One of the best ways to learn a language is to simply go to a country that speaks that language for a complete language immersion experience. However it’s not always possible for us to do this as most of us can’t really go off to spend 6 months living in another country just to learn a language. Even for those lucky enough to be able to go and live in another country a common problem is being surrounded by others from your country so you end up speaking your language all day anyway! Even when you go out and try to mingle with the locals, many of those locals will be wanting to speak to you in your language instead!
But not to worry – all is not lost! The internet comes to the rescue and provides ample opportunities to immerse yourself in your new language with no excuses to fall back into your native language and best of all it’s all free!
Online video site Youtube has bazillions of videos in just about every language and convering every topic you can imagine and quite a few you would never imagine (or even want to!) which makes for an endless source of free language immersion material.
There are a few ways you can find such videos on youtube, for example if you are learning french then just type in ‘french’ in the search box and you will get loads of videos about learning french which can be very useful. However you will also get loads of videos which have something to do with french but are not actually in french so this is not the most efficient method to find foreign language material on youtube.
To improve on this you can switch the youtube interface to the language of your choice – scroll to the bottom of any page on youtube and you will see an option to select another language and you will find a huge list of languages such as catalan, zulu, hebrew, arabic, korean, french, spanish, greek etc etc. Once you have changed the interface you will find that search results are also more targetted to that language, so for example if you search again for ‘french’ you will now see different results when the interface language is french. With your youtube interface set you are now fully immersed in the language you want to learn and every action you take on the site forces you to read and interact in that language which is a great way to speed up learning!
Yet another way to find videos in the language you are learning is to search using keywords in that language which will almost always return results only in that language. This makes for a fantastic tool for language learning – you just pick a subject and search for that keyword or phrase in that language and get loads of videos specifically about that subject so sit back and absorb them!
Ahh but you say ‘how can I search with keywords in the language I am learning when I didn’t learn those words yet?! Well the answer to that, brings us to the next online tool for language learners..
This is a handy online tool for translating loads of languages. Of course it is a machine translation system and so is far from perfect but it generally does a good enough job and when you are looking for keywords for searching in another language it works quite well. Just type in a word or phrase for the topic you want to cover and select the language to translate it into, then copy the result into youtube or any other searchable social media site online to get masses of source material to immerse yourself within.
Skype is a well known VOIP (voice over IP) application which these days allows for video calls as well as voice and text chat along with screen sharing. These functions make for an ideal language learning environment. You can chat with native speakers of your target language wherever you or they are in the world and it wont cost you anything. You can also find many people offering private (paid) language lessons on skype which can really give your language skills and confidence a boost but there are plenty of people willing to do a language exchange which will be free, you just need to find them.
Language Exchange Communities
Of course the internet provides a solution for the budding linguist in search of language exchange partners – there are a whole load of language exchange communities around now so a quick google will turn up more than you can ever need – pick whatever takes your fancy and dive in! You can soon find yourself spending hours every day chatting in another language as well as making new friends around the world.
Many sites such as YouTube previously mentioned, provide an option to set the default language for using their system, for example..
On Google you can go to the language tools page and scroll down to “Use the Google Interface in Your Language” then select the one you want and from then on all of Google is in that language! There is also a form on that page specifically for finding results in another language. http://www.google.com/language_tools
On Bing you just click the little cogwheel icon on the top right to go to the settings page and there you can select the language.
Always look out for such an option on the sites you frequent and change it to give you a more complete language immersion environment online.
Now go forth and immerse yourself in your new language and you will soon find your language skills making rapid advances but always remember to use it or lose it!