Learning a language in retirement

Being able to stop work offers us so many new opportunities and moving to a new country is an exciting adventure many of us consider, but what about learning a language in retirement?

Moving abroad has so many attractions; the lifestyle, wonderful scenery , integrating into a new culture and maybe more clement weather. However sometimes this means learning a language in retirement, which can be daunting if we have not opened a text book for a while or taken on a significant earning challenge recently. So how did I get on with my language journey in my 60’s?

Claire in Conimbraga, Portugal.

Why I chose online learning in my retirement

I wanted to have time to enjoy and explore my new home but of course there are constraints; setting aside regular time to learn whilst doing the day to day commitments, finding a cost effective option that was tailored to my personal requirements , trying to reduce travel as I prefer a green approach where possible and in these recent times being COVID-aware. So I chose an on-line platform as my way forwards. 

I use BiCortex Languages which has an excellent online platform. It is very easy to use whether you are a ´techie´ or not. I have been using their on-line platform for over a year, learning a language in retirement. They offer lessons at the times that worked within my other interests and commitments. They provide only native speaking teachers, which really helps with pronunciation. As a bonus they also talk about the rich culture and traditions of my new home.

I am learning European Portuguese and found the new language means familiar letters and words can sound very different. For me practising speaking with effective, sympathetic and importantly constructive feedback is very important. Some sounds are not used in English so can be quite a tongue twister to learn. Remembering how to say them the next day can also be tricky, but with practice and repetition I am seeing, or maybe hearing improvements.

Different classes are available to learn your language

Group size was important to me too. I started online with a small group of 4 but for me I felt that was not quite enough time to practise speaking. Although it was nice to meet others and “socialise” and share stories and information. The second course I booked was private lessons of 60 minutes. For me it was too intense – by the end of an hour I felt over-loaded, I am retired after all. The team at BiCortex languages based on my feedback made another suggestion to change the class duration. We shorten the lessons to 45 minutes and suddenly the lessons became much more comfortable.

For the last nine months I have studied with one other student. This works very well for me and my colleague because there is sufficient time for us both to practise speaking. We are following a formal syllabus (A1/A2) and we also cover topics of interest to us. If we want to learn  about ordering in a restaurant or going to the dentist  our teacher builds the lesson for us around that topic. 

Finding what learning approach works for me

Our lessons are twice a week and we work with a variety of aids including the interactive whiteboard, a virtual textbook as well as aural aids. I really like the textbook as after each topic the answers are updated so we can go back and refresh. We choose to  do a small  piece of homework ( about 15 minutes ) which also helps to retain new learning.  Obviously day to day practise is very important, I have been fortunate to move  to Portugal and the people here are lovely and help me too, so my confidence and fluency is improving every week!

I chose BiCortex Languages because they match the teacher to the student requirements. The days and times are flexible to suit the student, and the classes are tailored to the student. In my case my teacher carefully adapts the pace of learning to avoids language overload. The virtual classroom is user friendly and the IT side works very smoothly. There is also access to past classes the ability to download the lessons for future reference. The syllabus we follow is in line with requirements for Portuguese citizenship as needed, who knows one day!

How my language skills are have grown

Over the last year I have learnt a lot and now I am confident when shopping, eating out, going to the dentist etc. I know I can communicate effectively, understanding what I am being told and also getting my message across. My neighbours only speak Portuguese and it’s great to be able to talk with them, whether it is about the weather, grandchildren or recent elections.  I am very pleased with my progress, it has helped me settle into this wonderful country.

BiCortex Languages is a global language school offering group and private lessons in almost 50 languages. They use the latest technology to deliver online classes on a user friendly platform, but can also arrange face to face classes if you prefer. BiCortex Translations also offer certified and sworn translations for your relocation needs.

Author Claire W, retired and happy in Portugal