We help kids learn to speak real Spanish. For life.™

by Erica Fischer on Jun 10, 2014

Maintaining/Improving Your Target Language Over the Summer

train : l’indispensable by clarapeix, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  clarapeix 

Welcome Back to #langchat! Last Thursday, we were excited to see lots of new “faces” as participants discussed ways to keep your target language fresh during summer vacation. Langchatters shared a wealth of tips for painless reading, listening, speaking, and writing in the target language, which have been summarized below. After all, as @KrisClimer reminded instructors, “Keep it FUN. This is summer.”

We would like to thank our wonderful moderators, Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), for moderating yet another productive hour!


Participants shared a number of ways to keep your reading skills polished during break.

  • Pick up a Translation in the TL. Maybe you’re already familiar with the English title. Why not pick up the translation in the TL? @alenord commented, “While I know it isn’t really authentic, I like to read familiar novels to see ‘how they say’ stuff in [Spanish].” @bleidolf67 also looks for translations: “I try and find some [young adult] books that have been translated to Spanish. I am a big reader.”
  • Follow the Language of the (Social) Media. Don’t limit yourself to classic novels in the target language. Expose yourself to the language found in magazines and on the Internet. @mweelin wrote, “For idiomatic [language], read magazines, newspapers, gossip [magazines] and websites in the TL!” Look no further than Twitter as a source of summer ‘literature’! @BeckyTetzner said, “Following lots of TL [speakers] on social media helps me see lots of idiomatic [language]-I keep taking [screenshots to] use in class!”
  • Consider Investing in Technology. Kindle, anyone? @SraRoar discussed the possibilities offered by the world of Kindle: “I read in español. Getting a Kindle opened reading possibilities tremendously. So many more interesting choices.” @CoLeeSensei agreed: “Oh a Kindle – the E-Reader has made it very easy to access TL books, hasn’t it?”
  • Start a Summer Book Club. @KrisClimer suggested “low intensity book clubs with students over the summer” as a great way for instructors to brush up on their own and their students’ language. There’s no need to meet in person for this. While it can be difficult to coordinate times to chat, book club meetings can be conducted over the Internet (e.g. via Skype or Google Hangout), as mentioned by @BeckyTetzner.


Looking for ways to keep your ear attuned to the target language? Langchatters had plenty of suggestions to share.

  • Listen (on-the-go). @bleidolf67 prescribed “a good dose of CNN in Spanish [or your TL] in satellite radio while in the car.” If you’ve got more time to spare, @CatherineKU72 suggested doing “transcriptions of radio broadcasts [as] excellent training for vocab/grammar/culture.” Here are some audio resources that you might want to check out:
    • TuneIn radio: This application and website allow users to search radio stations by language or country (@CatherineKU72).
    • iTunes: @SenoraWienhold wrote that “listening to current pop music in the TL is a great way to stay current.” Think of consulting the “top lists by TL country” for the latest greatest in your TL (@CoLeeSensei).
    • Podcasts: @SrtaLohse highlighted the vast number of podcasts available: “Lots of great TL podcasts – One Thing In a French Day, Coffee Break French, etc. I want to revisit those this summer.”
    • Watch TV Shows, the News, or Movies in your TL.
      • StreamWatch. This website allows you to stream television from around the world. @tmsaue1 commented, “My favorite site. Stations from around the world:” On the topic of streaming, @BeckyTetzner wrote, “I’m definitely looking forward to streaming La Copa Mundial via Univision this summer!! Lots of TL there!”
      • Netflix. Fill up your queue with TL flicks! @MadameKurtz wrote, “In the past I’ve loaded my movie queue with TL movies [and] watched them after everyone’s asleep.” @alenord chimed in, commenting, “OMG, my Netflix queue is loaded with Spanish language movies to catch up on!”
      • YouTube. Look no further than YouTube for short clips and some full-length shows or films in the TL. @CatherineKU72 also likes “to subtitle YouTube [videos],” adding, “It’s great practice for the ears.” Remember to keep it fun! @CoLeeSensei wrote, “I watch Japanese game shows!” and @Frau_Kahn shared a guilty pleasure: “‘les vraies housewives’ [The Real Housewives] on YouTube.”
      • Change the Language Settings on your TV. No need to search for programs in the TL—simply change the settings on your home television. @SenoraWienhold said, “I like to change the language on the TV [and] drive my husband nuts watching old favorite shows in Spanish.”
      • Applications in the TL. Your Smartphone or iPad could help you carry your TL with you over summer. @alenord wrote, “I know that some of the Latin American TV stations have free [applications] that you can [download] and watch [programs] on.” @tournesol74 shared an application for French: “check out the [application for the] M6 [TV station]. There are awesome shows [available, such as] L’amour est dans le pré. It’s [like] ‘The Bachelor’ [with] farmers!” @CatherineKU72 also posted a resource for French speakers: “A few iOS [applications] for Francophone media.”
    • Expose yourself to the TL in your Local Community. @alenord wrote, “@SenoraWienhold gave me an idea for Spanish teachers – [Attend] church services in Spanish or [volunteer] in your community. Surround yourself with any community of TL speakers that you choose! @SenoraWienhold enthusiastically agreed: “great idea! Volunteering would be a perfect use of summer time [and] language skills.” Hosting an exchange student is another way to bring the TL home (@MadameKurtz).


