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They're making you take this class for a reason, after all. The administration must believe you'll get something useful out of it. (Image via Pixabay)

How to Conquer Your Foreign Language Requirement

Do you want to translate your requirement into a meaningful skill set?

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foreign language

Do you want to translate your requirement into a meaningful skill set?

If you plan to pursue higher education, chances are that you’ll need to fulfill a foreign language requirement. Although demands vary depending on your field of study and institution, many college students will enroll in a foreign language course at some point.

Despite this trend, few graduates leave with proficiency in their chosen language. So, how can you translate your requirement into a lasting and meaningful set of skills?

1. Acknowledge the Value of Proficiency in a Foreign Language

It might seem intuitive, but it’s essential to recognize the value of being proficient in a foreign language. As you take higher-level courses, you will need to cling to the promise of a future payoff. After all, we work hard so we can reap the benefits later. Luckily, the world rewards bilingual individuals with lots of fulfilling experiences and career opportunities.

Experts overwhelmingly agree that learning the language of a culture is the best way to experience its nuances firsthand. When visiting an unfamiliar region, many Americans expect the locals to cater to their needs by speaking English. A willingness to tackle another language shows your respect for native speakers and wards away any hostility that could spoil a cross-cultural experience. When exhaustion kicks in right before finals, remember: If you plan to see the world after college, those bilingual capabilities will enrich your personal travel, so thank your advisor for that foreign language requirement.

Additionally, proficiency in a foreign language could alleviate the stress of your next job hunt. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, bilingual capabilities are quickly becoming priceless career assets. As companies expand their target demographic, executives must find a way to communicate with potential customers. In these scenarios, bilingual employees are a necessity because, without competent communicators, a company’s range of potential clients remains limited. A simple foreign language requirement may inspire you to pursue fluency, and, no matter your career choice, being bilingual will make any resume more compelling.

2. Immerse Yourself in the Target Language

For most students, immersion is the key to successfully learn a language. After all, that’s how everyone learns their native language; growing up, children are constantly soaking in the sounds, quirks and intricacies of their guardians’ speech. The language is present in every corner and facilitates essential interactions between loved ones. In order to grasp a new language, students must create an environment where the subject is inescapable.

An immersion strategy exists for practically every area of life. For beginners, placing labels on household objects is a great way to integrate vocabulary into your daily routine. As you brush your teeth, make breakfast or prepare for work, the unfamiliar words will take on their appropriate meaning.

Additionally, replacing normal entertainment with language-saturated alternatives will help incorporate vocab into your daily routine. No matter the language, its culture will possess books, movies or music to enjoy. Armed with some cross-cultural amusements, you can transform any moment into a fun learning opportunity. Listen to unfamiliar songs during your daily commute, or replace regular movie nights with foreign film marathons. If you enjoy chronicling your thoughts in a journal, start writing entries in your target language. Thanks to recent technological advancements, it’s astonishingly easy to access new forms of entertainment.

3. Embrace Technology

Speaking of technological advancements, language enthusiasts create high-tech learning resources every day, and there’s an app out there for every component of language learning. Consistent use of these diverse resources will flex all the required areas of your brain and help you on your path to fluency.

Duolingo is one of the most popular and well-known language learning tools, and it’s not hard to see why. The program is free, fun and fast-paced, providing an almost addictive way to learn vocabulary and sentence structure. Users can rise through the ranks of language excellence without spending hours reading a textbook. Plus, a cute little owl cheers you on every step of the way.

For bibliophiles, Beelinguapp provides access to thousands of audiobooks in 13 different languages. The resource places two texts side by side, comparing translations from your native and target languages. As they read, users can study the translations and take note of any differences in sentence structure. Additionally, the karaoke reading feature allows students to listen as a teacher reads the text out loud.

If you want a more interactive experience, apps like Tandem and Busuu connect users to native speakers all over the world. With Tandem, students can converse with individuals who are fluent in their target language; the program is mutually beneficial, since each student’s goal is to learn the other’s native language. Together, the new friends practice simply by discussing their respective lives. Busuu, on the other hand, links participants with native speakers who serve as teachers. Thanks to these resources, you can find both friends and educators to help with your studies.

4. Take Advantage of Classroom Resources

Online study techniques are great, but don’t hesitate to utilize your professor’s expertise. After all, they are in the field to help you learn. If your instructor offers office hours, make an appointment to clear up any confusion, even if it’s the beginning of the semester. By tackling questions as they arise, you’ll save yourself the headache during finals week.

Additionally, many universities have tutors for difficult foreign language requirements. These students often lead study groups and offer individual practice sessions, so when you find yourself struggling with complex concepts, seek out a tutor. At institutions without tutoring programs, classmates can unite to conquer the requirement together, and maybe you’ll gain some new friends in the process.

5. Finally, Remember that Language Learning Can Begin Anywhere

If you fail to master your target language during the class, please resist the urge to abandon your bilingual aspirations. If you’re dedicated to becoming fluent, remember that learning can take place anywhere, even without a traditional collegiate setting. Maybe that foreign language requirement is just the spark that prompts you to learn more.

George Washington Carver, one of the most prominent scientists in American history, once observed that a large part of education occurs “outside of the four walls designated as a classroom.”  With language learning, passion and persistence ultimately determine your results. Rest assured, as you strive for success, you’ll discover your own tricks for language excellence.

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