5 Ways to Learn a New Language At Home

One of the unexpected consequences of coronavirus is that many of us now have a lot more free time on our hands. With all of this extra time, some have committed to being productive, like picking up another language. If you’re interested in learning Spanish or Mandarin or German, starting your journey to becoming multilingual can start today, even during shelter in place orders! Below are five ways to start learning a new language at home.

  1. 1.  Turning to Tech For Language Learning

    woman in a white shirt holding her cell phone in front of her

    With classes being moved online, you might not have the opportunity right now to take a traditional world language class. Luckily, modern technology has provided us with helpful alternatives to supplement a more structured, formal learning experience. You can start learning languages through learning platforms like Duolingo or Busuu, both of which can be used either on your phone or your computer. 

    While these platforms are similar, they also have some key differences. On one hand, Duolingo is a more game-based learning experience. On the other hand, Busuu is more like traditional studying: setting goals, reading, writing. Busuu also helps users learn with their online community, which could be a more immersive experience.I’d recommend giving both platforms a chance to see which fits your learning styles better.

  2. 2. Language Learning Through Movies and Shows

    A fuzzy screen in the back ground might say "netflix" but the image's selective focus is on a mug of some sort.

    Another way to build your world language skills is by getting some help from sites you probably already know pretty well: Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc.  

    These entertainment streaming platforms can give you options to add subtitles in your target language. Or even better, they’ll offer dubbed audio in the language you want to learn! By practicing while you’re watching your entertainment, you’ll become more used to your target language’s grammar and vocabulary. 

    However, I’d highly recommend you watch a production made in another language, rather than just translated versions of movies and shows you normally watch. Netflix offers a lot of international options, all of which can help you better understand the conversational flow of your target language and pick up on different dialects or colloquial words. 

    (As a Spanish major, I suggest La casa de las flores, House of Flowers, or Las chicas del cable, Cable Girls, to watch!)

  3. 3.  Picking Up A Book In Another Language

    If you’d prefer reading to watching movies or shows, you can apply the same methods to your choice of reading. 

    You could purchase translations of books in English that you love to read, and this again will give you a better grasp of your target language’s vocab and grammar. Or, you could purchase books written in your target language instead. If you’re a beginner, start by reading children and teens’ books! If you’re more advanced, challenge yourself with lengthier novels. (If the latter, I’d recommend Isabel Allende if you want to brush up on advanced Spanish!). 

    One important bit of advice before diving into your new reading? Try to read through your book, bit by bit, without resorting to the dictionary to translate every word. Feel free to highlight or take notes of what you don’t understand. Then, after you’ve finished the section, go back and use your resources to figure out what those words or phrases meant. 

    This will help you become acquainted with using what you know to understand a text or a conversation to the best of your abilities, rather than using Spanish Dictionary for every single sentence. While you might feel lost at first, this method will help you improve over time.

  4. 4. Getting Your News in Another Language

    News magazine covers on a rack, including Time and The Economist

    Maybe you don’t want to devote yourself to a whole book, but you still want to practice your reading skills in your target language? Then you could practice by finding news in your targeted language, whether from a local or international source. Like reading books in a foreign language, this can help you pick up new vocabulary and become better acquainted with grammar structure and usage. 

    Another benefit of this method to learning a new language is that it’ll diversify where you’re getting your news from. You’ll be able to broaden your perspective on the world as you learn more about other countries through their daily news reports too.

  5. 5. Utilizing A Friend or A Family Member

    Three women talking and laughing on the wooden bench next to the tulip flower field

    If you’re lucky enough to have a family member or a friend who is fluent in your target language, they are a great resource to turn to during your language learning journey! One of the best ways to learn a new language is by practicing through conversations. Speaking your target language gives you the opportunity to put your new skills to work. You have to rely on what you know a lot quicker, especially when compared to reading or writing. 

    This is helpful for you in more than one way. You’ll get to practice what you’ve learned and have some nice quality time with your loved ones while we are all in quarantine. 

Learning a new language isn’t easy — it takes years of practice before achieving fluency. But that shouldn’t stop you, and coronavirus has given us the unprecedented opportunity to can learn languages with more free time.  If you keep up with learning a new language in a variety of ways, chances are your knowledge of the language will be better in the long run. You’ll be on the road to fluency before you know it.