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Tips and Tricks for Learning a Foreign Language

  • These classes are intensive – more time-consuming and demanding than in high school. Budget sufficient time and energy.
  • Spend time on the new language every day. Read a word or phrase, write it; listen to it, say it aloud. Print it in many parts of your brain. Repeat while walking across campus or taking a shower. Spending five hours once a week will NOT pay off.
  • It isn’t necessarily fun to memorize new words, but to learn them you have to get them into your memory.  Tricks of the trade include flash cards, oral repetition, and memorizing dialogs, poems and songs.
  • When you learn a new language, you are creating new connections in your brain AND activating new groups of muscles in your body. “But I never had to practice my native language like this!” you may say. No – because you practice your native language every single day. Watch a child learning to talk and see how hard it works (and how hard it works everyone around it).
  • Go to office hours! Ask questions, get ideas. The office hours are here to support you.
  • Create immersion for yourself: attend the language table, listen to streaming radio, watch a movie, read the news online, talk with friends more advanced in the language. Create relationships that happen in the foreign language, so you don’t have to overcome habit and laziness to practice.
  • Find a language buddy!  This can be someone from your own class or a native speaker.  Studying with friends is more fun and more effective, since language is what we use to communicate with other people.
  • Get a tutor! Upper-level students and native speakers are paid to work with you. (Once you’re an upper-level student, this could be you.)

Resources for language study and supporting activities:

The Language and Media Center: Kohlberg Hall, 326

Language Tables: Sharples Hall, various rooms

The Spanish Language Table is held every Monday at 12:35 p.m. in Room 104 at Sharples.

Off-Campus Study Office: in the Scott Arboretum Building

Each language has its own Study Abroad recommendations; see the web pages for individual sections in MLL and the Spanish Department.

Tutoring: The Dean’s Office provides several sessions of FREE tutoring each semester. Contact Mira Barić in the Dean’s Office or stop by Parrish 108 or call (610) 328-8367 to speak to her in person. More information 

Choose a Language Program

Language Study in the Age of Globalization

This brochure by the Modern Language Association is directed primarily to college students. It​ explains how knowing other languages enriches students’ personal lives, expands their range of professional opportunities, and increases their power to act as citizens of the world.


Language Media Lab

The Language Media Lab provides resources to enhance the study of foreign language, literature, and culture at Swarthmore College. Students have access to audio/video materials required for foreign language classes. The lab's resources include 12 Macbook Pros, 8 iMacs, an extensive library of foreign films, video cameras, and audio recorders. The space is a unique, adaptable, multimedia-friendly place to study, practice and develop language skills. 

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