Learn Another Language While You Wait for the Travel Ban to Lift
Don’t worry if you’re finding it a little difficult to adjust to social distancing - you’re not alone. The coronavirus pandemic came out of nowhere, and governments all around the world are taking unprecedented measures to deal with it.
Luckily, with the wide world of the internet as well as more traditional media like books and TV, there’s enough to do that you don’t need to worry about getting bored.
In fact, some people are even using the time at home to develop new skills, and one of the most popular is learning a new language.
In this article, we’ll start with some general tips on how to learn another language from home before recommending some of our favourite language learning apps. Read on to see how you can come out of quarantine with an impressive new skill - one you can use on your first trip abroad once all this is over!
How to Learn Another Language at Home
At first it might feel a little weird trying to learn another language at home. On top of getting your brain around something other than your native language, it can also be odd to turn your home into a language school. Don’t worry, though: just follow these tips to get started mastering your new tongue.
START WITH THE BASICS
It sounds simple, even self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that you should start with the basics. While you don’t have to work through the whole curriculum, you should at least learn the sort of things that will always be relevant - introducing yourself, asking some basic questions of others, and so on.
Even if you don’t see yourself spending too much time explaining where you’re from in a foreign language, starting with common words and phrases also lets you get to grips with the basics of grammar.
Things like conjugation and adjective agreement can be a nightmare, even in simple European languages like Spanish, French or German, it’s much simpler to learn this ‘on the job’ so that you’re not boring yourself silly with the rules.
As anyone who’s ever tried to learn a foreign language through a phrasebook knows, there can be a world of difference between what’s on the page and what’s actually spoken.
There are plenty of funny examples of this all over the internet - one of my personal favourites is this tweet.
Mi papá tiene 47 años = my dad is 47 years old— Steve Stifler (@StevStiffler) October 17, 2016
Mi papa tiene 47 anos = my potato has 47 assholes
i love spanish
And while context will do a lot to save you from such embarrassing misunderstandings, you still need to ensure that you can understand your target language as it would be spoken by a native speaker.
The best way to do this is to supplement your ‘lessons’ with things like TV and movies. Podcasts and radio can also be great ways to train your ears while you’re getting on with something else.
HAVE A STRATEGY
It helps to go in with a plan whenever you’re starting a new project, and learning a new tongue is no different. At the same time, don’t push yourself too hard - the last thing anyone needs right now is to add to their stress. Self-care is more important now than ever, and it’s fine if things slow down a bit while you’re in lockdown. There’s no requirement to come out of this as a superhero!
With this in mind, then, the first thing you should do is devise a schedule that works for you. Most language learning apps have a reminder feature, and you can choose how often these nudges come - one of the major benefits to home learning is choosing your own schedule.
You should also make sure you’re not overloading your brain - it’s easy to set big goals, and even to stick to them for a while, but trying to do too much risks burning you out. Luckily, experts are actually on your side on this, recommending around fifteen minutes of practice a day.
Finally, include time in your schedule to go over what you’ve learnt. Setting a review session for the end of the week can be a great way to consolidate what you’ve done - and it can also feel a little more relaxing than having to fill your head with something new each day.
Our Favourite Language Learning Apps
There’s a huge variety of language learning apps on the market, and none truly stands head and shoulders above the others. Each has its strengths and weaknesses - things it specialises in and things it’s weaker at. But each is well worth the time spent using it. If any of these sound even remotely good to you then we fully recommend downloading them and trying them out - worst case scenario, you just delete the app and move on.
While we said none of these language learning apps can be considered the ‘best’, Duolingo is about as close as it gets. With over 100 million users, it’s definitely the big daddy of the language game, and it has a strong userbase to draw on, ensuring any bugs get identified and patched quickly. All other apps in the game get compared to this one, and its mix of speaking, listening and reading exercises will keep you on your toes.
Whereas Duolingo is designed for long-term commitment, albeit with small and achievable goals, its similarly named cousin is much more ‘here and now’. If you’ve ever rashly booked a long stay in some remote region of France before remembering that you never took the time to learn French, this is the app for you.
While few if any of us will have trips booked right now, TripLingo is still a great resource for getting to grips with your target language before you go away. Add in on-the-fly translation and a ‘slang slider’ that lets you see more and less casual versions of a saying, and it’s a real win for those who want to brush up and communicate with native speakers, but aren’t too concerned about fluency.
It’s common knowledge that immersion is crucial to language learning - your brain will do a much better job picking up common words and phrases the more it hears them, and will likely even come to understand, at least on some level, those finnicky grammatical rules.
While we’ve already outlined some ways to listen to native speakers from the comfort of your own home, we couldn’t write this piece without mentioning HiNative.
An excellent complement to any and all of the other apps on this list, HiNative allows you to come together with a native speaker to interact in your language of choice. The users are friendly and helpful, always willing to help each other find the correct answers, and it also enables you to give something back, helping others learn your native tongue. It’s truly win-win, and has the added benefit of letting you expand your online social circle.
We hope this article gave you some ideas on how to break the boredom of social distancing. If so, why not check out our other blog posts for even more ways to fill your time while you’re stuck at home during the pandemic? If nothing else, it’ll at least give you some travel ideas for when this is all over.