16 simple language hacks to transform your daily routine into an immersion environment
Change mobile phone and social media accounts into the target language – our phone is a portable language learning tool in our pocket, so make the most of it by switching it into the language you’re learning. The average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday according to Social Media Today, so make the most of your minutes by learning common words such as ‘like / follow / share / comment’ and other useful vocabulary.
Change your computer’s language settings – as above, but only if you’re really confident navigating and finding things. Especially take note of how to get to your language settings so that you can change it back!
Set up a language lunch club – if time is short in the evenings and you can’t get to a event, why not bring the language social to you by setting up a language lunch club at your place of work or study? This is something I have done with British Sign Language and French in the last few years and I’ve made some great language buddies and friends along the way.
Phrasemates– rather than go it alone, why not use a the Phrasemates app for iPhone and Android to get native speakers from around the world to help you translate words and phrases? The app also includes an extensive phrase dictionary that you can scour by searching keywords and is great for travelling when you need to communicate something urgent such as ‘I’m allergic to seafood.” Focusing on phrases, collocations and ‘chunking’ of vocabulary in this way is a really natural way to learn and if you help others out, you can get karma points too!
Use Post-It notes – our brains are wired to remember things by association and in context much more easily than when we see a list of words in a textbook out of everyday context. For basic nouns and phrases, it can be useful to put the word on the object to help it stick in your mind. I find it really helpful to allocate specific colours to different genders or types of words (e.g. masculine, feminine or neuter nouns or verbs and adjectives). After 1-2 weeks of regularly seeing the word associated with that object you won’t need the written cues anymore.
Write to friends overseas – keep in touch with friends overseas by writing letters, postcards, emails or messages in the target language. If you don’t know any native speakers of the language, you can find pen pals online at Language Forever Exchange
Learn with an online tutor from the comfort of your sofa – for a small fee you can spend an hour practising your languages with community teachers or learning with qualified teachers on sites like italki. There is also the option to offer lessons for credit, so it can be a cost neutral way of learning. Sign up to italki today!
Duolingo – this fun app has gamified language learning and will take you through various interactive exercises and introduce a range of vocabulary, grammar and phrases you’ll need for the language you’re learning. Great for short bursts of 10-15 minutes per day. They even have High Valyrian so you can find almost any language you’re passionate about!
Get a frequency dictionary – Iain and I use the Routledge frequency dictionaries for French and Russian as find them well laid out and easy to use. This can be a good place to start when you feel you need to structure your vocabulary learning. I find up to 20 words per week is a good number to aim for so you don’t get overwhelmed but you can start to embed them into your active vocabulary.
Go to free Meet Up or Mundo Lingo socials – for the price of a drink, you can meet new people in your city and spend the night socialising with other speakers of the language you’re learning. It’s a really informal environment and great for language users at all levels. Read our Mundo Lingo blog post for a behind the scenes look at this language social that lets you meet the world on your doorstep.
Listen to radio in another language – every morning while you’re getting ready or in the car on the way to work, have the radio on in the background so you can soak up the language as you get ready or drive.
Sing along in another language – this is useful whatever level you’ve reached; you could sing along to and learn children’s nursery rhymes, the national anthem or whatever song is at the top of the charts in the language you’re learning, depending on your level. Keep your learning fun and tailored to your music preferences. YouTube and Spotify have plenty of songs if you’re stuck for inspiration and are great resources for international music. YouTube often has lyrics to songs embedded in videos, which is really helpful.
Read articles in the language, online or in print – I find it useful to follow the key newspapers in the language I’m learning on social media so that the language regularly pops up in my feed. If you prefer to read in print you could always print online versions and read them. Alternatively, you could take out a subscription for a magazine or paper to be delivered to your door.
Watch films on Netflix or Amazon Prime – many of us have access to hundreds of films and series on our TVs, but when was the last time you searched for the foreign language section? Take a look and discover some new series or films while soaking up the language.
Let us know which hacks you’re planning to use from our list and share your top tips for creating a language learning immersion environment with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!