Of course, if you’re going to the country where the language you’re learning is spoken, you’ll get practice anywhere and there’s not much to write about. But, what if it’s not the case? Can you still do something useful for your language(s) even if you’re going to travel in your own country or stay away in a quiet place?
Here are some ideas for lazy language practice if on holiday you’re surrounded by your native language (or any other you’re not planning to learn).
Watch TV in the target language
This is my favourite. We don’t have a TV at home, so when on holiday I don’t miss the opportunity to check the world of television =)
This year we didn’t have any foreign channels in the flat we rented in Kislovodsk, but last year, in Kolomna, I quite enjoyed a cooking programme in German (didn’t understand much, but the presenters, a man and his wife in their late 60s, were incredibly sweet), news in French (was OK) and something in Arabic (I just wanted to hear in the sound of the language). The evening was well spent.
The idea with TV is to check your general understanding of what’s on and decide if you want to keep watching this. Switching between channels, you can try different types of programmes – films, chat shows, reality shows, news, travel/ cooking programmes and so on, and identify some areas for future development of your listening skills.
As opposed to YouTube, you’re not so much distracted by “recommendations” and can focus better on what you found. You will probably hear a wider variety of the language accents/ dialects and will have to strain your ears a bit harder as not always the speakers talk to the camera (unlike bloggers)/ no subtitles are often available.
At the same time you can find something where you can focus on the picture and relax if you don’t understand what’s being said exactly (a film, a travel/ cooking programme, etc). You will have a lot of language input anyway and that will activate your passive vocab. And if the programme is really interesting, your brain will start guessing the words for you, which is very convenient.
I’ve heard stories about how people became fluent in the language they didn’t actually speak by just binge-watching a series (for example, a Spanish person watching in Italian). Not that I fully believe these stories, but some of it makes sense. Sufficient language input is crucial for progressing in a language.
Read something light
This year I rediscovered the beauty of magazines (even though they were in Russian). It’s quite a relaxing activity, especially looking at the pictures and small captions supporting the main article. The language itself is better than on the internet (especially on social media) but not as difficult as it can be in books.
If you can get some magazines in English (other languages), that will be a wonderful opportunity to have some receptive practice without putting in too much effort. Most magazines are available online and you can subscribe to their newsletters (and read them on holiday) – Discover, National Geographic, Forbes, Vogue, Architectural Digest… The websites are a good source for relatively short but decently written articles. However, personally, I’m all for flicking through a real glossy magazine with lots of pictures on which my eyes can rest and choosing which articles to read. What can be more holiday-like? =)
The other reading options are light read books (detectives, romantic stories, funny stories, fantasy) or graded readers (books adapted to levels) – something really simple on which you may not want to spend time otherwise (I turn to fantasy). This depends on you being used to reading books, though. If you’re not, a holiday may not be the best time to start.
Write or record a diary
This is a bit of productive practice. The idea is to recall some language from your memory. And to check whether you know enough language to describe what’s going on with you. So the focus is on the vocabulary: either something really practical that surrounds you on holiday, or trip / place / history / culture related. Also, knowing that you’re going to describe your day later can make your mind be “on the guard” and regularly check – “what’s this in English? What’s that?” – when you go sightseeing.
I wrote my diary in English until this summer and I remember having to look up some words related to Russian reality (when we travelled in Russia) – food, drinks, places, something to do with our culture and history, for example. That’s funny because when learning a language we sometimes focus on its reality too much and then we don’t always know how to talk about our own customs, traditions or places. I then used the new vocab in conversations with my foreign colleagues.
Again, this journalling can be something lazy, like a short entry of 5-10 sentences or a 5 min recording. It’s still very useful. I like the app called Daylio – typing is faster than writing and with auto correction you don’t need to think about spelling. You can also attach photos and track activities there. However, it may be more fun to organise your diary/ travel journal on paper, with photos and memorabilia from the trip. That’s what I’d like to do for the next trip.
Share your impressions with someone else
Talking about your holiday to somebody will make you find more interesting expressions to share your feelings and impressions better. You may even have to clarify some things unknown to your conversational partner. For example, I had to explain what our spa resorts were about, how they appeared and where it’s all situated (with the help of Wiki and maps). As you explain all this, you memorise the new vocab better.
Or post something on IG/ FB/ VK etc and add a description in English. The fact that your post will be seen by your followers will make you take it a bit more seriously and double check what you write (so better language quality in the end). On the other hand, you can write just a couple of sentences, maybe even in two languages (your native and English) to show respect to your foreign friends if you have any. A bit of practice is better than no practice at all.
Or send postcards. Maybe it’s a bit outdated but it adds a personal touch to your sharing. As you write your greetings on the cards, you’ll probably want to keep it short but nice. So again, you’ll have to think and choose your words carefully.
Play games with your friends and family
Finally, if you like to pass the time playing word games like Crocodile or Words starting with… or Guess my word – why not do it in English? The idea here is basically to retrieve some vocab from your memory so you don’t have to care about grammar.
I’ve already written on Guessing Games. That article was more for the lesson setting but the games can be adapted to use them on holiday (basically you’ll just need to prepare a set of cards).
Do nothing at all
Yes, that’s also an option, especially if you have regular studies. Sometimes we need a break and let our brain process and restructure what we already know.
So this year I was tired after my “mini marathon of languages” so I deliberately did nothing of them neither on holiday, nor till the end of summer. It was similar with English: I felt tired of it by the beginning of summer, so I started to read and write my diary in Russian.
That’s it for my tips! Which of them can be practical and useful for you? Or do you do something else? Let me know in the comments.