Three Engaging Ways to Learn a New Language

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Written by Rachael Willis

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being multilingual. There are several different benefits to learning different languages, but it can be daunting to take the first step. Many prospective language-learners end up backing out because they lose motivation. I feel you – no matter how many threatening notifications I get from the Duolingo owl, I have no desire to open up the app and complete a Spanish lesson. My solution to this burnout is to make language-learning more engaging. Read more for my top 3 fun ways to learn a new language!

Listen to your target language often.

You can easily incorporate language-learning into your everyday life by listening to your target language. For example, you can listen to music, podcasts, videos, TV shows, and movies in your target language. I like to keep a notebook handy so that I can jot down any unfamiliar words that I hear. This can help you learn some more casual vocabulary, and it can also help you learn the proper pronunciation of different words.

Another benefit of this language-learning strategy is that it doesn’t feel like a traditional foreign language lesson. The vast majority of high school students watch shows and movies in their free time. Why not turn your casual Netflix binge into a productive language-learning opportunity? Of course, there are a couple of setbacks to this method. For one, you can easily get distracted if you aren’t focusing all of your attention on the media of choice. This can be difficult to combat, but I would suggest removing as many distractions as possible – treat your viewing session just like you would a live lesson.

Write a journal in your target language.

Writing is another essential facet of language-learning. It is important to practice different grammatical concepts through writing. However, instead of just answering questions in a workbook or textbook, you can go one step further and write a journal in your target language. This technique requires a good understanding of basic grammar and vocabulary, but once you get the hang of it, it is a great way to practice writing. Also, by writing a journal in your target language, you also engage with vocabulary that is pertinent to your everyday life. This helps you pick up vocabulary that you would find more useful in day-to-day conversations.

One downside to this method is that it takes a lot of self-discipline in order to keep your journal up-to-date. I have way too many unfinished journals lying around my bedroom. In fact, there are three next to me right now. My best suggestion would be to make a little calendar and mark off each day that you write in your journal. This is somewhat similar to Duolingo’s streak method where users are motivated to keep their streak of days practiced. In the past, when I have tried adopting new habits, I have found the streak method to be quite effective.

Reread books in your target language.

Similarly to listening and writing, your reading activities do not have to be limited to textbook materials. In my opinion, narrative books are much more engaging than the dull excerpts you’d find in a language-learning workbook. However, reading a brand new book in a foreign language sounds quite intimidating. In order to make this method more user-friendly, I suggest reading a book that you’ve already read before in your target language.

This method has some of the same benefits as the listening one. For starters, if you reread a book, you are already familiar with the plot and characters. This allows you to deduce the meanings of different words or phrases in the book more easily. In addition, reading texts in a foreign language is a great way to see different grammatical structures in action. When I was younger, I learned much of what I know now about English grammar from reading books. I have transferred this ability to my French classes, and it has helped me better understand complex grammatical structures.

Language-learning does not have to be excluded to workbooks and digital applications; you can make the process significantly more engaging by watching movies or TV shows, writing a journal, or rereading some of your favorite books. By incorporating one or a combination of these methods into your schoolwork, you will be one step closer to becoming a fluent speaker!