While high school Spanish classes may help you tip your toes in a language, becoming fluent is a difficult and often seemingly impossible task if you didn’t grow up speaking that language. However, with all the language learning resources available online today, it’s easier than ever to become fluent in a foreign language. These are our 10 tips for language learning and becoming fluent in another language!
1. Talk with a native
The four pillars of any language are reading, writing, listening, and oral. Oral skills are by far the most difficult to master if you’re trying to learn a language by yourself. To nail this skill, it’s crucial to talk to a native in that language in order to learn certain slang and pronunciation that will help you become fluent, as well as improving your speaking skills.
To do this from the comfort of your bedroom, there are a number of apps and websites where you can talk to natives of a foreign language, including the apps HelloTalk and Bilingua, which connect you to speakers around the world. They are both free on the App Store.
2. Take notes
When learning a new language, you will come across certain words and phrases you wouldn’t learn in a normal class or textbook, especially if you’re making use of the other language learning tips on this list. In order to not let these practises go to waste, take notes on paper or on your phone whenever you learn something new and noteworthy! Otherwise, it will never properly register in your brain and help you become fluent.
You can also keep a notebook or note on your phone for every vocabulary word and piece of grammar you’re learning, just as you would in a classroom setting, which is great to refer back to whenever you’re visiting a place where that language is spoken or you’re trying to speak with someone in that language, though Google Translate is always at hand if not!
3. Watch foreign TV or movies
If you’re looking to improve your language learning skills, immersing yourself in TV shows or movies of your foreign language is a great way to become a fluent speaker! By doing this, you’re learning how fluent speakers talk, what slang they use, and how they pronounce certain words and phrases, which is something often difficult to find when language learning.
There are a number of foreign shows being produced by streaming networks now, along with a wide range of foreign cinema available online, so why not binge a Spanish show instead of an English one the next time you’re looking for something new on Netflix?
You can watch with English subtitles or those of the foreign language you’re learning, but I would recommend watching in foreign subtitles so you actually start thinking in that language. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can watch without subtitles and see how much you understand just by listening!
4. Install the LLN plug-in
If you are making use of foreign programming on Netflix, or you’re just watching a normal English film or TV show, definitely download the LLN plug-in on your browser. LLN, or language learning with Netflix, is a free plug-in that helps you learn a foreign language on Netflix. It adds subtitles to what you’re watching and allows you to highlight certain vocabulary to help you learn the words used in that program, translate to your native language, and auto-pause after subtitles, among other settings.
It’s a great way to learn a language if you feel that you don’t have the time because it demonstrates that, if you have the time to watch Netflix, you have the time for language learning!
5. Be consistent
Anyone who has become fluent in a foreign language will tell you that consistency is key for language learning, as it is with most other skills. After all, if you haven’t touched a language since high school and you try to pick it up years later, chances are you’ll only remember a few phrases at most.
Though Duolingo may not help you become completely fluent in a foreign language, it’s a perfect tool to consistently practise language learning and keep vocabulary and grammar fresh in your brain. Duolingo has an app and website, and the app will send you notifications to remind you to practise daily and hold you accountable for consistency.
6. Watch foreign YouTubers
This tip goes hand-in-hand with those about Netflix: if you have the time to watch YouTube videos, you have the time for language learning! There are a number of foreign YouTubers that you can subscribe to and watch for interesting content, and watching a YouTuber speak in the language you’re learning is comparable to talking with a friend in that language.
There are also a number of cartoons available in foreign languages on YouTube, which are a surprisingly helpful resource to practise your listening comprehension of a language.
7. Read in that language
Revisiting the four pillars of a language, the reading skills of a language learning are difficult to improve upon if you’re not in a classroom setting, but reading books in a foreign language is a perfect solution. Just as you would be assigned foreign books to read in a language class at school, assign some books to read yourself if you’re learning a language independently.
You can start at a fairly easy level, like reading children’s chapter books at first, and then work your way up to reading young adult novels and University-level texts. Even if you’re having to look up words that you don’t understand, this is an essential method for language learning.
8. Use FluentU
FluentU is an app designed for language learning enthusiasts, allowing you to learn a language with videos and translating certain words. The videos are usually short and entertaining, like movie trailers, news, or music videos, and you’ll be able to see custom captions that are subtitled and translated and definitions for foreign words.
It does have a hefty price tag, with $20 to $30 per month after a 14-day free trial, but many language learning students swear by it because it immerses you in the culture of that language, so it’s worth checking out if it sounds interesting to you.
9. Listen to music or podcasts
Foreign songs and podcasts are not only helpful for practising listening comprehension, but they’re also ideal for immersing yourself in the culture of a foreign language. There are several podcasts designed for language learning, including News in Slow and Coffee Break Languages, but you could also listen to a regular podcast for fluent speakers and see how much you understand!
Additionally, I would recommend making a playlist for songs in your target language and listening to it in the background of what you’re doing; it will help you become fluent by hearing that language being spoken (or sung) often, and many foreign languages are known for their music, like Spanish or Korean, so you’ll probably also find some good music while you’re at it!
As much as all of these tips will help you with language learning and maybe even fluency, the number-one tip for becoming fluent in a language is spending some time in that country and living like a local. Though this can seem out of your budget, there are many jobs that can make language learning financially profitable, like teaching English in a foreign country and websites like Workaway and AuPairWorld.
By spending some time in that country, you’ll be able to practise speaking, reading, and listening skills all day, every day, and learn what words and phrases you actually use in your daily life. You will also adopt an appreciation for that language’s culture by exploring a country where it is spoken, which will enhance your language learning journey and love for that language!