The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn a Language
If you find yourself stuck on a muddy road in your language learning journey, this article is for you. Every learning experience has ups and downs, the latter being particularly frustrating. The good news is that this stagnation is often due to one thing - burnout from language learning.
Sometimes one becomes so attached to the outcome of speaking a foreign language that the learning activities become too serious. If that sounds like you and you've tried every conventional way possible to learn a language, this article will hopefully help you get unstuck.
The constant evolution of language learning techniques make this kind of article necessary for language learners to regain novelty in their learning experience. For instance, watching series to improve one's level in a language has become quite popular and is no longer a secret to anybody. I will try to come up with fresh ideas so you can enjoy learning again!
Cookbooks & Recipes
Cooking is a great opportunity to actively improve one's skills in a language. On the one hand you get to learn new words in a new context, on the other you learn about a new culture while having fun!
Cookbooks are a great way to learn the vocabulary for foods and the wide variety of verbs that come with it. If you're learning French, you can buy a book on French cuisine... in French!
The upside of cookbooks and recipes is that their vocabulary is usually simple. That means they are perfect if you're a beginner and you can probably learn more if you're more advanced.
A similar technique is writing your grocery list in your target language. That will engage your brain as you'll have to either remember the appropriate words or look them up in a dictionary.
The advantage of both techniques is that they are very experiential - i.e. you really apply the knowledge in real life situations, so you're more likely to remember. Plus, if you shop or cook every day then there is an opportunity to learn every day!
Is language learning through video games really an unconventional technique any more? Well, it depends on how you apply it. This article by Steffanie explains why and how to use video games to learn a foreign language. I will add up to this idea in this article.
The truth is: language learning through video games is often a trap. Well intentioned learners will get immersed in the game and forget about their original goal. After some point, your playing becomes unconcious and you don't learn any more.
To avoid falling into that trap, I will suggest specific types of games from which you can learn best.
This kind of games are obviously helpful for language learning as they provide a rich storyline. They often feature dialogs in a wide variety of languages (often times English, French, German, Spanish and Italian - but sometimes even more!) and with subtitles. Notice that the subtitles are what makes it great - you can enjoy the dialogs while reading at the same time and in the same language. This type of learning is extremely valuable and difficult to get your hands on!
I'm no video game expert, but my favorite games which fit this category are the Batman: Arkham series, the Assassin's Creed series and, if you're a Star Wars fan, the Knights of the Old Republic series. Any game involving dialogs will do.
Other games which are great for language learning are those which contain descriptive material - i.e. description of characters, items, buildings, etc.
Strategy games match this criterion. There's always a bunch of menus that you have to go through in order to master the game. Reading through all the description will take some time and hopefully benefit you!
Similarly, collectible card games like HearthStone are a good way to enrich your vocabulary.
With that being said, pay attention to the language and not only to the game itself. It's easy to get caught up in the action and forget all about learning the language!
Not-So-Common Ways of Reading
All the previous techniques involved some degree of reading - because it's that important! Intensive reading will take your language skills to the next level!
When mentioning the activity of reading, I always refer to both Lingq and Readlang. These are two great tools you can use to improve your reading by accessing the meaning of vocabulary from the tip of your finger!
A technique - which I think is underused - is reading with both languages available. It can be in the form a bilingual books (for instance, one page in English and the other in French) or with two different books open. When I wanted to improve my Turkish, I read the translated version of Harry Potter while checking the original book when needed!
Similarly, the polyglot Luca Lampariello suggests Bidirectional Translation which involves reading some text in the target language, after which you translate it into your native language AND translate it back to the target language. This method is a brain teaser but extremely effective to learn new vocabulary items!
One Last Unconventional Method
One method that is unconventional is the one we offer on this website! Speechling is a great way to get feedback on your learning. Our professional native speakers evaluate your pronunciation and give honest advice on what to do to improve it. All you have to do is send recordings of you reading simple sentences and we'll do the rest!