Bring language learning into your everyday life

Back in the day I decided to study Modern Foreign Languages as a university student. Although I am yet to live my dream of taking my morning coffee on some sunny balcony in Provence, bringing a bit of French language or culture into my daily life still brings me a lot of pleasure.

As a teenager, other than school textbooks, trekking to a particular newsagents in a particular part of town to buy a (then incomprehensible) copy of Le Monde was about the only way I could get my hands on foreign language resources. 

These days, the internet has provided us with a wealth of content making it easier than ever to bring a little bit of language learning into our day to day lives. This shouldn’t be a chore. Apps are gamified, Netflix brings us the hottest shows and social media can present us with digestible snippets of vocab.

Absolute beginners to a language may want to start with an app like Duolingo or Memrise. With Duolingo a green owl-like creature encourages you through quick and very achievable language exercises. You can press repeat on spoken phrases as often as you like and there are activities where the app listens to your pronunciation. It’s very gamified and very accessible. 

There’s less free content with the Memrise app but one of its best features is its use of short videos of native speakers pronouncing particular words or phrases. Compared to listening to a computerised voice this stands you in much better stead for encountering the language in real life.

Duolingo teaches 19 languages and Memrise has a choice of 16. These range from Spanish to Korean, Arabic to Yoruba. Picking up a few words in a completely unknown language will bring you a lot of pride and can be really quite fun.

TV shows are another way to bring foreign languages into your life in an untaxing way. YouTube can be a great resource, particularly if you know the name of a show that you’d like to watch. (If not, you could always Google the names of popular TV shows in the country of your chosen language). Once you get started the algorithms will hopefully begin showing you more useful content.

Netflix has a bunch of foreign language series and films – with helpful English subtitles! Atlantics, set in Dakar and filmed in the Wolof language, and the Japanese series Atelier both come recommended. 

While you may not feel like you’re making much progress language-wise with TV shows, particularly if the language is unfamiliar to you, persevere. Over the course of a series you may find yourself picking up oft repeated words (greetings, or potentially swear words!), getting a sense of the tone of the language and of course getting an insight into the culture.

I also tend to seek out French social media influencers on my Instagram account. Not so much for their content but to have bite-sized bits of language peppered through my feed. It’s a quick and easy way to keep the language at the forefront of my mind and to pick up bits of topical vocab or slang.

Another friend is a big fan of Korean beauty bloggers. That, combined with a love of K-pop opened a gateway to the culture for her, picking up a few bits of language in the process.

If you have a little money to spend you could look at ordering foreign language newspapers or magazines to your home. You can order French Elle or Vogue China through for example. You may also be able to add foreign language channels to your TV package for a fee, or if you’re feeling really dedicated, look into remote language tutoring.

The internet means the world is getting smaller. While sometimes this can feel overwhelming, for a language learner it’s a goldmine. Using the mantra “little and often”, you may surprise yourself with your language skills or comprehension on your next foreign holiday.

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