Learning a second language is a somewhat generalized practice. Think about it. If someone close to you began to learn French, Polish, Russian, Chinese or Arabic you’d be convinced they would fail (although you might not tell them that!). That’s because learning a second language in an environment where you’re not immersed in it 24/7 throws up barrier after barrier. That’s why many language students go abroad for a year.
The only other strategy that you have when you’re at home is to buy a few text books, a pocket-sized dictionary and begin wading through a river of despair and hopelessness. Or is it the only other strategy?
Recently I resumed learning French. I was never any good at it in school – mostly because the above strategy was applied. But only a few months into my new endeavour, I’m currently halfway through a classic French novel called “˜La Guerre des Boutons’. How? I took the geeky way out i.e. I immersed myself in an environment filled with French – it’s called the Internet (you may have heard about it). Here are my top three tips to help you with learning a second language online.
Using Popular Websites in That Language
Allow me to explain this one. I don’t mean use every single website in French/Spanish/ Polish etc. What I do mean is to use large sites in the foreign language you’re trying to learn. Make a list of the five largest websites you use regularly. I’m willing to bet that Google is in there. EBay is likely to have made the cut. Maybe even Amazon? Basically just jot down your favourite sites and start using them in a foreign language. The reason I’m telling you to do this is not to have you utterly confused but to teach you.
You see, these large websites generally use simple sentences and popular words. Take EBay; it doesn’t have many long rambling paragraphs, rather just plain words and phrases. All of the different categories will undoubtedly be useful words and what’s more they’re often associated with pictures. You can also get a bargain on expensive products on native language sites where demand is lower.
Using sites such as Google and Yahoo can give you some more basic words as well as seeing some of the French news headlines. This is not an intensive way of learning a language. In fact, it’s fairly passive and doesn’t require too much effort.
Twitter has escalated in popularity over the last year or so and it’s the perfect platform for a Word a Day regime. You probably tweet multiple times a day (and if not, where have you been for the past year?) so why not make a few of those tweets count for something.
By following this service in the particular language you’re learning, you’ll be tweeted a word which you must use in a logical sentence in one of your own tweets that day. Again, this is a passive way of learning a language. By fitting it into your already existing routine you’re not climbing a whole new mountain.
Part of the BBC’s website is devoted to teaching people how to speak different languages. This section is packed with interesting ways of learning a language rather than learning off boring verb sheets.
For example, they have videos of people in everyday situations such as in meeting people, dining in restaurants, going to bars, at work etc. These videos are accompanied by a transcript so you can read through the words and understand it fully.
There are are different difficulty settings depending on whether you’re starting fresh or have been learning the language for some time.
If you combine the BBC language course with the two passive learning methods above you’ll be on your way to speaking fluently in no time.
It also wouldn’t hurt to subscribe to a few blogs in your chosen language. See my post here on MUO about Reading Blogs On Your Cellphone With A Java RSS Reader. Also, you might want to check out Angie’s post if you’re looking for online resources to learn foreign languages: 18 Great Sites to Learn a New Language .
What’s your method of learning a new language. Do you have any self-taught tricks?