For many language learners, the question about the best way to practice their new lingo between classes is one that still creates a lot of confusion. Often, finding places and situations in which you can practice your conversation skills in a natural setting is not easy, and this can seem like a tremendous obstacle. However, in this modern world we are surrounded by tools that we can exercise to improve our language skills, regardless of which language you are trying to perfect. For the most part, you wouldn’t even suffer the inconvenience of having to leave the house. Here is a closer look at some of my favourites.
Your mobile phone
Today’s smartphone technology has become such an important part of our daily lives that we often forget how we ever got by without them. They keep us connected to the world, they remind us of important dates, they ensure we get to work on time and they prevent us from losing touch with loved ones.
Well, they are also fantastic tools for learning languages. Here are a few ways you can employ your trusted pocket PC to aid you with your studies.
Ask your phone for answers: whether you’re carrying a fashionable iPhone or a practical android, you are able to talk to your phone, in a whole host of languages, to find the information you’re looking for. Both Siri and OK Google will be able to help you out with questions that could benefit daily life. From finding out the opening times of your local cinema to the birthday of your favourite celebrity, your phone will have an answer. This is a great way for you to practice your pronunciation, as well as making full use of your phone’s futuristic capabilities.
Set your phone to the language you are learning: this one may not seem like it would make the world of difference. However, when learning languages, every little helps. Having your phone displays set to English, Chinese or Spanish is just another useful little way of exposing yourself to the language, helping you to become more comfortable with it.
Get a dictionary: modern day smartphones have apps for everything. You can have a fitness coach, a meditation guru and games console all installed, comfortably on your smartphone. Make positive use of these possibilities and install a good dictionary. It will almost certainly come in handy.
Your MP3 player is another fantastic learning tool that you are likely to take with you everywhere. Whether you make use of the MP3 function on your smartphone or you have a separate device storing all your tunes, an MP3 player is something that is convenient to carry around with you and use whenever the opportunity arises.
Get down and boogie: listening to music is a marvellous way to perfect your language skills. New music is always coming out and it’s very easy to find something pleasing to your ears. You can learn the lyrics by downloading them from the internet and, if the mood takes you, you can sing along.
Podcast power: Having an MP3 player means you are also able to download and listen to podcasts. In addition to the multitude of podcasts that are out there specifically designed for language learners, there are also podcasts dealing with a whole host of other topics. Listening to these podcasts can prove to be excellent listening practice. Have a quick search, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest.
Use the internet. If it, or information about it, is not on the internet then it probably doesn’t exist. There is material on the internet, in every modern language you may be interested in, covering a seemingly endless array of topics. Take to your keyboard and get surfing!
Read blogs: like podcasts, there are plenty of blogs out there specifically designed for language learners, so that’s a great place to start. But there is no need to put any restrictions on the material you search for. Engaging in topics that interest you always makes it easier to find the motivation. It’s all good practice!
TWEET: Tweeting, over the last few years, has become a standard medium for people from all walks of life, allowing the unsuspecting public to be kept in the political, social, and celebrity loops. You can follow the news, sport or business, and you can even share your own thoughts on the matter. But remember to keep those thoughts within the 140 character limit.
Get social: Facebook is no longer just a way to keep in touch with your friends. There are groups on Facebook for people who share common interests and want to join in day-to-day active discussions on those subjects. If you can’t find a topic that suits you, start your own!
Put pen to paper. While all the gadgets we surround ourselves with are fantastic study tools, why not put to use one of the most traditional devices we have at our disposal? A notebook. I am not referring to your PC notebook with its 16GB RAM, its internet access and all the other useful functions that make it a must-have of the modern world, I’m talking about a pad of paper. A notebook and pen can prove to be one of the most beneficial study aids you will ever make use of.
Keep a diary: exercise your writing skills in your chosen language. Try and get into the habit of taking out 5 or 10 minutes of each day to jot down a few lines about what happened. There are no guidelines about what or how you should write, but as soon as you start habitually putting pen to paper once a day, you will start to notice improvements. It is also a tremendous way of highlighting some errors that may occur in your grammar as well as weaknesses in your vocabulary. Knowing your weaknesses can help you defeat them!
Make a dictionary: I’m not going to suggest that you write down each new word you learn in alphabetical order, books tackling that challenge already exist. However, organising new words into theme- based lists, can be a great way to record vocabulary. It is also helpful when it comes to reviewing those words further down the line.
We have examined just a few of the many devices and tools that the modern world has to offer to the determined language learner. With just a tiny bit of initiative, we quickly discover that we are surrounded by items that can be turned into study aids. Feel free to add your own thoughts and feelings to the bottom of this post. Maybe you have a few ideas of your own that you would like to share!