If you don't understand French, my English version can be found below. If you’re trying to learn a language but don’t live in the target language culture, these ideas will surely make daily learning much more fun and less stressful for you.
I love the belief of La Route des Langues that total immersion in a foreign environment is the best way to learn a language. It’s now over 20 years old and located just off Place de Charles de Gaulle in Paris. They send children and adults to countries all around the world, such as Florence, New York, Barcelona, and Ireland to learn a variety of languages. If you live in France, this is an amazing organization to check out! They offer courses for juniors as young as 7 years old to adults (and even parents!). Students stay with schools and host families in these countries to gain maximum exposure to the target language! There’s no better way to learn a new language than to live in it. Maybe a new year resolution for the coming year ;-)
You may visit their website or read the French version of my article at the La Route des Langues website here or click the image below.
The good news is, we’re so lucky to live in a world where amazing resources are around us - in our local communities, on the internet at home, or in the bookstore around the corner. We can easily create our own immersion environment and live the language if we just try a little!
Here are eight simple ways to do this:
(1) Listen to Music
When I was young I loved to sing. English is not my mother tongue language but singing had a big part of my English language development. I recorded cassette tapes of myself singing Christmas carols and nursery rhymes. The more I mimicked words and rhythm, the better my pronunciation became. If you love music, singing is a wonderful way to practice pronunciation, understand sentence structures, learn common phrases, and expand vocabulary. Best of all, songs usually have lots of repetition, this enables you to keep repeating and hearing words and phrases. Can you find some music in the target language that would fit your musical interests?
(2) Watch Movies and T.V. Shows
Watching movies is an easy and enjoyable way to enhance language abilities by exposing yourself to authenticity. Not only can you listen to language usage but it’s also a great way to learn more about social cues, lifestyles, formal/informal situations, common conversational phrases, and jokes! You’ll be learning the language in context. This helps you ‘immerse’ in language culture and develop understanding of real life language usage. If you can’t buy or rent, try watching short snippets on YouTube.
(3) Read Children's Books
Whether you’re an advanced or beginner language student, books for children are very valuable but commonly undervalued resource for learning. The simple sentence structures can make learning less of a struggle. It can also be useful to read children’s books in the target language that you’ve read before as a child. Familiarity in story-line can help draw connections between your own language and the target language. Even comic books are great to learn, allowing you to see what is being said. Colors and interesting characters can make learning much more fun.
(4) Listen to Podcasts
The great thing about technology is that we get so many free resources at our fingertips and all for free. Podcast is one of those. You can listen to podcasts that teach languages or thousands of others under different categories - business, health, fashion, storytelling. Podcasts can help you develop a natural awareness of speech intonation and stress. They can also be helpful in reviewing important grammar points and new vocabularies. A lot of these are short in length, making it easy to maintain concentration. Find out what you’re interested in and use time while you're cooking or getting ready for school to listen to these. Don’t give up right away if it’s too hard, keep browsing until you find something that works for your interest and language level.
(5) Cook From a Recipe
What better way to maintain your language level than to make something delicious out of it? Websites like Pinterest help me discover a magnitude of recipes. Try to find simple recipes of the target language that you could try to make once a week. It’s a fantastic way of learning new adjectives (stir, cut, mash), nouns (gravy, chopping board, stove) and how to follow directions. It can be fun to live like a person from the target language culture!
(6) Eat the Food
If you’re not that great in the kitchen, go to a restaurant! If you’re trying to maintain or improve your Spanish level, try out some Spanish restaurants! Just by looking at the menu, you can ‘refresh’ your language memory and develop awareness of different food terms. Some places might even play music from that culture, so you get two for the price of one!
(7) Use Post-it notes
I love recommending post-it notes to write the names of items around the house and stick them on furniture, appliances, and objects. Every time you open the fridge (milk, mayonnaise), brush your teeth (toothpaste, mirror), cook dinner (salt, pepper), you’ll see these vocabularies. Create a language environment in your own home! Once these words become easier to remember, you can start writing sentences on the post-it notes with these vocabularies. For example, “Clean the mirror,” “Drink milk daily,” “Use less salt.” You start adding on verbs, adjectives, and developing more comprehensive sentence structures.
(8) Subscribe to Blogs and Follow Social Media
There are so many great blogs out there for language learners. Some focus on listening, some on writing, some on pronunciation. The list is endless. Follow blogs you enjoy learning from by subscribing or liking their Facebook or Twitter page so you’re always able feed yourself new information. Even Instagram has users who post word-of-the-day lessons in different languages. It doesn’t cost anything to do this, so why not?
Even if you no longer live in the target language culture, continuing to learn doesn’t need to be a big burden on your life. The most important thing is to have fun with it. In order to self-motivate and be consistent in your learning, it’s important to do things that you’re interested in. If you have more ideas to learn the target language, try them and see what works and continue on that journey. Don’t keep pushing yourself to cook a recipe in your target language if you don’t enjoy cooking. Try something else that fits into your lifestyle, time availability, interest, and language needs. Set goals for yourself, understand what your capacity is and challenge yourself a little day by day