How To Learn A New Language When You’re Stuck at Home

Let’s face it. You’re not going anywhere. Not for at least, the next few months. But this does not mean that you can’t take this time to learn a new language. You don’t have to go to France to learn French. And you don’t need to spend a summer in Beijing to learn Mandarin Chinese. So long as you have access to the internet you can learn a new language anywhere.
 
All it takes is for you to commit. Last year, I taught myself French right from the comfort of my own home. I share this only to let you know that it is possible. And while lots of people will pay out the wazoo for fancy language lessons, for new language learning apps, spending years beating their brains over how to get better at the language they’re learning, they don’t have to.
 
If you want to learn a new language, all you need to have is a determination to succeed and the right strategy. Here’s some of the kinds of things you need to consider when planning your own language learning strategy.
 
1. Pick the language you want to learn. By this, I don’t mean picking French over Quebecois or Portuguese over Brazilian Portuguese. What I mean to say is that in every language there exists smaller language communities that specialize around certain subjects. For instance, there’s at one end of the spectrum: the language that die-hard video gamers speak or the language wood-working carpentry aficianados speak. Each of these communities relies on specialized vocabulary, vocabulary that you may not understand even if they’re in your “language.”
 
2. Find someone to practice with. Determining the language communities you’re interested in should help you find a good language partner. You can search online in places like Italki or Verbling, or you can start by becoming active on online forums that cater to your interests. The idea is that language does not exist in a vacuum. You learn a language to become a part of community, and you become a member of a community by participating in their activities. Now, more than ever, there are so many online resources, classes, and forums you can participate in. Seek out the ones that align with your interests.
 
 
3. Be deliberate about your learning. By this, I mean that you have to develop a plan to memorize new vocabulary. Learning cannot happen effortlessly. It will still require you to study. Write down words you don’t know and look them up. Make flashcards. When you’re sitting down to watch a tv show for instance, write down the words you hear but don’t understand. Then, take those words and practice using them in your next conversation. Practice. Practice. Practice.
 
What are some of the strategies you’ve been using to learn during the pandemic? Let me know via the comments or by reaching out to me via my contact page.
Some notes I took before an online language exchange in French last year. I recommend you make a list of what vocab you might need before any online language lesson or language exchange.

Featured Image credit: “Helsinki-Vantaa Airport” by timo_w2s is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Author: Will Schick

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