International Student Life

Stay Sharp! Tips for Language Learning over the Holidays

November 27, 2016

With the winter holidays comes a long and well-deserved break for students. It’s time to relax, sleep in a little, and . . . study English? We think so! While students do not have to attend class at IEC@DVC during Winter Break, we encourage our students to keep up the good work and continue learning English in fun and creative ways. How will you keep your English skills sharp while on holiday break? Check out some of our suggestions for ways to study English during the holidays!

Note: definitions for the bold words in this article can be found at the end of the article. If you do not know the meaning of the words, try to understand them in context before looking at the definition. It’s great reading practice! 

Tips for Language Learning over the Holidays

Take a 30-Day Challenge

The 30-Day Challenge is a great way to make progress in an area of your life in just one month. Here’s how it works: choose something small you want to do every day for 30 days . . . and do it! The idea was made popular by Matt Cutts, a Google employee who gave a TED Talk on this subject. Check out his talk in the video below, or use the subtitles and transcript from

Here are some ideas for 30-Day Challenges related to English:

  • Listen to a new English song every day. Try Lyrics Training, which is a great website that provides lyrics to some of today’s most popular songs.
  • Read an Emily Dickinson poem each day. Dickinson is known for her shorter poems, so the reading and vocabulary won’t be too difficult for English learners. Her poems are available online through sites like Poetry Foundation.
  • Watch a five-minute (or less) TED Talk each day. allows you to search for videos based on the length of the video. Be sure to use the transcript, too!
  • Turn anything else on the list below into a 30-Day Challenge! Volunteer every day, read a book, write . . . the possibilities are endless.


Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and give back to your new community. Help feed the needy, participate in a park cleanup, or spend time reading to children at the local library. IEC@DVC hosts many events that allow students to volunteer: ask the Front Desk or Activities Coordinator for more information!


Binge-watch a New Series

Binge-watch = a TV-watching marathon where you view many episodes of a show, one after the other. 

Is there a show you’ve always wanted to watch? Spend the holidays watching it! There are many legal online options for watching shows for free (like Hulu). Many Americans also subscribe to Netflix, which is just a few dollars each month. With a Netflix subscription, you can watch shows, documentaries, and movies from your computer and at least one other device (like a tablet) at the same time.


Read a New Book in English

Our advice to students who want to read a book in English? Start with one of the books you loved as a young adult, or check out the books that young adults are currently reading. Light, silly books like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid are great for vocabulary and grammar, and they won’t discourage you.

Some more suggested books for English learners:

  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London

If you’re not an avid reader, try listening to an audiobook! This will improve your listening skills greatly.


Create a New Vocabulary List

Learn a new word every day, and keep a list of these words! Review them when you have time and see how quickly your vocabulary skills improve. Make sure to include phrasal verbs!


Keep a Journal

Take a few minutes each day to write down your thoughts. What did you do today? What’s on your mind? Write this in your journal to keep your writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills fresh.

Join a Club (or Team)

A great way to improve your speaking skills is to join a club or team. Check out for some groups in your area, and also explore the options for groups, clubs, and teams at DVC: the college has an impressive amount of organizations for students to join!


What will you do during Christmas break to keep your English skills sharp? Tell us in the comments or on Facebook!


Did you understand all of the words in this article? Some vocabulary words you might not know are in bold. Here are the definitions.

SLEEP IN: a phrasal verb meaning to sleep later than you normally do

KEEP UP: a phrasal verb meaning to continue

SHARP: an adjective meaning keen, acute, or good (when used with “skills”)

GIVE BACK: a phrasal verb meaning to return

AVID: an adjective to describe something done enthusiastically 

WRITE DOWN: a phrasal verb meaning to record something by writing it

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