5 alternative ways to learn a language effectively
The most chill, adventurous, social, in rhythm and intellectual
Learning languages, practicing with friends, colleagues, people in a restaurant, at a market or on travel is simply amazing and totally worth the experience. Saying hi or thank you in someone’s language is usually enough to trigger a conversation and the more you know that language, some jokes or rhymes, the more that conversation can go deep and get intimate.
Learning a new language will help you make connections and be more empathic. It’s one of the best investments you could make today and which will pay off tomorrow. It will broaden your horizon, open you up to a new culture, challenge your beliefs and make you see society and life in a new way.
After American and French, I learned German and Japanese at school, Spanish and Italian with Duolingo, a gamified application, and although these were helpful to get started, I quickly hit the ceiling. In this short post, I’ll present 5 alternative ways to learn a language effectively. Let me know if you have suggestions to add to the list or which one you prefer. 😉
Before diving into these different approaches, I’d like to highlight that learning a language takes some time, requires some efforts and to be successful, you need to be truly motivated and patient. We all have our own motivations when it comes to learning a language, linked to personal or professional endeavors, traveling abroad, connecting with origins or following our heart. Find your motivation, the rest will flow and now let’s dive into these 5 alternative ways.
The most chill: Netflix, podcasts & series
This is maybe the most obvious one.
We spend ages on screens, consuming media, so it makes sense to switch the audio or subtitles once in a while to another language if you’re trying to learn one. This usually helps people better listen to foreign languages, pay attention to intonation, body language, and it works well.
I watched the story behind Vespa with my family, and I think the original Italian version does a better job at conveying the emotions of the characters, resulting in a better movie experience. More recently I started to do my meditation with PetitBambou in Italian, 15 minutes every day.
All you need to do is switch the language.
The most adventurous: Travel & work abroad
Working on a farm, for example through the World of Opportunities on Organic Farms network (WOOF), is by far one of the best way to travel and immerse yourself in another culture, practice the local language and more. Of course, this can be extended to other kind of volunteering, working or educative experiences.
I’ve been doing this for a month in Bologna, Italy, and it boosted my confidence to speak the local language. In addition, I learned a lot about organic farming, animal well-fare, met lovely people and took time for myself.
Ready to pack your bag?
The most social: Meet some friends or a partner
Having somebody to speak with just makes learning a language totally worth it and after a glass or two, speaking another language seems easier.
There’s a ton of opportunities in large cities to find bars with locals or foreigners and practice your new skill. Start with a hi and then move on with whatever feels the most appropriate and natural, a compliment, a question, a joke, you choose.
You can also do this during the day, in a café, in a museum, sober, anywhere. There are some groups, meet-ups that organize events to speak languages if you want to find people in the same mood.
Check what’s going on in your city, look around and be curious!
The most in rhythm: Sing, sing, sing
This is my favorite one. Singing and dancing makes me feel happy. It makes me smile. In a group, it gets funnier. Karaoke nights are hilarious and in Japan it’s really famous to spend your night there before trains open in the morning. So with friends we compiled a few artists by languages you might want to check to warm up your day and your voice.
- Arabic: Fayrouz, Sabah fakhry, Um kalthum
- English: Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson
- French: Edith Piaf, Georges Brassens, Jean Ferrat, Joe Dassin, Muriel Moreno, Serge Gainsbourg, Zaz
- German: Die Ärzte, Hildegard Knef
- Italian: Franco Battiato, Fred Buscaglione, Pino Daniele, Rino Gaetano
- Lithuanian: Labas rytas, MG international
- Polish: Czesław Niemen, Happysad, Pidżama Porno, Strachy na Lachy
- Spanish: Gipsy, Manu Chao
The most intellectual: Translate a book
Why not? I gave it a try, picking up the first chapter from Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography in Italian, Memoria di una ragazza perbene, and I struggled.
Language is ambiguous by nature. Each language has its own specificities and some words or sentences are impossible to translate, but practicing your reading and writing is definitely one of the best way to progress and learn a language. Plus it’s definitely worth the experience to sit in a café or in a park with a book and take some time for yourself.
Learning a new language will broaden your horizon and help you connect with people, but it requires some time and efforts. The secret to learn a new language, or many other skills, is motivation and patience.
If you feel ready, the 5 alternative ways to learn a language effectively are summarized below:
- The most chill: Netflix, podcasts & series.
- The most adventurous: Travel & work abroad.
- The most social: Meet some friends or a partner.
- The most in rhythm: Sing, sing, sing.
- The most intellectual: Translate a book.
Language is something we came up with to communicate with each other, share feelings, opinions, thoughts, collaborate and more. As put by Kate Jeffrey, Professor in neuroscience at UCL, “with language we have gone further than any species on Earth, we went on the Moon”. The world would be more peaceful if we all started to learn a language with empathy. 💕