How to Use the Internet for Language Learning

The internet can be an incredible language-learning resource. For beginners, there are plenty of apps out there to help you learn new vocab and grammar techniques. For intermediate speakers and advanced speakers, tools like YouTube and various social network sites can introduce you to a side of the language you might not otherwise learn in a classroom. Here I’ve complied a list of ideas for using the internet to your advantage when it comes to language learning.

Try Out Some Apps

There are a million different language-learning apps out there. Some are paid, others are free. Each one has a slightly different approach, so it might be worth taking some time to read through their description and pick one that best fits your language learning style.

Duolingo is probably the most well-known, but others include Babbel, Memrise, and Mondly.

Connect With Other Speakers

Besides apps for helping you learn a new language, there are also apps to help you practice it with other speakers. Examples include HelloTalk and Tandem.

Another resource is lang-8.com, where you can make any kind of post in your target language and have native speakers correct it. You then return the favor by correcting others’ posts.

You can also connect with speakers over email or using social media. On the subreddit r/Language_Exchange, you can write what languages you’re seeking and offering in order to find a language partner to practice with.

Speaking of Reddit…

Reddit is a great way to learn about language learning resources from other people online. Not only are there subreddits for most languages, but there are also subreddits for specific topics related to the language (dig around and you’ll definitely find a meme page in your target language).

Turn On Subtitles in Your Target Language

Many people advocate for watching TV or movies in your target language with subtitles in your native language, but I’ve never found this particularly helpful. I usually just end up focusing on the subtitles and tuning out my target language entirely. Instead, try the opposite. By reading the subtitles in the target language, you’re more likely to pick up vocabulary and common expressions (especially all you visual learners out there).

If you’re at a more advanced level, try a combination of target language audio and target language subtitles. I’ve found that just listening to my target language can be hard, but reading and listening at the same time improves comprehension.

Netflix offers a wide variety of subtitles in various languages for almost all of their content. On YouTube, some content creators get help from translators to offer subtitles in multiple languages.

Make Those Algorithms Work In Your Favor

Many websites–social media sites, YouTube, etc.–have algorithms that give you more of what you view. So, the more foreign-language content you engage with on these platforms, the more will pop up in your feed. Following YouTubers that create content in your target language, liking and saving social media posts in your target language–all of these habits will ensure that more foreign language content shows up across the various sites you use.

Stream Music in Your Target Language

Use music streaming services (like Spotify or Apple Music) to access music in your target language. Spotify has playlists for the ‘Top 50’ songs in various countries. You can also access playlists made by other people. If you have a language partner, try asking them to share their playlists with you, or work collaboratively to create a new playlist. It’s always good to learn from a native speaker about which songs are popular right now.

Once you have some songs and have listened to them a few times, search up the lyrics online. You’ll probably learn some new vocabulary, which you’ll think of again every time you listen to the song. That repetition is a great way to ingrain new terms into your memory.

Find Some Podcasts

Both Spotify and Apple Podcasts offer a variety of podcasts in numerous languages. Some are designed with beginners in mind, others are for more advanced speakers. Depending on your target language, you’ll most likely be able to find podcasts on a number of different topics. I particularly recommend listening to news podcasts so you can keep up with events in countries where your target language is spoken.

Listen to the Radio

A quick online search can help you find some popular radio stations in your target language. Most of these radio stations will then have a website where you can listen to that station live.

Alternatively, there are apps for listening to radio stations around the world. The one I personally use is called Radio Garden, but there are plenty of options to choose from.

More Ways to Incorporate Language Into Your Day-to-Day Digital Life

The digital world offers an incredible variety of language-learning tools–the trick is to find ways to incorporate them into your daily routine. Here are a few more ways you can use online resources to get more language in your life:

  • Playing video games in another language by changing the language settings or by playing with foreign-language speakers
  • Reading online news articles in your target language
  • Journaling in your target language (there are a variety of different journaling apps you can use)
  • Watching children’s cartoons on YouTube

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