How can language learners hone their skills without having to spend hours studying each day? Here are five ways you can learn a language without having to sit in a classroom. Let’s go!
1: Learn a New Word a Day
Drops is highly repetitive. It may seem like you have only learned five words for the past five minutes (the free version) but it does begin to “stick” in my mind especially if you are doing a daily challenge. I used it for Latin American Spanish and now I am using it for Chinese. What I like about Drops is that it covers a wide range of vocabulary that I wouldn’t have even thought about knowing the names of the things around in you because I only know that in English. For example, I just learned the Chinese word for “billboard.” No context, no studying, I just know the word. You may be thinking what’s the point? Inspired by how children acquire language from my language studies, children hear the words, and repeat them, use them incorrectly and learn from their parents/guardians how to use them over time (in its simplest form).
Using a Wordlist
You could create a wordlist book so you can refer to the new words and perhaps write them into short sentences using a language dictionary. This is not my personal preference but I know many people use this and create a great book of words. My drawback from this is, do you ever use it again? I find it partiually boring to write it out (reminds me of classrooms) and since I’m trying to learn new words I want to associate it with context or something more than just a word on the page…unless you make it interesting by drawing a little picture beside it. Perhaps why I prefer Drops because it has a visual/caption model.
2: Use Podcasts to Teach Yourself a Language
Using native level podcasts
There are a number of podcasts in foreign languages that maybe only for native speakers but also accessible to you if you know what to serarch for. This one maybe super challenging for learners but actually, if you have been learning new words daily, and associating yourself with the language as much as possible, this will help your listening skills.
Using language learning podcasts
This is the easiest way for elementary/intermediate language learners to get introduced to their target language. Some podcasters offer transcripts on a subscription base and very few do for free but they exist! Finding the ones that are suitable for your budget and topics you like maybe where this process gets a little tedious but it is possible to find good language content that updates regularly – I’ll do another post on the ones I have found for Chinese and Korean languages.
Check them out on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, and even YouTube. Personally, I use Spotfiy as they have great suggestions around the topics I am interested in.
3: Reading in Target Language
Using the News
This one is new for me. I have been trying to read more in Korean as I have become more comfortable reading these days. To my knowledge there isn’t anything in Korean or Chinese for language learners at elementary/intermediate learners as yet – but if you know of any do comment below. For European languages, there is a great resource (at the bottom). That’s not to discourage Asian language learners. Perhaps find the local news on YouTube and tune in so you can see what they’re talking about first and then go to the website as they would have posted an article on it as well.
Using Graded Readers
This one is a favourite. Perhaps you need to set time aside to read this type of literature but reading in your target language can help expose you to more words. I suggest “graded readers” as they are tailored to the proficiency levels vocabulary, grammar, and abilities rather than native level. I’ve heard some people say they can spend upwards of an hour reading one page because they have to constantly use a dictionary. The graded readers omit that but if you like a challenge, go for it!
4: Switch Your Smartphone’s Language
I’ve mentioned this in another post, but this is perhaps the best way to not study your language but get full access to the world you’re learning. This doesn’t work so well for Mandarin in my opinion because lots of apps won’t change but for Spanish, literally everything changes even down to Google – wherever you access it. The fun thing about switching your phone’s language is that you can see hashtags, news, everything in that language’s realm on your phone without going out of your way to look for it. It will give you options to translate social media posts in English which I find amusing but you get to see the world beyond your English or native speaking world is.
5: Learn with Apps and Games
What if you found games in your target language too? Not just language learning ones but what’s popular in your target language’s country(ies) instead of ones you’re familiar with? It may not always work because popular games are popular games regardless, but give it a shot! You may learn new terms you wouldn’t have had you not switched out your games.
I am not a paid sponsor of any products or websites mentioned in this post.
News in Slow (European languages)