I live in a town of 1,018 people, at least it’s 1,018 according to the sign I pass by everyday. Our town is too small for a grocery store, yet somehow we seem to have a library. When I first approached our little library, all I saw was a display of Amish romance novels. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever find something I would want to check out from that library. I was wrong. I quickly learned that yes, this library may be a bit small, but it’s connected to several other libraries across the state through interlibrary loan. There are many resources that can be delivered to your library within the course of a week.
When you take a class at a college or university, you are required to buy a textbook. Normally your instructor chooses a textbook that is large enough for you to use for a long period of time. When you check out a textbook from the library, you’ll want one that you can digest in a shorter amount of time—you’ll only have a few weeks before you’ll have to return it. You can try finding textbooks for each aspect of the language. For example, right now I’m checking out different textbooks about Arabic letters. They are smaller and easier to digest in a short amount of time. When I’m finished with these textbooks, it’ll be time to return them and check out a book specifically on a particular grammar point (such as present tense) or a particular set of vocabulary (such as vocabulary for traveling).
Not only can you find or order textbooks at your library, but you can also check out novels and other books designed for language learners. If you are a beginning learner, you can check out books in your target language written for children. Then you can slowly work your way up to novels designed for language learners. These novels often have a glossary in the back and have been rewritten using grammatical structures more appropriate for particular fluency levels. If you can’t find any readers, look at the lists on GoodReads.com for novels recommended by other language learners.
#3: CDs & DVDs
Libraries are not just for books. They also contain CDs and DVDs. These materials can be used in two different ways 1) for language instruction and 2) for listening practice. Sometimes your library may have CDs designed for you to learn a language in the car or DVDs that can replace in person lectures. Sure this formal instruction is nice, but there are more fun ways to learn as well. You can listen to music in your target language and watch movies as well. When you watch movies in your target language, make sure to put the subtitles of that target language on as well. Being able to match the words on the screen to the sounds coming from the screen will help your language skills immensely.
#4: Community Programs
When I was living in Barcelona, Spain, the library that was only a block from my apartment had a language exchange group program. I would go there once a week and talk for a half hour in English with people learning English. Then we would switch to Spanish so that I could practice my Spanish as well. Other libraries also have book clubs for language learners or for speakers of particular languages. These clubs will help you not only to practice your language, but to develop friendships as well.