Duolingo and Memrise are popular for a reason: they’re really fun. While they’re a bit basic for advanced learners, beginners can benefit from on-the-go vocabulary repetition and gamified grammar practice. Get your most competitive friends to join you for maximum motivation.
… but don’t neglect the hard work, either
Duolingo can only go so far towards making learning fun. At some point, if you really want to communicate, you’re going to have to sit down and memorise a bunch of vocab. Go back to basics with a handwritten list – or use an app like Quizlet or Anki.
Make it personal
Vocabulary and grammar are more likely to stick if you associate them with something you’re passionate about. Football fan? Start listening to Bundesliga or La Liga scores in German or Spanish. Love Harry Potter? Read it in your target language. (And even if you’re not interested in Harry Potter, the Wikipedia page on its translations makes a pretty entertaining diversion. Did you know that Tom Riddle’s middle name is Elvis in the French translation?)
Practise your pronunciation with podcasts
Podcasts allow you to practise your listening skills and learn how to pronounce words correctly. They’re also ideal for livening up long commutes and making household chores more bearable. While intermediate and advanced learners can learn about the cultural background of their chosen language through podcasts and TV shows like the Franco-German Karambolage, there are also plenty of options for beginners, including slow news podcasts.
There’s no substitute for immersion when it comes to language learning. If you can’t make it abroad, try switching the language of your phone and computer, or reading the news in your target language.
Date a Frenchman*
(*adjust nationality and/or gender as appropriate)
Hey, it’s the next best thing to total immersion – and it’ll force you to practise those hard-to-attain speaking skills. Just try to ensure you have something in common besides your love of languages.
Use your language skills for a good cause
Once you’re at an advanced level, you can start using your language skills to help others. Correct learners’ written texts at lang-8 or help international development workers overcome communication barriers with Translators without Borders.
Cover image via iStockphoto