It’s been over a year and let’s be honest, it doesn’t seem like the end of the pandemic is anywhere in sight. Sometimes it seems like things are improving, but sometimes it seems like things are getting significantly worse. Some countries took early action and seem to be ahead of the pandemic. New Zealand is one of those countries. I’m still shocked that they’re at the point where they can host festivals and so on. Not every country is doing that well though. I read that Turkey just went into complete lockdown and that people aren’t allowed to leave their houses unless its to get groceries from the nearest shop. Although these are extremely difficult times for almost everyone on earth, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have started to use this time to try and acquire new skills and work on themselves. Some of the people that I’ve spoken to online have mentioned things such as learning new instruments, how to code or how to cook. Several people mentioned trying to read more and some mentioned meditating more. Listening to all of these people honestly really inspired me and I couldn’t help but notice one thing… A lot of people were also attempting to learn new languages! I’m always happy to hear about people attempting to learn new languages, so I decided to compile a short list of 4 resources that I’ve been using a lot and best of all… you don’t even need to leave the house to use any of these resources. I was able to get my Russian to a conversational level while almost exclusively using the resources I’m about to mention below. I hope to try to repeat the process with Turkish or Ukrainian (or something else) later on this year if things all go my way!
Anyway, without any further ado, let’s jump right in!
Alright, I know a lot of you were VERY surprised to find LingQ.com here!
Ok, ok, ok… I was being sarcastic! Y’all already know that I would never write a blog post about language learning resources WITHOUT mentioning one of my favourites; LingQ.com.
LingQ is a great website that I use almost every day. I used it for Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Swedish and Brazilian Portuguese just to name a few. I first stumbled upon the site around 2011 and I have been in love ever since.
I’ll explain how LingQ works. They have thousands of dialogues and texts and you’re meant to read while simultaneously listening to the accompanying audio. When you first start, all the words you don’t know will be highlighted in light blue. If you struggle with a certain word, you can turn it into a “LingQ” which will mean that the word will be highlighted in yellow instead of light blue and the site will compile all of your “LingQs” and show them to you as flashcards to help you memorize them. Once you’ve learned a word, you can hover over it with your mouse and click “known”. All known words stop being highlighted and just look like regular text.
LingQ has a free version and a paid version. You can choose which version suits you best. The paid version comes with more features, but you may honestly be satisfied with the free version. I personally used the free version for a while, but switched to the paid version a few years ago. I enjoy using LingQ because it allows me to get A LOT of input in while also measuring my progress using the known word counter that the site includes. Watching the number of words you know grow day by day feels really good. It’s honestly kind of addicting! I remember being extremely happy when I hit 500 words in Chinese a few years ago. I was ecstatic!
As you progress, you’ll also notice that less and less of the words in the dialogues and texts will be highlighted because you “Know” these words. Don’t get me wrong, I like bright colours as much as the next person, but there’s nothing more satisfying than watching the colours fade from your LingQ lessons. It means you’re doing a good job and making progress!
Another cool feature about LingQ is that you can even book time with tutors who will help you to further improve your abilities. I haven’t used this feature yet, but I’m planning to use it in the future.
You can also import articles from the internet to read using LingQ’s built in dictionary. I personally find it a lot easier than having to have a separate page open to a translation website. The last feature I need to mention is the fact that you can write texts and have them corrected by native speakers. I haven’t tried this yet either, but I’d like to once I feel more comfortable writing in Russian.
The best part of LingQ is that it allows you to learn languages from the comfort of your own home as long as you have either a computer, smartphone or tablet!
Use my referral link below to get 100 free LingQs if you’d like to try it out! (LingQs are the site’s version of flash cards and they’re great for reviewing words)
This website is completely free and allows you to find language exchange partners from almost anywhere in the world. You can talk online or you can actually meet up in person. We’ll only be discussing the talking online part due to regional pandemic restrictions. It’s a great site and I’ve used it for every single language I’ve ever learned. EVER.
Unfortunately, you DO have to be careful at times because some people are NOT on the site to learn languages… I think you see where I’m going with this… I know this probably happens on all websites that are meant to be used for connecting people unfortunately, but I can say that most people ARE interested in exchanging languages and cultures, but just keep an eye out for creepy/weird people and you should be alright. I’ve personally made a lot of good friends on this website and stayed in contact with some for over 6 years!
