In a previous post about language learning, I talked about how immersion is really the best way. Immersing yourself in another country during a quarantine, however, is out of the question. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources you can use in your own home for studying a second language. Learning a foreign language is a long and arduous process. Probably the most difficult part, at least for myself, is how slow the progress feels. I’ll learn so much and still only be able to give basic directions to a location or order food in a restaurant. I’m functionally fluent in Spanish (though shamefully rusty) and probably a high-beginner in Arabic. And that was after spending 3 years in an Arab-speaking country! I need to brush up on my language skills and fortunately there are plenty of at-home options:
Textbooks and Workbooks
I’ve often perused the shelves at bookstores for textbooks, workbooks, and dictionaries for what I deem the best for learning a language. Having a book to follow along with will definitely help in the language-learning process, but will it make you fluent? Sadly no. In fact, in some ways I’ve found books to hinder my progress. They’re almost always formal language which means I don’t sound like a native speaker when I talk, and nearly always organized into what should be useful scenarios: giving directions, ordering food at a restaurant, a trip to the post office, but just how often do you have to request more cheese on your pizza in Arabic? Not often.
Language-learning software such as Rosetta Stone seems to be one of the newest trends in language learning. Rosetta Stone has been around for awhile now and boasts that it’s the “natural way” to learn a language. I used Rosetta Stone for Arabic and while it was definitely useful, I don’t think it would ever make me fluent. And anytime I repeated phrases, my Arabic-speaking friends would giggle and proclaim “you sound so formal!”
Several of my friends have mentioned having success with Duolingo. Currently it is one of the most popular platforms for learning a language. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve heard great things about it. The mission behind the company is to offer a free, fun way to study a language with scientifically proven methods. I’ll probably give it a try after I finish some of my other goals.
If you want to practice your conversation skills, you can join one of many sites that allow you to connect with non-English speakers from all over the world. I’ve only had a little experience with these, and my internet connection was rarely good enough to comfortably carry on a conversation. But there are always people available to do a language exchange on sites like Conversation Exchange and italki.
The lock down hasn’t lifted yet, so if you’re looking for a new hobby, learning a foreign language might be the perfect one for you! What languages have interested you and what’s your favorite way to study?