You can study languages at school for years without ever really learning to speak them. Even if you know a lot of words and understand the basics of grammar (in theory), conversational fluency can seem like a million miles away.
This post includes some of our best tips, tricks and self-study techniques that will help you learn a foreign language in the most natural, easy and entertaining way.
Language learning podcasts
One of the best way to test your skills in practice is to listen to a podcast in a foreign language. Podcasts are really fun and handy because you can listen to them AND do other things at the same time. Here are a few popular podcasts for learning English, German and Spanish:
- “6 minute English”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pc9tn/episodes/downloads
- “Slow German mit Annik Rubens”: http://slowgerman.com/inhaltsverzeichnis/
- “Notes in Spanish”: http://www.notesinspanish.com/
Learning languages with YouTube
One of my favorite YouTube channels for learning languages is Easy Languages with great interview videos that are shot on the streets. All videos are subtitled in both English and the local language. There are weekly new episodes in English, French and German, but there are also videos available in many other languages.
Easy Languages: https://www.youtube.com/user/magauchsein
Learning languages through music
Listening to music opens up your senses, raises emotions, activates memory, improves concentration and helps learning. Music is also a way into the local culture and language as it is commonly spoken.
Select songs with a catchy chorus, so you can sing along and learn some pronunciation in the process.
For example, see Spotify’s local TOP 50 list or listen to a local radio station over the Internet. If (and when) you can’t make out the words of the song, google the lyrics and read them while you’re listening.
If you are studying Spanish, check out Los 40 Principales http://los40.com/
For the boldest: get a language buddy
The boldest can try to find a native friend in their hometown. The absolute best way to learn a language is by speaking and listening. The more you talk, the easier it gets! You can try to find a language buddy in social media or by using a service like italki Language Partner search or Conversation exchange.
There is also an app called HiNative which allows you to ask questions about language and culture with native speakers around the world. In return, you can teach other users about your own native language: https://hinative.com/
You will achieve the best results when learning itself is pleasant and fun. When you’re enjoying your exercises, you don’t have to force yourself to study – quite the opposite!
Even though a certain amount of self-discipline and concentration is important for your language studies, research shows that in fact you learn a new language most effectively when you’re relaxed. Trying too hard might actually be harmful: when your brain is stressed, its learning and memory capacity are significantly reduced.
My recommendation for a warm, nice summer night:
Pack a laptop, headphones and a blanket in your backpack, grab your bicycle and head for the closest park or beach, relax and enjoy learning.
A mighty mix of language learning professionals, engineers, designers, user interface developers, gamers and psychologists.