ULG's Language Services Blog

3 Creative Strategies For Language Learners

So, you want to learn another language? We can’t blame you. There are so many benefits to becoming bilingual (or trilingual and beyond) that relate to the brain, personal development and business opportunities. But becoming fluent in a new language takes patience, persistence and hours and hours of practice. Language learners have to be very dedicated in order to develop their skills.

For those who may not have the time or resources to learn languages in a traditional academic setting, creating a learning process that works can be as difficult as learning the language itself. But today, there are many options available to anyone interested in picking up another language. Here are three strategies to help you on your journey to becoming multilingual.

Find a Community of Language Learners

At many colleges and universities, there are resources for students and members of the community who want to better their conversation skills in another language. These informal multilingual gatherings are popular in campus cafeterias and coffee shops. Native speakers and language learners get together to talk about the weather, class, and movies – a welcome shift from classroom learning. The casual format allows learners to practice their conversational skills rather than drilling vocabulary or verb tenses.

These groups don’t have to be confined to college campuses. Find a real world group of fellow language learners to meet and chat with once a week or even once a month. Practicing your conversational skills with others will boost your language learning in a way that only practicing by yourself cannot.

Embrace Technology

Despite many recent advances in translation technology, it’s far from perfect. But technology, namely translation and language learning apps, can be very useful for those trying to use or learn a new language. Travelers, for example, can use translation tech to make navigating a new place easier.

One of these apps is made by DuoLingo, an eLearning company that presents multilingual web content, like news stories and blog posts, as a teaching tool – leveraging user input from their self-guided lessons to translate millions of pages across the internet. But if you’re more interested in interacting with others during the learning process, HelloTalk is a great option. HelloTalk is an app that connects you with speakers around the world so you can practice your skills without having to leave your house. Additionally, BBC Languages offers video lessons for language learners, as well as crossword puzzles to give learners a more fun, breezier way to practice.

Explore Foreign Entertainment

Beyond live conversation and online learning programs, culture is an excellent teacher and guide in language learning. Music and movies, in particular, are wonderful cross-cultural entry points for those trying to pick up another language.

Listening to music in a foreign language is a great and entertaining way to learn vocabulary, verb conjugations, and pronunciation. As part of your learning routine, find some music with lyrics in the language you’re learning. Read the lyrics along with the music and then write them out by hand. The physical connection to language acquisition (pen to paper) can help further reinforce your new language skills.

Movies and television shows are also great for language learners. They help foreign viewers appreciate cultural aspects of a language, like accent, gestures, and etiquette within a society of speakers. With the addition of subtitles, the dialogue in films and shows becomes much easier for second language learners to comprehend, and eventually completely master. A 2009 Dutch study of subtitles and language acquisition mapped out how subtitles reinforce language skills within dialects, as well – clarifying the pronunciations of different terms in different regions, which ultimately helps the viewer understand plot, and take away some valuable new knowledge about language.

Keep Going

Like any skill, learning a new language requires effort and a large amount of time to fully master. But thinking creatively about language learning can make the journey faster, more adaptable to your learning style and much more fun.