Language learning is a very long process, and, most importantly, it is incredibly individual. Each person learns and understands a foreign language differently, so you should always be active in making your own lesson plan and finding resources that best fit your goals. With the pandemic, it’s been a bit harder for students to practice and communicate with others in their target language, so here are some tips and digital ways that you can keep improving even if you’re stuck inside!
Consume content in your target language. This is one of the most commonly espoused language learning tips at any level. By watching content made for native speakers, language learners get both a sense of how native speakers actually communicate and exposure to dozens of new words they most likely would never see in their textbooks. Language Learning with Netflix is one of the most popular language learning apps on the market. It acts as an upgraded version of Netflix’s subtitles, allowing viewers to see simultaneously the closed captioning and translated subtitles of a show, easily look up translations of words, and slow playback speed for comprehension.
Make your own content. The biggest mistake I see many language learners do is focus too much on input. Studying and memorizing is useful, but language is communication! Try writing your own journal entries to work on your writing skills and making vlogs or videos to work on your speaking skills (you can even write subtitles to work on your listening comprehension!)
Find a penpal. This semester, many students, international and domestic, have stayed home for the year, making it hard to find friends who can help tutor you in your language. Of course, students can sign up for GUTS’ Foreign Language Learners, Conversational English, or Language Exchange Programs to meet new people in the Wisconsin community and practice your language skills. HelloTalk, Tandem, and Slowly are some free apps you can use to find native speakers of your target language. You can even act as a tutor yourself if you’d like to help others learn your native language! As I said, communication is crucial when learning a language, so, even if it’s a bit scary, try to talk to others!
Don’t burn yourself out. Language learning isn’t necessarily like regular studying where you have to learn about concepts in a set order. The most beneficial way to learn a language is to find the topics you enjoy and want to discuss—fashion, food, sports, video games, etc. If you try and make yourself read pages and pages a day of news you don’t care about nor understand, it’s quick to become burnt out. Take care of yourself and try your best!
Written by Curtis Feldner
*This is an opinion post. While the topics described here are mostly based on research, please keep in mind not to assume all of the information described above is factual.
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Join any of our language programs today! If you are interested in practicing a language other than English in a conversational setting, try Foreign Language Learners. Learn more at guts.wisc.edu/fll.