Now is a great time to learn a language, whether it is for future travel, work or just as a hobby. Learning new languages can offer a new lease of life, exposing you to new cultures, conversations and generally broadening your horizons. Here are some of the main ways you can improve your language abilities from home and get to your desired level.
Watch films and shows in your target language
With Netflix and all the other streaming services that now exist, watching TV series’ and films in a foreign language has never been easier. Many Netflix Originals are Spanish-language series’ and are great viewing – these include Money Heist, Cable Girls and Narcos, to name just a few (here’s a whole post with more about these shows and some of the other best Spanish-language shows, in case you’re curious). Watching these in the original Spanish gets you listening to Spanish regularly and in the process I’m sure you’ll get hooked on some great TV.
A great way of improving your target language is to allocate some time that would usually be spent watching content in English, to watching in your target language. Even if this only means one episode a week, it will still be beneficial and add some variety to your leisure time.
The best thing to do, at first, is to have subtitles in English (depending on your level) and as you begin to understand more, you can swap the subtitles to the target language which will greatly help with pronunciation of words, expanding your vocabulary and your general understanding of the language.
Netflix is not the only way to watch films or series’ in your target language. If you after something a bit shorter, try Youtube for short clips of sports, news or even a cookery tutorial.
I used to look for episodes in Spanish of ‘Friends’ on Youtube. I pretty much knew the episodes off by heart in English, so even watching in Spanish I was able to follow the plot. Taking content you love, are interested in and are familiar with and finding a version of it in your target language is a great way of improving your language skills.
Read foreign language news articles
Although the news is largely all doom and gloom, it is a great way to learn a language, especially as the topics covered are current, relevant and (mostly) interesting. It’s a great way to get to know the current affairs of different countries (especially where they speak your target language) and learn new vocabulary. Even having it on in the background is beneficial.
Daily news headlines don’t just have to be watched on TV or listened to on the radio, either. By following news accounts on Instagram or Twitter, like BBC Mundo or Le Figaro, you can be exposed to some really interesting stories and get a snapshot of news in your target language through the explanation in the caption. This is especially great if you are pressed for time.
Newspapers are also insightful resources when learning a language. I used to try to get hold of them and would go through highlighting all the words I didn’t know. In bigger cities or more cosmopolitan areas, you can find some foreign-language newspapers at corner shops or newsstands. However, they can be quite difficult to get hold of, so the best way is to go paperless and read articles online – there are thousands.
Using news apps is a useful way to stay up to date with international current affairs. These notify you with headlines daily, so anything of interest might lead you on to a thread of fascinating articles to read in your target language. The BBC Mundo app, for example, is neatly organised into categories so you can skip straight ahead to what interests you the most. Here’s some info about the best Spanish-language newspapers out there.
As well as being notified of the world’s daily happenings, you can actively subscribe to a number of great online newspapers, journals and bulletins in your target language and receive interesting content weekly. This is a great way of expanding the type of content you digest in your target language.
Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to learn a new language and there are so many different platforms you can listen to them on, including Anchor and Spotify.
Let’s Talk Spanish, ESpeak’s newly branded podcast, is a wonderful way to improve your Spanish language skills, with a mixture of listening materials to suit varying levels of ability. Not only will this help your pronunciation as well as comprehension of the language, but it also offers an opportunity to learn about Spanish-speaking countries and their cultural exports. The Beginners’ Corner weekly Sunday podcast is a great resource for beginners who are just starting to amplify their vocabulary and string together sentences in Spanish.
Read lots of different foreign-language content
Although it may involve the most effort, reading in your target language is a tried and tested method which is bound to improve your language skills.
This doesn’t mean you have to dive straight into Don Quijote de la Mancha (I have been trying for years) – any kind of print media will do. Magazines are a fun way to improve in your target language, especially if you are interested in celebrity gossip and find this interesting content to digest.
Dual-language books are great for language learners and are commonly used in schools to help you to read in a more structured way, with the translated text there to guide you. Even if you can’t get hold of one of these, many foreign language books printed in the UK have english forewords or introductions and often a glossary of vocabulary that can help with trickier words. My worn and torn copy of La Casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca has a brilliant introduction in English, which helped me during my studies as it gave great historical context and made me want to read the play more.
If you are at a stage where you can read in your target language, then don’t stop reading. Try and alternate between reading one book in English and the next in your target language, and try to keep it up as a personal challenge. With devices such as Kindles and apps such as Audible, it is so easy to find foreign language books to read or listen to at a much lower cost than ever before.
Begin online language lessons with ESpeak
Learning online is a fun and interactive way to learn a new language. From the comfort of your home, ESpeak conversation classes can be tailored to your needs so you can get the most out of your lessons. The best thing about interacting with a fluent speaker of your target language is the conversation practice you will get, as we believe that speaking is the best way to learn a new language and the more you speak, the more you can put into practice what you have learnt over your language course so far.
Not only can this offer an effective way of learning, but it will also help to improve your confidence speaking the language, so that when you do want to utilise it for travel or work you’ll feel more confident in your speaking ability.