Daily diary entries, childrens books and to-do lists: Our best language learning tips

Lots of us took the unexpected time out last year to pick up new skills. For some of us, it was baking, for other we got rigorously into our exercise routines and then there were those who decided to use lockdown to learn – or re-learn – a language.

Duolingo became our best friend, we had a journal half-filled with scribbled vocab, we muttered our shopping list in our target language, sounding like a crazy person underneath our masks.

From above of white sheets of paper with curled edges and black written words placed on white background in light room

And then as things slowly began to reopen, we could go places and see friends and our enthusiasm dwindled. And that’s fine! After so long locked up, it’s natural to want to get back out into the world. But let’s not lose the skills we were starting to earn in this first few months – let’s get back on track with these handy language-learning tips. Even incorporating two or three of these practices into your daily routine could level up your vocab and get your passion back on track!

Learn the first 100-300 most common words first

Dictionary Text in Bokeh Effect

If you’re just starting off, this is a great place to build up the basics. Have that basis to work off of will make you more confident in starting to string together sentences when you have the grammar and structure of a sentence down. It will give you a feel for the language, the common sounds and structures so expanding your vocabulary from there will be easier.

Watch Disney movies in foreign languages

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Mascot

Once you have a relatively good grasp of the basics, this is such a fun and easy idea to try! It doesn’t have to be Disney movies – just movies with basic language that you already know well. If you know the storyline, you don’t have to concentrate as much to keep up and can instead pick up the accent, new vocab and the natural sounding sentence structures. Childhood favourites generally work well here.

Keep a daily diary

Person Writing on Red Notebook

Even when it’s super basic at the beginning – I woke up, I ate breakfast, I went to work. Doing this little bit everyday means you’ll get the basics of your life routine down and anything you don’t know you can look up – leading to more vocabulary.

Envision using the language

Modern young blonde in formal blouse resting at counter in bar watching barman making cocktail

When you’re feeling unmotivated and like this is a waste of time because you’ll never be as good as a native, envision yourself in a country that uses your target language, able to converse with the waiter at the restaurant, able to ask the local tour guide in-depth questions, able to meet your neighbours and forming a meaningful connection with them – how exciting would that be? Imagine how this language will open up the world to you and really immerse you in a local culture – you’ll be back at it in no time.  

Use it day to day 

Muslim Couple Buying Groceries

Grocery shopping lists, counting, to do lists – wherever there is an opportunity, use it. Practice makes perfect so the more of it you incorporate into your daily life the more natural it will come to you. You could even try a few workouts in the target language just to see how much you can pick up!

Listen to songs in the language

A Woman Writing on a Planner

Listen to the music, pick up the phrases -even the slang! You could try translating it line by line, or learning the song itself, understanding the words and what the lyrics are about! It’s a fun way to study without feeling like you’re just staring at vocab for hours on end.

Buy a favourite childhood book

Harry Potter Book and Black Headphones With Trinket

Again, something as simple as Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, or even more basic – The Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo – there’s so much to be learned form all of them. Again, you already know the story, so that’s easy to keep track of. Meanwhile, your brain can be translating, learning sentence structure and verb conjugation and tenses – all while being entertained with a story!

Look up a word immediately when you don’t know it

Brown Scrabble Boards With Letters

The faster you do, the more you’ll learn. The more you put it off, the more words will accumulate and you’ll find yourself swamped with unknown words and gaps in your knowledge. Looking it up solidifies it in your mind and you’ll start seeing it everywhere until it become a natural part of your vocab.

Follow Instagram pages and blogs in this language

Person Holding Smartphone Taking Picture of Bridge during Daytime

Again, it’s all about immersion. What we see and hear in our day-today lives is what gets imprinted into our brains. It will also make it easier to switch between English and your target language, as you scroll through the app, meaning you’ll get faster at it each time! You can also pick up slang and colloquial language in this way, making your speech less formal and a little more relaxed.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.




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