Tips for Language Learning while Abroad

Here it is, as promised 🙂 My best tips for making sure you make the most of you year abroad and get as fluent as possible. I’ve also checked some of the things my own uni recommended to add further suggestions, but mostly these are my personal recommendations and things I’ve found have helped me! You can totally reject this if it doesn’t work for you, everyone works differently. I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner before an aural learner – which means that I need lots of visual information and I also need to do or practice the language / grammar for it to actually go into my brain. Just listening isn’t enough. So here’s tip number one:

  1. Find out what kind of learner you are. This is really important because it will change the way you revise and it will help you memorise vocab and grammar easier. You can take free tests online, just Google it 😉 There are about 4 types, Kinesthetic, Aural, Visual and then Traditional (I think).
  2. Say ‘yes’ a lot! People will offer you things, to go shopping, to go see a movie, etc. Just say yes. It’s all good experience and you’ll learn something about the culture from these.
  3. Stay with a family/Spanish friends who speak only/mostly Spanish/whatever your target language is. This way you wake up speaking the language, and go to bed speaking the language. You’ll get so much more out of it, trust me. And if the family has kids, this is a good way of getting practice using different registers – speaking more politely to grandparents whereas with kids you can usually be more informal.
  4. Go over difficult areas of grammar that you notice yourself struggling with. Don’t just leave them and hope they go away! I still go over the past tenses in Spanish and the subjunctive… and ser and estar still catch me out occasionally!! Just because you’re in the country doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll immediately become bad-ass at grammar, so make sure you try and do some exercises / revision a few times a week. Nothing intensive. If you can, take a course at a local uni.
  5. Write down new vocabulary – no excuses! I keep lists of new vocab, and as I mentioned in my last post, we’ve actually stuck up some pieces of blank paper in the kitchen with all of our names on so we can write down new words in English/Spanish and then go over them together at meal times. This is great for kids, but to be honest it works for adults too.
  6. You’re gonna love this one! Watch TV! and films… but in the target language obviously. If possible, use subtitles in that language too instead of in your native language, if you need it that is! But often programs have actors speaking clearly and with good grammar. I watched an episode of El Ministerio del Tiempo last night and it was great! I recommend the site rtve.es for series and news etc. for Spanish.
  7. Read. If you can, get your hands on a novel, maybe one you’ve read before so you know what happens, but trust me, this really helped not only to widen my vocabulary but also to get used to ways of saying things, set phrases/idioms, and the grammar structures. I read the Fault in Our Stars (Bajo la misma estrella) only in Spanish, I’ve also read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter y la cámara secreta), The Last Song (La última canción) and the Hunger Games (book one – Los juegos del hambre) in Spanish, and am currently reading Gone Girl (Perdida). I haven’t managed to get my hands on a Russian novel yet but I’m probably going to try and get the first Harry Potter on my kindle! [*Fun fact, in Russian they sometimes pronounce the ‘H’ sound (х) as a hard G sound like in gutter (г), so Harry Potter is Gary Potter to Russians (Гарpи Поттер), but for us English lot at least this makes it take on a whole different meaning! 😉 ]
  8. Do things that scare you – go for a train journey somewhere so that you have to buy tickets, go to the cinema or theatre, etc. These experiences will bring you into contact with people who don’t speak English/ your native language and will help you use what you have on the spot. 

So there you go – my 8 pieces of advice for helping you use and develop your language on your year abroad. Hope this helps! 

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January blues – the highs and lows of uni life.

Exam week. I don’t know about you but – I don’t like exams. And after having what was probably my best Christmas ever… getting dumped back in Exeter is a bit of a downer!

….Buuut it’s finally over!! I had 5 exams, unlike most people, and 3 out of 5 of those went really badly. We’ll see when results come out, eh? I honestly don’t get how chilled out they are about preparing for exams at uni. During my A-Levels, we did two to three essays a week. At uni, we do formatives… which might just be an essay plan or just the introduction. Or maybe a short commentary. Either way… that’s all the prep you get. Unless you’re super keen or an absolute BEAST and can somehow find the time to do test essays in your own steam.

This is probably really boring but I’m gonna explain what I did to revise, because this blog is kinda for the students out there.

1/ Basically I do ‘smart’ revision. In other words, I pick the stuff I know I will need to know, or that I know are my weak areas, and start there. If I plan it right, I usually cover everything, but if I don’t get that far, then I’ve at least covered the key areas.

Also… I never consider an exam ‘lost’ and stop revising even if it’s the hour right before the exam. NO exam is lost. Any revision you can do before or in advance COUNTS. Especially if you target key areas. Say you have tonnes of books to just read. Don’t try and read them from cover to cover. Just look at the contents page and pick the chapters that are relevant and read those. Or parts of them. This tip is kind of a 2 in 1.

