seen this tip coming since it’s a common theme in all the ideas mentioned above. It’s the most important piece of advice given here and it can be applied to any aspect of maintaining a second language. Use your second language every day, in many different ways, and make it relevant to your life. Don’t put it on a shelf or get too busy to revel in its usefulness. Integrate your second language into your life by speaking it, listening to it, reading it, and writing it daily. Knowing a second language is truly a gift for us as parents and for our children, opening us up to more ways of looking at the world. Honor the work you have put into your second language over the years, for yourself and your family, by using it in ways that make you happy, every single day.
Thankfully, I was able to avoid a battle at breakfast over who would get to choose the winner. Because Lulu had to head off to school early today, that left Roy behind to plunge his hand into the big, blue bucket and draw the name…
Joyce in the Netherlands
Congratulations, Joyce! And a big thank you to everyone who entered. Eve and I wish all of you much success on your second language adventures!
Eve is kindly offering a free, signed copy of her book to one lucky winner!
To enter the giveaway, just follow these three simple steps…
1. Share this post with others via social media. Help spread the word on Eve’s very helpful resource. Use the sharing buttons below or simply copy and paste this link…
2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)
1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)
2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 12 and Boy, 9)
3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)
4. Why does this book interest you? (Example: Since I live in Japan, I want to continue improving my Japanese. At the same time, I’m also trying to add a third language to our family—Spanish—and because I’m still a beginner in this language myself, I need all the help I can get!
3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Tuesday, October 18 (Japan time). On that day, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed in a big, blue bucket then Lulu and Roy will likely fight over the honor of selecting one name at random. When the dust settles, I’ll contact the lucky winner by email and update this post with the results.
Please note that we may not reply to these comments, but Eve and I certainly look forward to seeing them. Thank you for entering the giveaway, and for sharing this information about Eve’s book with others!