The End or the Means? Fun Ways to Learn a Language
Ever since I started learning languages, I’ve been searching for the most enjoyable methods. Flashcards are effective, but I can only spend so many minutes a day doing them before getting bored. Of course everybody learns differently, and has different interests, so you may like some of these methods more than others.
I never liked reading. I always had a hard time recalling the stories after I read them. This changed once I started reading books in my target language. I started small, reading only children’s books and graphic novels, but as my vocabulary and grammar improved, so did the complexity of books I could read. I felt no shame reading Mifi at the beach in Esperanto, because that’s the level I was comfortable with.
Quickly I progressed to graphic novels, then saw my biggest improvement after forcing myself to read Mazirien la Magiisto - a full-fledged fantasy novel. Armed with a dictionary, I could only read 1 small page a day but forced myself to understand every sentence. After 20 pages, things started getting easier; I was seeing the same words and sentence structures over and over again. I started reading multiple pages a day, and before I knew it, I was finished the 200 page book - something I rarely ever do in English!
Find the books you are comfortable with, gradually increase the complexity, and make sure to understand each sentence before moving on to the next.
Video games are an extremely popular pastime. I’ve spent many months of time in the virtual worlds of Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, Maplestory, Runescape, etc. What I discovered though, was that I could use the time I was spending in those worlds to my advantage. I started to change my game’s settings to my target language (French, at the time), and then discovered that I could join entire communities of French speakers if I played on the right servers. It added extra difficulty to the games, and I learned a lot from this method. The problem was that all the material was being introduced to me at once, and I would be sifting through dictionaries to properly learn each word.
This was the inspiration for Langful, where the games are enjoyable, and meant to guide you through the vocabulary learning process so that you don’t have to struggle through everything at once.
Music links strongly to emotion. The instruments are enjoyable, and the lyrics relatable. A really good method for learning another language is starting to listen to music in your target language. I realized that listening to music in my native language wasn’t gaining me anything but enjoyment, whereas if I listened to music in my target language, then I could have both enjoyment and learning progress. This is why I no longer have English music on my phone, but you don’t have to go that far! Find a few songs in your target language that you like, and start from there. It’s gratifying to realize that the more I learn, I’m understanding parts of the songs that I didn’t before.
To truly get this method to work, you must aim to understand the lyrics. To do this, I recommend sitting down and translating the lyrics into your native language. After this, each time you listen to the song you will be reminded of what the words from the lyrics mean, and over time you will know them by heart.
This one sounds silly, but it works really well for some people. While you’re walking home from school or work, try pretending that you’re in a scenario and practice what you would say. For example, sometimes I pretend that I’m giving a speech to an audience about something silly like my love of kittens, or maybe something that happened earlier in my day. It forces me to construct sentences to express my feelings, and allows me to make mistakes to nobody but myself.
In my opinion, this is a good step in the direction towards being able to think in a language, because what is thinking except just silently talking to ourselves?
Language is all about socialization. If you like meeting new people, see if there are languages groups in your local area. Interacting with members of these groups in your target language can improve every facet of language learning - comprehension, listening, speaking, and vocabulary. Most of the time the groups consist of very helpful people who don’t mind answering your questions.
I’ve met many language learners this way, and made some truly close friends.
Set aside your flashcards, and try one of these fun methods. Each person will enjoy these activities to varying degrees, but these are the methods that I’ve found bring the most enjoyment while learning a language.
If you liked this post, then please share it with your friends so that we can all learn languages in fun and interesting ways.