Have you ever done a language course, enjoyed it a lot, got good marks but, after a couple of months (or even days) you realised that you had forgotten almost everything?

Let me know if I’m not the only one who has experienced that! I studied Chinese for almost 3 years, I got distinction, I won a Chinese competition and basically, I was one of the best students in my course. However, less than a month after my course finished, I forgot (almost) everything.

Now, I only know how to introduce myself and couple of random words… oh, and McDonalds (a very important and useful word). So, what happened with my Chinese? How come I was good at it, got distinction, but now I know 3% of what I learnt during 3 years?

Well, I realised something that is obvious: If you don’t practice, you just forget it. Studying and practicing are one of the best ways to force your memory to remember a language for years.

Bearing this in mind, I came up with some tips that might be useful for all of us who have forgotten what we learnt in a language course:

  1. Speak, speak and then… speak! – Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or if some (stupid) people make fun of you. Speaking is the best way to practice the language as you’re forcing your tongue, ears and brain to work with a foreign language. I know it’s hard sometimes because you have no one to practice, like me with Chinese. However, there are so many websites where you can chat with foreign people just for academic purposes -it’s nothing like dating online or something like that.
  2. Listen – There are many radio stations and movies in the language you are learning. Try watching those movies with subtitles so you can have an idea of what they are saying. If you’re brave, just watch the movie in its original state (no dubbing, no subtitling).
  3. Go back to school – When I was in school, I used to learn new things by creating a song using the words or topics I had to learn. Another method was writing flashcards and posting them on the wall in my room. Do what you used to do to learn something in school. I bet that will help you a lot.
  4. Travel – If you have the chance, go and spend a holiday in the country you are learning the language of. In that way you will definitely be plunged into the language.
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Remember that learning a language is a long process and a course is useful but not enough. You need some extra effort and practice.

If you have more ideas or tips, please share them with us! 🙂