3 Life Hacks for Learning a Language

I hate admitting that anyone can learn a language without paying for a teacher.  I am, after all, a language teacher and admitting that I’m obsolete would obviously be a blow to my pride and convincing others would be a blow to my paycheck.  Nothing can replace a well trained language teacher or an immersion program– both of which can be pricey.  However, there are ways to begin or supplement the learning process without dipping into your wallet.   Just remember two things before you begin such a journey: 1) self-study means self-motivation, so keep reminding yourself of why you are studying the language, and 2) just a little bit of studying a day everyday can add up.

#1) Use Internet Resources

Remember that movie where a bunch of teens taught a foreign exchange student to say inappropriate words?  Actually, there were quite a few movies (and TV series) that included that humorous storyline.  The Internet can be like those teens– certain websites may be the set up of a joke that makes you the punch line.  But don’t despair!  There are actual good-hearted people who have made language learning materials available free online simply to help others, or, more likely, to make money from advertisements. (And hey, who can blame them?)  The important thing is to remain critical of each resource you try and to ask others what has worked for them.  Also, try the “free” samples of online language learning resources (such as Rosetta Stone).  Sure, you’ll only get a small chapter of the basics, but completely mastering the basics will make your language learning experience easier later on.

#2) Visit Your Local Library

Your local library doesn’t just have a collection of books left behind by the digital age as they gather dust on a shelf.  They have tons of resources at your disposal.  Sure, some libraries may seem like they are not even small enough to hold the dust they’re collecting.  But don’t be discouraged–Interlibrary Loan to the rescue!  Most libraries– even the one in my middle-of-nowhere town– are interconnected.  Textbooks, CDs, as well as comics and novels designed for language learners can be delivered straight to your local library from other libraries.  That’s not even including your library’s online resources that are delivered straight to your Kindle device or your Kindle app!

#3) Keep the Human Element

If you’re constantly studying from textbooks and computers, you’re forgetting what it means to learn a language– learning to communicate with people.  The process of language learning requires some human interaction.  There are some great ways to find someone who will practice your target language with you.  The key to finding this someone is to think to yourself: Who would benefit from me practicing this language?  What do I have to offer someone who speaks this language?  Possible answers could lead to you finding a new friend or friends who can help you with the learning process.  Common ways to keep the human element in language learning include having language exchange partners (people you meet with who help you with their language as you help them with your language), volunteering (for example, reading out loud to a senior or blind person and have them correct your pronunciation, and joining conversation groups (which can be found on sites like MeetUp.com).

To learn more about these life hacks for learning a language, check back later this month.  I will be exploring each hack more in depth.  What other ways can help you learn a language for free?  If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below!

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