It’s no secret that language apps can be a quick way to learn some new words in a foreign language, but truly getting a grasp of it may take some more work… and some creativity.
Like just about everything else you could ever want or need, if you want to learn a language, there’s an app for that. The rising popularity in linguistic applications over the last several years has shown people’s growing interest in learning a language other than their own.
While these language learning apps may be a practical way to gain simple vocab and for basic memorization, sometimes you have to go old-school. Unfortunately, that means that the speed and immediacy that smartphones, in general, have made us accustomed to doesn’t work in this scenario.
But all is not lost! There are some fun and easy ways to learn a new language which can also make the task ahead seem a lot less intimidating.
Tips on How to Learn a Language
Here are the seven best ways to really learn a language that aren’t on an app.
Take A Language Course
How can you learn a language? By doing a course, of course!
This is a really fantastic option for someone who’s just starting out. Or, who used to speak another language pretty well in school, but has fallen victim to the whole use-it-or-lose-it concept (especially true when it comes to languages!)
Some of the classic courses are Berlitz, Rosetta Stone and FluentU. Many of the apps, like DuoLingo and Babbel, will offer more in-depth training, as well. A course is no-doubt an investment, both in terms of time and money. Ensuring you make the right decision for you will take a little research.
Take a look at what other people have to say about the program that’s piqued your interest. If any offer a free trial, it’s worth giving it a try to get a sense of the teaching style and what specifically is emphasized in their approach. Some may offer group settings, while others focus on more one-on-one teaching.
Then, when it comes time to make your purchase, think about your goals and what learning style works best for you.
Find A Language Conversation Partner
When most people finish a course, they’re thankful for the basics, yet worry that they don’t have enough of the conversational skills. Linguistic exercises are great, but how often do they really come up in conversation?
The best, and really only, way to master casually speaking in a new language is by actually casually speaking. This can be challenging if you don’t have anyone in your circle who speaks the language, or if you’re not in a country where that language is commonly spoken. Thankfully, there are some really fantastic ways to find speaking partners.
Many local community centers and universities offer classes and programs to match up people from different linguistic backgrounds. There are also online platforms, like Conversation Exchange, Polyglot Club and Easy Language Exchange. These platforms allow you to meet people looking to converse in their native language in exchange for conversing with you in your own language.
Tip: Be sure to enable the filters on these language platforms to show what it is you’re looking for (texting, video conferencing, meeting in-person, etc.)
Once you find a partner that you connect with, try to chat as consistently as possible. A simple format for your conversations is to speak for an hour, 30 minutes in each language. You’ll both be able to learn in a relaxed setting, and hopefully you’ll hopefully make a new friend, too.
Learn a Language by Consuming What Locals Consume
When visiting a new place, one of the best ways to get a taste for the culture is to consume what locals do, especially through food and drink.
But, the same logic also applies to other activities that involve language. For example, by consuming the same shows, movies and music as the locals you’ll get a richer understanding of dialects and slang. This is another way to grasp casual conversation and to learn things other than grammar and sentence structure.
However, be sure to be actively engaging with the language rather than just passively listening. What that means is that you’re actually trying to listen to what is being said or shown and making sense of it. And, no, listening to music on your morning commute won’t cut it (although it can definitely help).
A helpful trick is to open two windows on your computer side-by-side. One window with a show/movie in another language (with subtitles) and the other open to your favorite translation website where you can translate any word that is confusing or unfamiliar. But remember, you don’t need to translate everything, just enough to get a general understanding.
Introduce the Language to Other Apps
This isn’t to say that apps aren’t helpful, they definitely are. The reason that language learning apps are so useful is that they’re quick, easy and they’re already part of our everyday life. But, don’t think you only need a language app to make the most of them.
Following and liking people on your existing media platforms from other parts of the world, especially well-known figures, can be a great way to incorporate the language into your newsfeed, and will also allow you to see what they see (back to that idea of consumption).
There are lots of fantastic creators out there who solely publish content on apps like TikTok and Instagram related to language. Some even do quizzes and activities that are fun and engaging, making the comment sections a great resource to see someone else’s thought process.
If you’re really feeling up to the challenge, try to change the language app setting on one of your apps, especially one that you use frequently. This will teach you a range of new vocabulary words that you may not otherwise learn. It will also bring the language into even the most mundane activities.
Practice the Language During Simple Interactions
For anyone living in a place that speaks your target language, you have the benefit of having it all around you. This creates the perfect, immersive language learning experience.
Sure, it can be incredibly daunting at first. But starting with simple interactions, like ordering a coffee or buying something at the grocery store, can really help improve your language skills as well as boost your confidence.
For regular sentences that you can anticipate, like telling your waitress what you’d like to eat, it’s easy to practice beforehand. Other sentences may be more one off, so practicing how to say “I am new to the language” or “I don’t understand” will also come in handy.
You’ll find that people will love that you’re trying and will often give you advice on pronunciation or a better word choice. Take every opportunity to learn something new.
Other times, you’ll find people who will switch to English because they want to learn, too, or it’s simply easier for them. Try your best to stick with the new language because the more you put in, the more you get out.
Read Out Loud in the Language You’re Learning
This one may seem kind of silly, but try reading out loud. This is a really effective way to practice your reading and pronunciation in one go.
English is a language that is spoken at the front of the mouth. Whereas, other languages use completely different sounds and force you to vocalize in a way that you may not be used to.
Alone in your room, or in front of your language partner (if that’s the route you’ve chosen to take), find something to read and give it a go.
This doesn’t have to be some type of Shakespearean monologue — In fact, a great place to start is with children’s books. They use basic language and try to teach little kids the things that you’re trying to learn too, like vocab and grammar.
Focus On the Language for Just 15 Minutes a Day
You’ll likely be super enthusiastic in the beginning, spending hours upon hours on your resolution. It’s new, exciting, and you’re incredibly optimistic. Fair enough. But, then your realistic side comes in and you realize that spending hours on a new language everyday is not sustainable. So, you let one day slip, then a week, then a month, then you’re back to where you started.
Instead of putting pressure on yourself to go-big-or-go-home, focus on slow-and-steady learning. All it takes is 15 minutes a day to really start to see progress. This 15 minutes can be in any form. Try watching a show (as discussed above), reading news articles, or, yes, even using one of the apps. The key, however, is to not always use the same source.
You want to make sure that you’re focusing on all four elements of learning a language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Just because you can read, doesn’t necessarily mean you can write and vice-versa. And just because you can listen, doesn’t mean, you guessed it, that you can speak and vice-versa.
Just remember, like any new skill, practice makes progress, so remember to be patient and you’ll be speaking with confidence in no time.