2/ I look at past exam papers. I don’t necessarily do them, but looking at them and even at the mark scheme really helps. If there are some titles I don’t think I could write an essay on under pressure then I might have a go at mind-mapping everything I know related to that title and then try and read up on those areas.

3/ This one mainly applies to history modules etc. I make a time line. My A level history teacher frowned upon it saying it would make me narrate events in chronological order. Obviously DON’T do that… but it helps me (personally) to get the key dates in my head and memorise them in relation to one another, i.e. one thing led into another thing… and so on. Because you associate one event with another event, it helps you memorise it.

4/ Figure out your learning style. I’ve probably mentioned this in a previous post but take a free online test and find out if you are a visual, kinesthetic, aural or traditional learner. Do you need colours, do you need to hear it over and over again, do you need to write it out… etc.

5/ TAKE BREAKS. Even if it means watching a silly YouTube video for 10 mins.

6/ Exercise. This could literally be just going for a walk. This week I went most evenings for a little walk near where I live. When I’m at home, I go and bounce on the trampoline for an hour or so before bed.

7/ Eat well. I know most students live on pot noodles and pasta… but add some veggies and your body will thank you. It’s easy to get run down, so make sure you’re getting lots of nutrients in and not just coffee!! And revising uses a lot of mental energy… so you will probably feel quite hungry!

That’s all I can think of for now. Hope this helps someone!!

Anyway… back to general life stuff… I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. My room is my little house (obviously). It has everything I need and use in it… All my books and some of my food things that won’t fit into my kitchen space. But everything has it’s little place and what with all of my colourful revision posters and mind-maps it just looks really cool. Yeah just complimenting myself I guess 😉 All about that positive outlook!

Term starts on Monday, so I’ll probably begin reading and doing (more) Russian grammar. Oh and my application for St Petersburg is in and I’ve paid the deposit… I’m officially GOING. AHHH 🙂 I still need to figure out flights and a visa and insurance, but it’s actually happening and you have no idea how excited I am! I’m gonna post my first Russian recipe shortly so watch this space!! I made голубци (golubtsii) – they are like stuffed fig leaves but made with cabbage. Please don’t let that put you off though they honestly taste really good!!

Oh yeah and over Christmas I passed my driving test! I look pretty gormless in this picture but I was so happy I didn’t care 🙂 

Anyway, until next time!! до скорого!

Brownies

You guys…. LOOK at these!!!

 

 

Want the recipe? Of course you do! The great thing about these (and most recipes I make) is that you usually have all of the ingredients already and they are super simple. The secret ingredient to these is *drumroll* ….. chickpeas! Yup! Chickpeas – they are amazing and give it a chewy texture 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1.5 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave/ liquid-y sweetener of choice (I would add another tbsp. if you’re using maple syrup and it’s not sweet enough for you – test the batter before you put it in the oven)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbsp. soy/almond/plant milk (and an extra one-two if the mixture is too dry!)

Chocolate glaze

  • Handful of dates
  • 1/2 cup soy/almond/plant milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder

Method:

1/ Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (Fan 180C/400F/Gas 6) and line / grease a small baking disk 8×8 with baking paper/coconut oil.

2/ Put all ingredients for the brownie into your food processor/blender and mix well.

3/ If the mixture seems too dry add the extra tbsps. of milk

4/ Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish. It will be quite sticky.

5/ Put in the oven for ~30 mins… I needed less time because I had a fan oven so make sure you check it.

It will have a hard crust when it’s done and will feel like it’s not done in the middle (this makes it chewy!!)

6/ Leave it to cool.

7/ In the meantime make the chocolate glaze by blending the dates and milk in your blender, then transferring them to a small sauce pan and simmering on a lower heat for 5 mins, or until warm and smooth.

8/ Stir in the tbsp. cocoa powder and stir until glossy and smooth. Don’t worry if there are some date chunks left, sometimes they don’t all blend up!

9/ Let the sauce cool down and thicken up before smoothing it on top of your brownies. Cut the brownies into squares/shapes…

10/ Serve!!

 

You can thank me later 😉

 

Fruit yourself 

Can’t afford a whole bag of apples and a whole bag of pairs? 

Solution! 

  
These are baby food puree pots – and funnily enough to they are also made from organic ingredients so there aren’t any preservatives etc in them. They taste amazing – and in Aldi one packet of four was 85p. I got two packets! 

  
These are great to take with you to work, post lecture snack, sneaky library I’ve-been-working-hard snack…… Mmmm get into my belly now! 🙂