If you find yourself confined to your home for extended periods because of the COVID-19 lockdowns, you have a great opportunity to develop new language study habits. Lots of us are embarking on new exercise regimes, pursuing new household projects, and getting around to the activities that we never seem to have time for!
In my case, those neglected activities include improving my French grammar and vocabulary. Grammar drills are now a part of my morning routine, a stimulating way to ease into the day while I still feel fresh and curious. Here are a few tips that can help you benefit from such a routine:
· Do your drills at a quiet time of day, and without surrounding distractions (children, phone, TV, etc.).
· Regular (e.g. daily) and shorter practice sessions are better than trying to do a marathon once a week. Drilling 20 minutes a day, six days a week is much better for learning and retention (memory) than two hours on a single day per week, even though the length of study time is identical.
· Work at a level that is familiar, yet also somewhat challenging. Too easy (95-100% correct), and you won’t be forced to think about your answers. Too difficult (less than 70% correct), and you should probably go back a level to review fundamentals that will improve your score and increase your confidence in later levels by using less guesswork.
· Work with a study resource that includes audio clips of native speakers reading aloud the phrases, sentences, or paragraphs you are working on. You will hear the grammatical constructions being pronounced as everyday speech, which – as you know – is so often different from how the words appear on the page.
· Recognize when you are getting tired or bored, and stop right then, even if it is after a short time. Your time (and your interest) will increase as you gradually establish a routine of 15 minutes a day, then half an hour, an hour, and so on.
· Fresh coffee, tea, or a fruit smoothie will always help you work!
Will you continue your daily drills once the lockdowns are over? Chances are you will, because you have already established your routine and know how to maintain it. But even if you get too busy once life returns to normal, you will have benefited greatly from this period of focused study. Happy Drilling!