Speaking multiple languages is beneficial for a huge number of reasons. Whether you’re planning to go on holiday in France, are being sent by your employer to Malaysia or simply want to better understand the hottest Swedish rap music, there are many uses for new languages. The learning part, however, can be daunting. Thank goodness for language hacks! Thick textbooks, lists of verb conjugations and imperceptible differences in pronunciation can quickly kill the enthusiasm of even the most eager language learner. Many who have a basic command over another language also find that they start quickly losing what they’ve learned when they don’t set aside time to keep up their knowledge.
But learning new languages doesn’t need to be so tedious. Rather than spending all your time sitting down with a textbook, you can go a long way by increasing your exposure to the language you’re trying to learn, and focusing on your areas of interest. Whether you want to learn a brand new language or to keep up your existing knowledge, read on to discover eight of the most useful hacks for turning learning from tiresome study into a lifestyle.
8 Language Hacks for Turning Learning into a Lifestyle
1. Practice anywhere with apps
One of the most difficult parts of language learning is finding the time to do it. This is a particular problem for those who are self-studying. You need to fit in studying between work, family and other hobbies or studies.
Using apps like Hello Talk, iTalki and MosaLingua allow you to practice anytime and anywhere, whether you’ve got a few minutes on the bus or a half an hour on your lunch break. Repetition is an important part of any learning. So using language learning apps throughout the day can significantly boost your learning speed, even if you only use them for a few minutes at a time.
2. Watch TV shows
Watching TV shows and films is a fantastic way to build your vocabulary and help your pronunciation in a new language – all while sitting on the couch or lying in bed. They can teach you about life and culture in a country, and give you something fun to talk about with native speakers.
Many streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have options to change the spoken language and subtitles in their content. But unfortunately, most foreign films and shows are geo-blocked – or regionally restricted – from other countries due to licensing laws.
Luckily, there are language hacks for that! Since streaming services limit content based on users’ IP (Internet Protocol) addresses – which are tied to specific internet providers in specific countries – you can use a VPN service to change your IP address to one based in the country whose content you want to access. This will let you see the same streaming catalog as people in the country whose language you’re trying to learn.
3. Listen to audiobooks
Reading books is one of the best ways to build vocabulary in a new language – once you have basic skills. But it doesn’t help with your pronunciation and requires you to put away time to sit down with a book.
Listening to books in audio form gives you the same benefits, but also teaches you pronunciation. You can listen to audiobooks while walking, driving or just lying in bed. They’re a great way to increase your exposure to a language wherever you are. The popular audiobook service Audible has books available in many languages, and local libraries also often provide free access to audiobooks.
4. Play video games
Catering to your own interests is important for maintaining motivation when learning a language, and no less so for gamers. Most big-budget triple-A titles have lots of audio options, allowing you to listen to your favorite game characters speaking in any major language.
For an even better cultural learning experience, find games that are actually from or set in the country whose language you want to learn. For example, gamers who want to learn Polish should definitely check out the Witcher series. Russian-learners should be playing games in the Metro series with the original Russian dialogue.
5. Watch the news
Reading and watching the news in another language will not only build your language skills but educate you on the issues and hot topics in the countries and areas that speak that language. Many newspapers around the world have websites where you can read their content online. You can also watch content from some regional broadcasters, like France 24, the Spanish RTVE, and the Italian RAI, online. Some broadcasting content, however, is restricted to channels’ local regions, so you will need a VPN to access it from other countries.
6. Listen to music
Music allows you to surround yourself with another language and another country’s culture wherever you are, and at any time. You can listen to regional genres, like Spanish Flamenco or Korean K-Pop. Or you can find music from the country in the genres you normally listen to. Picking out individual words to learn can sometimes be hard with music, but catchy choruses and rhymes are likely to stay in your mind and allow you to learn new phrases.
7. Learn with others
Learning a language together with a friend or family member is a great way to maintain motivation. Not to mention make the whole experience more enjoyable. Some say practicing with another non-fluent speaker can ingrain pronunciation mistakes, but it can also help boost each other’s weaknesses. Teaching is an incredibly effective learning method for building long-term memory and skills. So sharing what you’ve learned with a language buddy or group is highly beneficial to language acquisition.
8. Focus on similarities
There are a huge number of words to learn in any new language. So being efficient and focusing on using knowledge you already have is important. Rather than just learning entirely new words, find links between words from one language to the next. For example, almost every word that ends in “-tion” in English is the same but with “-ción” in Spanish. Like “nation” to “nación” and “publication” to “publicación.” Learning tips like this will instantly increase your Spanish vocabulary by dozens of words.
The most important thing when learning a new language is to not be afraid of failure. With these hacks you can surround yourself with the language and culture you want to learn and turn language learning into a lifestyle, which will help you step out of your comfort zone and make using your new language less frightening in real-life situations.
Tabby Farrar is a researcher and travel blogger. She has taught English in several parts of the world. Her professional work covers topics like cyber security and consumer technology. You can find her on LinkedIn.
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