Maintaining Valuable Skills Learned at MMLA

April 17, 2014

The benefit that the immersion learning environment provides for MMLA students is immeasurable. No matter what skills you possess at the time of entry, you will leave the program more confident and more capable of using your target language. In fact, when most of my friends returned from this summer’s academy, they spoke Spanish intermittently to their parents for about a week. I still have an occasional Spanish dream.

However, the MMLA program only lasts a month, while your language skills are intended to last a lifetime, helping you in college courses, careers, and travel along the way. This poses the question of how one should go about maintaining these valuable skills learned at MMLA once outside of the immersion environment. I was very interested in answering this question for myself a I had a Spanish placement test at the start of the school year which would decide if I could finally move up to the Honors/AP track.Here are some effective techniques I found for keeping my language skills sharp and ready for use any time they may be needed:

- Talk to yourself in your target language. It may sound corny, but if you’re reminding yourself to do things, making mental notes, or walking yourself through a process, do it in language. This serves the double function of both keeping your language skills fresh and making whatever you wanted to remember more memorable. Plus, if you’re talking to yourself, nobody will ask you why you’re not speaking English. 

- Take advantage of anyone you know who is fluent in your target language. Whether it be a friend, parent, or other acquaintance, it always helps to get some extra conversational practice. Being able to confidently speak to native speakers of your target language is one of the benefits of a program like MMLA, so actually putting what you’ve learned into practice not only keeps you sharp but also makes you feel accomplished. Plus, you can only talk to yourself for so long.

- Take your school language class seriously. When you return to school, your language class will most likely seem like a little bit of a joke at first. You will probably be a bit ahead. You’ll laugh at your classmates’ awful accents. But resist the temptation to kick back and instead demonstrate all you have learned to the best of your ability. I made this mistake at the beginning of this year and bombed a Spanish grammar quiz. I understood the grammatical concepts that I was being tested on, but did not remember their names and thus did not know how to answer questions where I was asked to differentiate between different tenses.

Take full advantage of the hard work you did over the summer and make sure your grades stay strong. 

I hope these tips help you keep your language skills strong even after leaving MMLA. With just a little work maintaining and exercising what you’ve learned, you can help your language skills serve you for years to come. 

Maddox Kay is a high school junior from Los Angeles, California, who enjoys music, sports, especially basketball, and learning Spanish. In 2013, he attended the Spanish Academy at Pomona College, and this year will travel abroad to Comillas, Spain, for the new Spanish Academy abroad.