When you think about it, now is the perfect time to learn a language at home – the world is free from distractions and you may have a lot more spare time, too. Why not use that time and your time at home to do something productive and learn a language – or improve on the languages you are currently learning?
I know that my blog has always focused mainly on the best ways to learn languages for travel. Well, now that most of our travel plans are on hold for the foreseeable future, I thought I would give some tips on things you can do to keep learning a language from the comfort of your own home, whether that be because you are in isolation, quarantine, or just avoiding travel. Remember: just because you can’t travel, it does not mean you can’t keep learning languages!
There are many ways to learn a language at home both online and offline. Let’s look at things you can do with the net first, and then some activities you can do to learn a language offline if you’re without internet.
Learn a language online
If you’ve got the internet at your disposal, and you’re at home, here are some ways to learn a language online at home.
Get an online tutor
A lot of people learn better with a mentor or a teacher, so the good news is you can still have a teacher without leaving your house! There are many websites you can use to find language tutors who do online lessons, such as Italki and Verbling. The good thing about finding a tutor online is that you suddenly have many more options to choose from, and you can find a tutor within your budget.
Do an online course
If you were attending a language school and it’s now stopped doing physical classes, there are still plenty of options for you to continue formal language learning at home. Check to see if there are any language schools or universities offering online courses, as more and more of them are moving to remote learning. If you can’t find anything suitable, there are still countless language courses that are 100% online and always have been. Check out my in-depth article which compares all the best online language courses.
Do an online language exchange
Just because you are home, doesn’t mean you can’t talk to other people. The wonderful world of the web gives us the opportunity to meet and talk to people who live in the most far-reaching corners of the globe. Use websites like Conversation Exchange, HelloTalk and Italki to find a language partner, and then get on chat or voice call with them so you can practise your languages with them. This is a great way to stay motivated to keep learning even if you’re stuck at home. It is also the closest you are going to get to an immersive experience in a foreign language from home.
If you’re not sure how to do a language exchange, you can find my language exchange tips here.
Join online communities
Online communities can be a great way to get a good immersive experience online. When you start seeing content in your target language popping up every day, it helps you to start thinking in that language. This can flow on to you doing other activities in that language, like making friends or reading an article. Join Facebook groups and Subreddits that will help you practise your target language. Depending on your level, the groups could be dedicated to learning the language, or they could be about specific topics for native speakers. Then you can read casual content in the language by everyday people, and practise your writing skills to participate in the conversations. See my online communities article with everything you need to know to get the most out of them, as well as a full list of all the communities that I use.
Play online games in your target language
If you’re looking for a fun way to learn a language at home, there are heaps of exciting online games you can play! Games are a great way to learn a language because when you are engaged and motivated, you learn even better. I would recommend both games dedicated to language learning directly, like Clozemaster and The Great Translation Game, as well as general online games with native content in the target language. For example, the app Trivia Crack is available in most languages, as are word games.
Watch foreign movies or shows
Stream movies or TV series in your target language. Nowadays, Netflix in most countries has content in various languages, so it’s super easy to find something. Here are some ideas on what to watch in Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Russian to get you started, put together by my friend Ingrid at Second Half Travels.
Listen to foreign podcasts and music
If you prefer listening to watching, there is also plenty of audio content available in pretty much any language you want to learn. If you don’t know where to find those, here is how to find podcasts in the language you’re learning, and how to find music in the language you’re learning (and if you haven’t seen them, the best songs to help you learn Spanish and the best songs to learn Portuguese). The best way to make use of this is to look up the transcript or the lyrics, and make sure you find the meaning of everything you don’t understand. If you have the patience, then listen again until you understand everything.
Read the news in your target language
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. What better way to find out what’s happening in the countries where your target language is spoken, than to read the content directly from there?
One good tip is to turn your social media accounts, and other accounts you use on a daily basis, into the language you are learning. This is a good passive way to keep practising your target language. Even when you are not actively looking for it, you will see the language you’re learning written all the time. Over time, you’ll be able to process it faster and faster.
Learn a language offline
If you don’t have unlimited data, but you still want to spend your time at home productively, here are some ways to learn a language offline at home.
Read foreign books
This is kind of pre-determined by you actually having access to books in your target language, but if you do, don’t overlook them. Books are an awesome way to pass the time and immerse yourself in a language from home. To make it even more effective, have a dictionary and a pen to take notes, so you can record the new words you come across.
Study grammar books
Just like with the language content books, if you have access to any textbooks for your target language, make use of them! While immersion is great, there are some things that can be very difficult to get right without knowing the grammar behind them. Studying grammar is always useful to understand the language better. If you have a grammar book with exercises and answers to check your own work, those are the most useful for learning a language from home.
Talk to your pets/yourself in your target language
When you’re by yourself at home, just pretend you are having a conversation and talk out loud! If you have pets or a baby, you can pretend to be having a conversation with them. But even if you are just by yourself this works.
In other situations, you might be considered crazy for rambling on to yourself or your pets. But this is purposeful language practice, remember! This method is actually one of the best ways to maintain fluency when you don’t have anyone to speak to in that language. It is also a good way to see how fluent you are and how much you can say without the natural nervousness that comes when interacting with actual people. Get used to the way the language feels in your mouth and how it sounds in your voice. This will help you develop confidence. So pick a topic, any topic, pretend you’re talking to someone, and let the words flow out and see how far it takes you. If you feel like you’re not yet ready for conversation-level freestyle, try repeating some common structures with the words you have learned.
To add another level to this, you can record yourself speaking. You could do this regularly, so you have a record of your progress. If you have a fluent speaker friend you are comfortable with, send them the audios and get some feedback. Otherwise, still play it back to yourself later and see if you can pick up on any areas where you could improve.
Write a diary in your target language
Another good way to practise your languages without judgement is to write a personal diary. The aim of this is to see how you can express yourself in the language you are learning. Look up words or expressions if you don’t know how to say something, and then include them in your writing. This will help you remember the word.
Write letters or post cards to your native speaker friends
If you feel ready for someone else to see your writing, try writing a letter to someone you know who speaks the language you’re learning. This might be someone you’ve met on a language exchange website or someone you’ve met during your travels.
Make vocab lists
From your language activities, you should pick up quite a few new words and phrases in your target language. Write them down in a list so you can come back to them later and make sure you still remember. Try to use the new words and expressions you learn when talking or writing to people in the language. This will help cement the new content in your brain.
If you’re just starting out with a language, you can also make a list of the most commonly used words. Here is how I did that for Chinese.
If there is something in particular you find yourself struggling with, like a certain grammatical concept or some words you just can’t seem to remember, get your creative juices flowing and make a nice poster with the content explained. Then, display it somewhere you look often (the back of the toilet door is a handy one). It might seem impossible to learn, but the more exposure you have, the more it will be reinforced in your head.
Make labels for household items
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time at home, why not learn the names of all the items in your house? Get some labels or post-it notes and write down the words for items in your house. You can look them up if you don’t know them. Then, stick the labels on to the items they correspond to. Now, every time you see that item, you’ll be reminded of its name in the language you’re learning!
Those are my ideas – what about you? Do you have any tried and tested ways to learn a language from home? Let us know in the comments!
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