With so many of us majoring or minoring in a language — or just pursuing one for other reasons — I’m sure many can relate to the feeling of…well… not really getting anywhere after months or even years of studying it. Maybe you’re putting too much of your attention on the wrong aspect of studying.
We all know the feeling of constantly trying to memorize flashcards or endless grammar rules, or maybe we turn to Duolingo or Quizlet to guide the way. While those methods do help, they’re doing the bare minimum. There’s one way to learn a language that works faster than all of these techniques: the baby technique.
Think about it. How do babies learn to speak? By listening. It’s all about input, whether that be watching videos, listening to music or even just hearing people talk/having conversations. Input is so helpful because it helps improve our listening comprehension which is necessary if you want to be fluent and be able to communicate with native speakers of said language. Written input helps too but focussing all efforts on grammar and reading won’t get you far with pronunciation, comprehension and learning colloquial speech. Furthermore, you can’t really say you’re good at a language if your speaking skills are iffy.
Here are some tips on really improving the baby technique:
Podcasts are great because you can listen to practically anything: talk shows, the news, something educational. Plus, they’re usually not too long so they are perfect for those with shorter attention spans.
Here are some of the best podcasts for those learning some of the major languages:
- French – Coffee Break French or Frenchpod101
- Spanish – I can Speak Spanish or Duolingo Spanish Podcast
- Mandarin Chinese – Coffee Break Chinese or Chinesepod
- German – Coffee Break German or News In Slow German
One thing that makes YouTube videos better for learning a language than regular TV shows or movies is that they allow you to listen to the language spoken in a colloquial manner instead of trying to learn a scripted, unnatural way of speaking. YouTube videos are more likely to include slang words as well as word contractions that the day-to-day speaker uses that a film actor wouldn’t. When learning a language, I find that street interviews help as they’re usually subtitled, entertaining, and they give us a glimpse into the culture as well as the language. Furthermore, there are so many channels on YouTube dedicated to teaching languages. If you’re at an intermediate or advanced level, however, then you could just watch regular youtubers that are fluent in the language you’re trying to learn without subtitles!
Look up Easy Languages (Or Easy Italian, if your focus is Italian for example) on YouTube for short, subtitled videos made for language learners.
TV and Movies
Of course, watching TV and movies in your desired language helps too. Netflix has a range of movies in other languages that you could just search for by typing the language into the search bar. Watching it subtitled could really help increase comprehension and before you know it, you’ll be recognizing words just from hearing them.
Music is last on the list because, although it does help, it’s a little less effective. Many tend to listen to music while multitasking and therefore don’t really focus on the lyrics. But, once you reach an intermediate level of a language, you’ll notice that (if you pay attention to them) the lyrics will start to come together and make sense. Then you’ll know you’re on the right track
Just adding these sources of input to your day-to-day lives will end up making a huge difference. Bit, don’t let this discourage you from paying attention to grammar and vocabulary. Every aspect of learning a language has some importance in the end!