5 tips to learn or improve a foreign language from home

By Julia Villanueva / December 12, 2020
5 tips to learn or improve a foreign language from home

Speaking a new language is not always easy. It is a long process that requires hundreds of hours of work until we can see the results, but accelerating it is not impossible; we can see our skills develop much faster by adding some actions into our daily life.

For some, learning a language supposes a great effort, and many times it is seen as an exhausting activity that does not arouse any interest for them. As with everything in life, there are things we like more than others, and not all of us are language enthusiasts. That is completely normal, but you can choose to change the learning method and try to make it a more appealing venture.

Language schools and private tutors are obviously a great way to get started – as they will know where to begin – but it is sometimes difficult to find the time, the motivation, or even the money for them. Whether you are self-taught, or you receive lessons but you just want to make the best out of your free time, here you have a series of things you can do to get better at the language of your preference, without leaving your home!

 

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1. TV/films/series in your target language

The optimal thing to do would be to immerse yourself in the language you are trying to learn, but that is not always achievable. A fantastic substitute for that is watching content in your target language, which will help you get acquainted with the sounds of the language.

For this, if you are not still very familiar with the sounds, the vocabulary, or have problems understanding it, what you can do is start little by little: first, watch it with subtitles in your own language; when you get more comfortable and feel like you understand a good part of it, switch to subtitles in your target language. Finally, when you only miss meanings every now and then, it is time for you to leave subtitles behind and enjoy!

This method may seem hard and confusing at the beginning, but you will notice how well your brain does the job! Eventually, things will get easier and you will have been entertained in the process.

We have an article with 10 of The Best Foreign Language Films to Watch, and hopefully you will find some that interest you.

2. YouTube

As I mentioned, one of the best ways to improve is by consuming content in your target language. YouTube and similar platforms bring you a world of possibilities. Not only can you access channels with language learning content, like Butterfly Spanish, Japanese Ammo with Misa, Learn Italian with Lucrezia, Get Germanized, Français avec Pierre, and loads more; but you can also find YouTubers who talk about topics that interest you, like make-up, science, video games or cooking, through the language you want to learn. This way, it will be much more fun for you, and you will acquire vocabulary and expressions focused on areas you will want to talk about for sure!

The variety of YouTube channels is immense, so there must be a couple of them for you, and it has an advantage over other media: you can choose to watch short videos if you have less time to spend or longer ones for those moments you can sit down and relax.

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3. Books, newspapers, and magazines

Reading and being able to spell is also crucial, and the best approach to tackle this is by actually reading! If you are an avid book reader in your native language, I am sure this will be easy for you; if not, do not worry! You can get used to it, or you can find other types of materials, like magazines and newspapers.

Newspapers make you stay in touch with the culture that surrounds your target language, and that is also useful if you intend to talk to native speakers. Magazines, on the other hand, give you the option to choose subjects of your interest.

You should also adapt to your language level, and start with simple things; if you are learning Russian, do not start with Dostoevsky! For beginners, children’s books are a great choice because their language is less complex, and there are some amazing stories if you do good research. The Harry Potter series, for instance, was meant for children but found fans in people of all ages.

Bilingual books are also something to consider, as they have the translations in your language next to the text. If you feel like you need that extra help, it is also a good place to start.

From bilingual and children’s books, you can move on to more difficult ones and, at some point, there will be no text that can resist your skills!

4. Apps and internet resources

Another good choice is finding internet resources, like free courses and language blogs with explanations and exercises that guide you step by step into the language. There are websites dedicated entirely to courses where you can find some language ones, like this Futurelearn’s introduction to Norwegian course, which has the following stages in other courses on the same website, or this Russian course that splits the language into sections for the learner to follow step by step. We have an article with 5 Of The Best Online Learning Platforms, so maybe one of them has a course for the language you intend to learn.

Also, we have access to many apps – like Duolingo, Busuu, or Babbel, which also have web versions – that are focused on teaching you how to learn and perfect a language, using different methods – choosing the correct option, translations, or writing – that make the process entertaining for the student. Many of them are for free, so you do not have to worry about payments, and they usually have short exercises that take a few minutes so that you can do them at any moment of your day.

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5. A language exchange partner

Lastly, to improve our ability to communicate in a conversation, the most useful tool is having someone to practice with. Since the previous methods do not include this important part of language – actually speaking – this one may be one of the most interesting suggestions for you to follow.

“But, how am I supposed to find someone who speaks Korean near me?” you may ask. It is simple: today we have many options, from Facebook groups with the purpose of connecting people who wish to speak each other’s languages, like The Language Learning Nerds or Foreign Language and Culture Exchange, to more sophisticated means, like the website Italki

The latter gives you the possibility to find and pay native teachers to have online lessons, but you can also find regular people who want to learn your language and speak the one you want to learn, it can all be done through video calls and chats. You and your language skills will surely benefit from it – and best of all, it’s free!

By implementing one or more of these tips into your life, you will be giving your brain a push to absorb the language faster and having a great time doing so!

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About the author

Julia Villanueva

Spaniard living in Ireland, passionate about literature, learning languages, and knowing different cultures.

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