I love it because it’s a great way to be able to practice languages without even having to leave your living room since you’re able to use many different types of social media to communicate such as WhatsApp, Skype or Telegram. You could even relax and chat while wearing your pyjamas if you wanted to. Who would turn such a great deal down? One of my favourite things about this website is that its informal. You can talk about anything the other person feels comfortable talking about which is cool and allowed me to practice talking about many topics that I wouldn’t be able to discuss in a formal class setting!
Hop on Youtube!
YouTube is a GOLDMINE. Not using Youtube to practice your target language is akin to not investing in Bitcoin before 2012… You’re totally missing out! I didn’t invest in Bitcoin and missed out, but youtube saved me because now, instead of regretting my lamentable bitcoin-less decisions, I can distract myself from the pain and regret by consuming copious amounts of foreign language content!
All jokes aside, Youtube is great and you NEED to use it if you want to learn new languages! Everyone with a phone and an internet connection can upload content to Youtube.
I recently started watching a lot of travel and technology videos and, instead of watching them in English, I gradually shifted to watching as many of them in Russian as possible. You can do this for any language! Choose a topic that you’re interested in and try to find videos about it in your target language! Want to learn how to cook? Do it in Spanish! Want to learn how to ride a skateboard? Do it in Swahili! I know it can seem daunting at first, but trust me, it gets a lot easier as time goes on! I like using Youtube because I’m usually not consciously aware of how much I’m actually taking in and learning because I’m enjoying myself so much. The best part of all of this is that you’re killing two birds with one stone! You’re learning a new skill or new facts while also learning more of your target language…. at the same time!
You can also expose yourself to A LOT of different vocabulary and words that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to because Youtube is so full of content on almost any topic the human mind can conceive. That being said, please don’t miss out on this free pile of gold that is literally right in front of you!
Watch more Netflix
Netflix is in the same camp as Youtube exceeeeeeeeeeept…. Netflix usually has some magical floating thingies on the screen called subtitles! Don’t get me wrong, a lot of Youtube videos are also subtitled, but subtitling on Netflix is definitely A LOT more pervasive. I like to watch shows in my target language with subtitles in my target language. Doing this has helped me immensely when it comes to learning new words and grammar constructions in context. Context is EXTREMELY important and you’d be surprised how much your brain actually picks up and acquires by simply being exposed to things over and over in context. I watched an AMAZING German show on Netflix called Dark and not only did the show itself blow me away while also preventing me from socializing with other humans over the course of a few days(Sorry not sorry), but I also learned a TON of new words and it even helped me improve my grammar through being exposed to certain constructions over and over again. I tried the same thing with a Russian show called “To the lake” and it produced the same result. My grammar improved a little bit and I learned a lot of new words. I even learned a few slang terms!
I know watching a show in a different language without being able to rely on subtitles in your mother tongue can sound daunting or maybe even impossible, but I assure you that it IS in fact possible. This is exactly how babies learn their first language(s)….minus the subtitles… and the Netflix part… Their PARENTS are like their Netflix. They don’t understand everything, but they just keep trying until they do! Our brains are LITERALLY wired to learn languages through being exposed to them. This is how we all learned our mother tongues.
Also, I’m LITERALLY giving you an excuse to relax and watch Netflix without feeling bad about it! How many other blogs do that?
Try to trust me a little bit and try this out! It will be hard at first, but please promise me that you’ll at least try to fight the urge to switch the subtitles back into your native language. It will be hard, there’s no denying that, but you’ll thank yourself for this later. Also, P.S, it helps if the series/movie is actually good! Trust me, I’ve forced myself to sit through a few shows/movies JUST because I wanted to get a little bit more input, but the experience was terrible and I hated every moment. ACTUALLY enjoying the show is extremely important! It will spell the difference between loving the process and hating it.
You got this!
We probably still have quite a bit more time ahead of us before the situation improves in any significant way, so I hope that I was able to share some value with some of you! I hope that these resources help you to SMASH those language learning plateaus and to also make the most of your time at home!
Although language learning isn’t “easy”, it’s also not as hard as it seems. All you need to do is stay consistent and motivated and you’ll kill it! Just imagine yourself in an amazing far away place being able to communicate with the locals because you put in the work during the lockdown!
Times are tough, but let’s do are best to shed at least a little light onto this seemingly eternally dark situation!