Originally published on porch.com by Tamara Segel on August 18th 2021: porch.com/advice/learning-languages-home-tips-advice-experts.
Learning a new language enhances your life in numerous ways while providing you with a marketable skill. As you learn a new language, you’ll develop new communication skills, keep your brain agile, and even discover new writers and artists to read and enjoy as you encounter them in your studies.
By learning a language at home, you can adopt an instruction schedule that suits your time frame — and you can fit in practice when it’s most convenient for you. In this article, we gathered experts in language learning to give you the best insights to encourage yourself and others to learn languages from home.
What are the Benefits of Learning Languages from Home?
In the past, when many of us started learning a language, studying from home was hard. There were no videos, language learning apps or dictionary apps. Now, the situation has totally changed. Many language learning resources exist online — not to mention reading materials on any topic — for all but especially rare languages. Further, services exist for you to connect to human language tutors anywhere in the world for individual instruction. When you compare the convenience of language learning today to the struggle of finding resources in the past, you realize there’s no excuse not to put in a little bit of time to expand your horizons with language study. Learning a language from home opens up incredible opportunities as you bundle your other professional proficiencies with a foreign language.
Darren T. Jansen | Ivannovation
How to Make the Most of Language Learning at Home?
I’d say the most important thing to have when learning languages at home is the right state of mind. Focusing only on the end goal of becoming fluent can feel insurmountable, and it makes most people give up after a few weeks. It’s all about taking constant baby steps. The essential part is to be consistent, stick to a routine you can sustain in the long run, and never give up. If you learn just a tiny bit every day and never give up, it will quickly add up. Learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about becoming fluent, it’s about discovery and learning new things, and fluency will come in due time.
Tonny Pelletier | Co-Founder of OUINO Languages
How can listen to music help you learning a new language?
Music can really be a double-edged sword when it comes to learning foreign languages. Let me start with the positives first before I discuss a few things to be careful of.
Here are a few positive reasons to use music in language learning;
1. Input is what creates language skills ultimately. The more, the better. Sometimes when we stick to textbooks and vocabulary apps, we don’t get too much actual input.
2. Songs and music can be great to learn pronunciation with, as the melody helps to understand the rhythm of the language itself (we’ll touch on this point a little bit later.)
3. It’s fun! Not only is listening to music an enjoyable experience in it itself but playing detective and figuring out what a foreign song actually means word by word is a gratifying process.
4. You can do it from anywhere. Just put on a headset, and you can be listening anytime, anywhere. More or less.
That said, there are few things to keep in mind when using music to learn languages.
Beware of dialects, tones, and slang. Some tonal languages don’t reproduce the words the same way in song as in conversational language. Plus, songs often contain extremely specialised vocabulary (to fit the rhymes, etc) that you might never need or encounter in ‘the wild.’ Also, beware of language differences in different countries (Spain/Mexico, Portugal/Brazil, France/Quebec, etc).
Listening to music is a great addition, not a replacement for other language activities. Be sure to still work with other resources and teachers in conjunction, so you keep improving your skills. Just listening to music alone won’t get you far.
But, if you pay active attention to music with those limitations in mind, you will reap massive rewards and enjoyment.
Lass Jetzt Los! (Let it go!)
Kris Broholm | Actual Fluency
What are the best tips you can give to learn a second language?
Anyone can follow the IPEC steps to learn a second language:
1. When you initiate to learn a second language, it should be most closely related to you.
2. Build an executable and enjoyable learning plan before the start, deep know the characteristics of the new language, plan the cost and time, clarify the stage goal, and so on.
3. Execute the 80/20 rule, spend most of the effort solving 90% of everyday communication, not only understand these pieces of knowledge but use them skillfully.
4. Check the deliverables at every stage of learning, and adjust the learning plan, but always rekindle your passion for each little goal.
Jacob | Cchatty
How can you practice pronunciation when learning from home?
Practicing pronunciation from home is an interesting one. Because I’m learning the Chinese language (Mandarin) and because in Chinese, the pronunciation is so important and so alien to my mother tongue, it’s super essential to do it right. And difficult.
Let me give you an example. Here’s an example of three words that are very different but very similar in pronunciation:
They’re pronounced as ‘měishí’, ‘méishì’, and ‘měishì’. Do you see the tones? These may sound very similar to our foreign ears, but they are totally different from Chinese ears, so they’re essential to nail. One way to practice is to exaggerate the differences. And my point is: this is much easier to do at home. When I’m outside in a coffee store ordering an Americano (美式měishì), I am not looking at the Pinyin-spelling on my phone, and I might pronounce it wrong. But I’ll note down these words I find difficult, or I’ll write down the words which when I pronounce them, Chinese people don’t understand what I mean. Then after work at home, I’ll go over them, saying them out repetitively in the correct pronunciation. This has been an invaluable method for learning the Chinese language for me.
