If you've got some spare time in your hands, why not try learning a new language?
As someone who has always found themselves drawn to foreign entertainment (be it TV, films or music), a comment I’ve often noticed is “I want to learn this language but it’s too hard”. Now, linguistics and language learning isn’t for everyone, but it’s not as hard or as impossible you believe it to be. With enough interest, a few resources and lots of practice, language learning can be made not only easy but entertaining as well.
1. Find the right app
Nowadays, there’s an app for everything and when it comes to language learning you have a plethora of choices depending on your fluency level and the way in which you prefer to learn.
The popular trio - Duolingo is one of the most popular choices for language learning, with others like Babbel and Busuu close behind. All three have a similar interface which allows you to learn languages through a mixture of audio and images, making them perfect for beginners.
Levelling up conversations - If you prefer learning through talking then HelloTalk lets you connect with native speakers around the world. This might be the right choice for you as the focus is less on structured learning and more on learning through experience.
Focused, visual learning - Personally, I’ve found my recent download of Drops to be the most useful. This is perfect for visual and auditory learners who want to build their language skills from a conversational angle. Drops also uses focused, intensive learning techniques that allow learners five minutes per day to build and keep up a daily language learning routine.
2. Watch and learn
Something I’ve always found to be helpful when learning a new language is watching television shows and films in the language of my choice. There are a couple of ways to go about this depending on how quickly you pick up a new language.
Lifesaving subtitles – If you are an English speaker, the 'ENG SUB' mark on your favourite foreign language show feels like the biggest gift you could ask for. You shouldn’t rely on these subtitles if you want to actually learn the language. However, they make for a great starting point, especially for the most common words such as introductions and pleasantries. Using subtitled content to build the foundation of the new language is a great tip that I’ve picked up over the years of interest in language learning.
Raw but resourceful – Watching something in a language you don’t understand with no context or translation is very daunting but it’s a really helpful way to build your vocabulary. I often watch raw content and every time I hear a word repeated multiple times in conversation, I search it up and understand what it might mean in the context of the content. Later if a subtitled version is available, I rewatch it with English subtitles to understand the situation and context around the new words I picked up previously.
Social media explains - Whatever you’re watching there is likely to be a fanbase online discussing it, so try to find fans who are reliable translators or native speakers online and follow them for updates. Their translations and explanations provide valuable context to the words being spoken which further helps your vocabulary.
3. Keep listening
I personally feel that learning to speak a new language is a lot easier than learning to follow along with someone else’s conversations. The replay button is your best friend. Play short clips of shows or interviews until the words become familiar, then search up any unfamiliar words to add to your growing fluency.
4. Don't ignore formal resources
With all the apps and the free ways to learn a language, people often tend to neglect formal language learning resources, but these can be really useful if you want to level up from beginner to novice or from novice to expert. One of the most interesting ones I’ve found through my own experience is Talk To Me In Korean for those who are keen to learn the language in a formal but flexible manner, so if you’re able to, invest in online resources and take an online course or extra language learning class to build up your language skills.
5. Make friends, learn words
What better way to learn something than through friends and casual conversations? Connect with native speakers on social media and let them know you’re interested in learning their language. This kind of approach is perfect for improving your spoken language fluency and even learning slang in the language of your choice.
6. Practice makes perfect
Cliché but true! You can’t learn a language in one day, so don’t give up. Keep at it and practice regularly by setting aside some time every day to practice your new language. Once it’s part of your routine, you’ll be building up your vocabulary and not even notice it!
What are you waiting for? Go and learn the language that’s been tempting you and leave the “English subtitles please,” comment behind you forever.