After a (not so) brief hiatus, “Real Advice for Study Abroad” is back in action! Thanks in advance for reading my humble articles.

Studying abroad and learning a foreign language oftentimes go hand in hand. However, becoming fluent, or even conversational in a new tongue can be an arduous task. If you don’t feel quite ready to communicate in your destination, or simply want to improve your comprehension before you go, check out these five simple ways to improve your foreign language skills for free.

1. Keep a Word Journal:  Dedicate a notebook to your foreign vocabulary. This way the words, pronunciations and conjugations you often forget will be at hand for reference, new vocabulary can be kept for practice, and phrases you need to translate can be jotted down all in one place. The more effort you put in to recording words and rereading what you write, the more vocabulary you will retain through the use of this simple but effective tool.

2. Learn a Word a Day: Signing up to receive “word-a-day” emails is a quick and easy way to add to your language cache. Just like it sounds, each day one new word will be sent to you. Scribble the little suckers into your word journal, write five sentences about them and say hello to a bigger, better vocabulary! Try web searching “[language] word-a-day” to get started.

3. Label Your Life: Stick translated labels on everything you own. Your parents or roommates may not really appreciate it, but you will learn a ton of practical vocabulary that is custom-fit to your environment and personal possessions. This way, when it comes time to ask for silverware, borrow your roommate’s flat iron, or buy a new phone charger abroad, you will have all the vocabulary you need to accomplish the task.

4. Change Your Tech Settings: With as much time as we all spend glued to our devices, switching your phone, Facebook, Email, etc. to display in the language you are learning can help you to start thinking in that language. Hands on learning, seeing the words associated with an action (i.e. pressing send), will improve your vocabulary comprehension. Also, translated ringtones can add a quirky personal touch to your device!

5. Find a Pen Pal: Search online for pen pal programs in your language of study, as there are lots of free options to choose from. Make sure to indicate your skill level and whether you are willing to reciprocate language lessons or just want to correspond in your language of study. Steer clear of sharing overly identifiable or personal information with your pen pals, though. After all, they are still strangers. Plus, having a “nom de plume” (or a creative, made up name) can add a whole new dimension of fun to exchanging emails from abroad.

Thanks again for reading. Please join us next time for more ways to boost your language learning potential. To catch up on previous articles, click below.

Part 1: Ten Worthwhile Reasons to Study Abroad

Part 2: How to Find the Perfect Program

Part 3: Where to Look For Financial Aid

Part 4: Scholarship Essay Tips and Tricks

Part 5: Pre-Departure Reminders

À bientôt!

jml2Self-proclaimed “Francophile” Jessica Longshore is a junior French major at Western Illinois University. On Campus, her involvement includes being a Study Abroad Office intern, a member of NSCS, a Centennial Honors College member, a Golden Key International Honour Society member, an intern in the Office of Study Abroad and President of Western’s Ambassadors for Study Abroad (WASA). During her free time, she likes to cook, do her nails, and write. She is also looking forward to studying abroad in Cannes, France during fall 2014, and blogging about her travels at TightwadAbroad.blogspot.com.