With countless resources at our fingertips, like Duolingo and Sloeful, learning a language has never been easier. However, it helps to know what to focus on and how to use your time most effectively. One sure-fire way to make consistent progress when learning a new language is to immerse yourself in it, on a regular basis. Here are five ways you can start immersing in your target language.
Let’s start off with the backbone for any language learner: developing a routine. Enrolling in a language course, or alternatively, organizing a language learning timetable for yourself are great ways to make sure you are making consistent progress.
If you choose to enrol in a class, find an immersive one where the teacher and students speak only the target language.
Try to take notes in your target language. Perhaps at the very beginning of your language learning journey it may be more straightforward to simply write down lists of word translations in your native language, but as soon as you feel capable, try to replace your translations with easy-to-understand descriptions or example use-case sentences in your target language.
If you are an intermediate learner, we’d definitely recommend taking the time to search for and download some interesting target-language podcasts to listen to. You might listen to them whilst you do your weekly shop, take the dog for a walk, sit on the train to work, or walk down the eternal sequence of showrooms at Ikea. If you spend your working day in front of a laptop, why not lie in the park for an hour after work and listen to your podcasts whilst staring into the distance. If you want to have less screen time before bed, you could unwind by listening to an audiobook in your target language, with your eyes closed and relaxed. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys learning with flashcards, you might rather create packs of flashcards with audio on your phone. You could flick through them whenever you feel like it!
If your goal is to move to the country of your target language one day, perhaps throw a podcast into the mix that is more casual and uses more slang or the regional dialect, to get the hang of the vocabulary, intonation & rhythm that may be used by the locals."
Recommendation: if you enjoy learning with flashcards, we recommend using the Anki, a spaced-repetition app available on desktop and as a mobile app.
One way to expand your vocabulary in your native language is to read, read, read! This is no less true when it comes to learning your target language. The beginner reading comprehension texts you may have worked on at school, perhaps about a family and their everyday activities, may have been a fundamental step in your learning, but understandably a little dull. Once you have reached an intermediate level, dive deep into the pool of options before you! Look up what classics are available in your target language- popular books that you could likely discuss with others. Or, perhaps read a target language translation of your favourite novel. If you don’t have time for novels, why don’t you search for folk tales and short stories in your target language, and explore it’s cultural history? If you're learning German, why not read about dark and foreboding forests, witches and spells in tales such as "Hansel und Gretel", or "Rapunzel"? Otherwise, you could also read the news online in your target language, or search for interesting blogs written in your target language.
The most important point to make here, is to spend a good chunk of time exploring what there is out there, in order to figure out what you do and don’t find interesting. As long as you are truly engaged in the material you are reading, you’ll likely stick to exercising your reading skills regularly and consistently!
Exercise your speaking abilities by talking to a native speaker, on a regular basis. With the availability of apps like italki, you can now easily find native speaking teachers and partners online. It’s one thing to understand somebody talking to you, but building sentences on the spot as your converse with someone can be tricky, as you try to maintain the pace of your partner. Finding a tandem partner you get along with can be a great way to challenge your speaking abilities, and get over any initial shyness or anxiety over speaking your target language.
If there isn’t a tandem partner network in your city, you could try checking out the language and culture exchange programs at your closest university, or even use friend-finding apps like Bumble. Alternatively, social media platforms are another great way to get in touch with native speakers. You could look for culture exchange facebook groups, or find a language learning instagram account that focuses on your target language and start a conversation over DM.
It might sound a little invasive, but in our experience at least, we’ve found that most people we got in touch with, who had language learning accounts, were friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.
Try to integrate your target language into your everyday activities whenever possible. For example, you could cook dinner using recipes written in your target language. If Sunday night is movie night, try watching some films in your target language. For some ideas, check out this list of German romcoms for intermediates, and also these TV series for German learners. If you're using social media a lot, follow a few pages that help with German so words and phrases pop up in your feed (if you'd like, you could follow us on Instagram & Twitter. Listen to music in your target language, whilst you drive around in your car. If you’re a gamer, try out a game in your target language. Try to find your target language equivalents to the cringe music videos of the 90’s, to listen to whilst you get ready for a night out. Make these activities fun for yourself, and a part of your routine.
Lastly, it's important not to forget that language learning is a marathon and not a short sprint. If you keep immersing yourself in creative ways and stay focused, you will eventually reach your goals. Good luck!