Join the culture club from the comfort of your home: Six simple tips for learning a new language
- Have your Netflix show dubbed into a foreign language with English subtitles
- Organisations will send a ‘word of the day’ email to your inbox every morning
- Read online versions of overseas newspapers straight after reading a UK paper
Gone are the days when you need to attend evening classes and carry a well-thumbed dictionary to learn a new language.
Today it’s easy to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and pick up key phrases from the comfort of home.
Here are six surprises if you think learning a language isn’t for you.
SURPRISE ONE: It’s easy to check things. Google Translate (or similar smartphone apps) let you type words or phrases you don’t recognise and have them translated into English (or vice versa). You can also click to hear the words spoken, so you hear the right intonation from native speakers. In something worthy of Harry Potter, you can even point your phone’s camera at a foreign menu, for example, and watch as the words are translated in front of you. Fans say it’s a ‘see it to believe it’ experience.
You can use Google Translate to hear words spoken in another language, so you hear the right intonation from native speakers
SURPRISE TWO: You can start the moment you wake up. Whichever language you choose, dozens of organisations will send a ‘word of the day’ email to your inbox every morning. The ‘palabra del día’ sent out by spanishlanguage.co.uk, for example, also includes phrases using the word. Let just a few of the phrases sink in and the firm says you end up learning an average of eight words a day, not one.
SURPRISE THREE: Learning can be part of your daily routine. Tutors suggest clicking through free online versions of overseas newspapers straight after reading a UK paper. They say following the same stories, even in different styles, helps anchor words and phrases in the mind. Try lemonde.fr or 20minutes.fr for French, elpais.com for Spanish, or corriere.it for Italian. It also helps to stream overseas radio stations as background music (tutors say you’re making progress if you find yourself singing foreign lyrics). Find stations on apps such as tunein. The last parts of the immersion armoury are e-books. Experts suggest starting with translations of mainstream, ‘easy-reading’ titles, perhaps something by Dan Brown or Danielle Steele.
SURPRISE FOUR: Film and TV fans can tweak the technology to keep learning all night. Let’s say you want to watch The Crown on Netflix. Click on ‘Subtitles and Audio’ and you can have the show dubbed into French, for example, while the subtitles come up in English.
SURPRISE FIVE: It will pay to try it in person. The classic way to learn a language is a home-stay overseas while attending daytime classes. Such stays across Europe are off-limits for now, but tourist money will be vital as the worst-hit countries recover, so staying with a local family will be a great way to help. Search for language schools in the city you want to visit and course providers will suggest accommodation when the storm passes.
Learning curve: Study hard now and test out your new vocabulary in the cafes of Paris in the future
SURPRISE SIX: Unexpected experts can help. Hotel concierges are getting more creative as guests look beyond traditional excursions and activities. Stay somewhere like the sleek Monument Hotel in Barcelona, for instance, and black-clad concierge staff can suggest reasonably priced language tutors who will sit and chat for an hour over coffee in the lobby (or up by the rooftop pool) before you head out to try your new skills in the restaurants of La Rambla.