Langchatters agreed that it can be more difficult to find speaking opportunities. That said, a little resourcefulness could definitely pay off come August.

  • Online Exchanges. The Internet has facilitated access to TL speakers. @MmeFarab said, “I’m hoping to have a couple of Skype sessions with some friends this summer!” Google Hangout also allows for distance exchanges. @bleidolf67 wrote that “a Google Hangout would be good for those teachers looking to practice speaking!,” and @MmePoulet shared that she has both a school and home profile. LiveMocha (@tournesol74) and WeSpeke (@CatherineKU72) also offer free language exchanges with TL speakers.
  • Talk to Siri. You may have trouble getting your point across to Siri in English, but she is multilingual, afterall. @CoLeeSensei said, “Sometimes I just flip Siri to Japanese and ask it questions!” She added, “I have my students do it too – if the don’t say it correctly Siri won’t work!”
  • Get Involved in Language Meet-ups. Consider organizing or participating in a pre-existing language meet-up. @SrtaLohse wrote, “Yahoo [meet ups] are good for conversation. Many meet on a weekly basis in different cities.” As @SraSpanglish said, “You might think of inviting your students to participate. I’m actually thinking of setting up outings, café chats [with] some of my students who want to grow.” You can also organize meet-ups at summer conferences. @alenord wrote, “[It’s a] great idea to host slumber parties at big conferences to hang out with your #langchat friends [and] speak [different languages].”
  • Think of CouchSurfing. You probably never considered this as a source for TL speakers, but @BeckyTetzner advises you to check it out: “This might sound odd, but sometimes CouchSurfing is a place to look for [conversation] partners in other languages!”
  • Don your “language badge” for the day. Challenge yourself to go about your entire day in the TL. @CoLeeSensei shared, “I look for chances – last year in a [department] store saw [an] ‘I speak Japanese’ badge – [and I] did [the] rest of my shopping in my TL.”
  • Connect with Langchatters (not just on Thursdays!). Why not connect with Langchatters who speak your TL? @alenord proposed, “Make friends with #langchat folks, exchange phone numbers and call each other.”


  • Langchatters suggested a few ways to keep writing in your TL over summer. @magisterb480 suggested Twitter as a space to write to others in your TL: “There are several Latin tweeters, and I also tweet in Latin. This is a great medium for practicing [one’s] TL.” @SraSpanglish suggested that Langchatters organize to comment on a film via Twitter: “We could coordinate a movie night tweet-up!” As another suggestion, consider keeping a record of new vocabulary you learn over the summer, and encourage students to do the same. @alenord wrote, “I have a colleague here who has his [students] keep a ‘cuadernito’ (little notebook) [to record] new vocab. [We] could do [the] same?”

Finally, consider participating in #langcamp this summer! @SraSpanglish wrote, “[It’s] not NECESSARILY in [the] TL, but [#langcamp has] a section now:”


It might not seem easy to keep up your TL over the summer, but Langchatters offered a number of suggestions for those looking to read, listen to, speak, and/or write in their TL this break. They emphasized the importance of keeping it fun and practicing in a variety of ways. As @alenord encouraged, “JUST DO SOMETHING! Be intentional! Set an example for your [students]! #preachingtomyself.”

Thank you!

We extend a sincere thank you to Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating a summer session of #langchat! To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share, do not hesitate to do so. Finally, send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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