When I moved to Buenos Aires, in 2003, my only contact with the Spanish language was the “Méthode Assimil d’Espagnol” a CD and book combo based on conversational units, a Spanish speaking roommate (actually, she was basque, sorry!) and my will to learn a new language. Internet was not as big as it is today, and the opportunities to tackle a new language (even a popular one like Spanish) were scares. And yet, even with that imperfect preparation, I jumped in! I landed in Buenos Aires, booked a language class and I was on my way to learn Spanish the best way there was: in total immersion. A few months later, I was almost fluent!
I know, this is the ideal scenario to learn a language. But what if you don’t have time, money or taste for traveling, and yet have the desire (or the obligation) to learn? I’m a big fan of the idea that language immersion can be recreated in the aggregate, using resources that we all have at home or at work to make our brain believe that we are interacting in another language. It may not be the best way (or the fastest) to learn German, French or Spanish, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. Here are a few little things that go a long way!
Watch movies you know in dubbed versions
Cartoons are a great way to learn language, because they’re always dubbed in a variety of languages (well, the big ones anyway). Start be choosing a movie that you have seen and that you like, and change the language setting and add subtitles. So if you want to watch “The Incredibles” in Spanish, make sure that you have both language and subtitles in that language.
Change the language settings on your device
May it be a phone, laptop or tablet, technology is omnipresent in our lives. Simplychange the language settings on your device will give you a constant reinforcement of your reading skills (at lea
st in the very specific technological topic).
Skype with a native
A friend of mine who wanted to learn Czech found a Czech native that wanted to brush up his English. They agreed to skype twice a week, speaking the first twenty minutes in Czech, the other in English. This is a great way to boost your listening and speaking skills. It’s beneficial, and it’s free!
For long rides in the car, or for your regular drive to work and back, make sure to havean audio book onboard. I tried it last year with the Spanish version of “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas and I loved it. Perfect to work on your listening skill, and make the time go by faster in a traffic jam!
Grab a magazine
Once in a while (online or not), read a short article in your target language. Newspaper offer great opportunity for language learning, with short text on a wide variety of subject. And why not try the crossword puzzles?