Two more ways I can practice pronunciation at home. I learn Chinese at GoEast Mandarin, and sometimes I go for classes on their campus, but sometimes the teacher and I opt for online lessons. From home! A third is finding spoken materials on videos or podcasts. Then I’ll watch a video once to know what they’re talking about, and the second or third time, I try to ‘shadow’ the persons in the video, trying to talk simultaneously with them when the video plays.
The notes on the words I find hard to pronounce are the most important because they’re weaknesses in my speaking that I don’t want to let turn into bad habits. But shadowing online videos make me add more words into my rotation and also improve their pronunciation. And of course, an online Chinese class with GoEast teaches me grammar and new vocabulary too.
I try to learn at least a bit of the Chinese language every day. Sometimes I’m ‘in-the-zone’ – I can study for a whole hour or more, but even five minutes will make me feel good about myself and my consistency too.
Jaap Grolleman | GoEast Mandarin
Is it better to learn on my own or get help from a teacher?
Discovering how you learn best is one of the biggest advantages of education and one of the main reasons schools exist. Society as a whole can benefit from a group of individuals who can learn effectively by themselves. There is a distinct sense of enjoyment in working out by yourself and knowing that you could get there via your own thought processes and strategies. But not everyone can do this, and certainly not every student.
Where educators can help is in helping students tee the path towards effective learning more clearly. This can involve demonstrating how to reach the answer to a problem, lending support and encouragement at critical moments, and asking the right questions at the right point to facilitate a student’s understanding. Educators (you would hope) have been there before – they know what it means to go from not understanding a problem or area to grasping it. And this experience is what makes teachers and tutors so valuable in assisting learning. No educator should provide the answers upon request – that’s Google’s job. Good teachers and tutors develop their students’ cognitive skills and learning abilities by prompting them and pointing them in the right direction, not by doing their work.
Someone will rarely need help from an educator at every step of their learning. And no student should ask for help every time they’re stuck. Otherwise, their independence and ability to think for themselves will never develop. But there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to tackle a problem repeatedly using the same method – and this is where an educator can step in.
It is always best to attempt to learn on your own. And most of the time, you’ll get far with this approach. For some, they’ll never need to ‘get help from a teacher. That’s just the way it goes. But never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help because it’s not a sign of weakness or a lack of intelligence. It’s a sign that you’re courageous enough and wise enough to know what you don’t know. Every good business person will tell you that the best leaders are those who know enough to know what they don’t know. And when they don’t know something, they ask for help.
Ludo Millar | Qualified Tutor
How many hours a week should someone dedicate to studying a language at home?
Most people don’t realise that if you want to really learn a new language fluently, you need to spend enough time practicing the language. People today look for shortcuts and download apps that promise them they will speak the language soon if you spend just 5 or 10 minutes a day using the app, but that can never be enough. I recommend starting with 20 minutes a day to create a habit and raise it to 1 hour a day. In my experience, if you learn your language using effective methods for 6-7 hours a week, you’ll see visible progress within just a couple of weeks, and you can learn the language to a fluent level within 2 years. One hour may sound like a lot, but if you divide it into 2 or 3 shorter slots, everyone can fit it in their daily schedule, no matter how busy they are. It’s all about priorities.
Lýdia Machová | Language Mentoring
How can a kid from parents who speak different languages easily become bilingual?
I am the daughter of a German mother and an Italian father, and I can tell my personal experience.
I remember that my mother from an early age spoke to my sisters and me in a different language from the one spoken in our city, but it was natural for us to address her with those different words and immediately afterward change the sound of our words to communicate with other people; my father always spoke to us in Italian, and we grew up by automatically distinguishing the different situations.
We spent most of our time with our mother and with her we played, sang, and always listened to her vocabulary. She read us books that were incomprehensible to our friends. When we used to visit grandparents, uncles, and cousins we immersed ourselves in that reality totally at ease.
We spent all our free time with dad and together with mum we all communicated in the other language, we used to go to cinemas, zoos, pastry shops, and parks, read stories and watched cartoons. We used to visit also the other grandparents and aunts and cousins and we were happy and at ease there too.
We learned two languages at the same time without realising it.
It was easy. As an adult, I reverted to science with curiosity to find an explanation for that simplicity in learning, that overtime is no longer so obvious. I have read that the effortlessness of bilingualism in young children depends on the fact once we learned a second language, two regions of the cortex are activated, each of which will load one or the other language. I can say that I am absolutely convinced that my parents’ method works and I can also say that I have known many families like mine who have faced this great opportunity with a similar approach and allow their kids to learn more than one language in a spontaneous way.
Yasmin | Easylore
As you can see, our language learning experts are very enthusiastic about the idea of learning languages from home; thank you all for your amazing tips and advice about this topic. And we are sure that before you know it, you’ll be fluent in the language of your choosing, and who knows where you could go from there?
This article is still developing.