March is Culture Month for my Happiness Project, so I’ve been working to incorporate more language learning into my daily routine, as it proves to be a challenge at times even in Spain. A lot of people that I know say they wish they could learn another language. We see language learning as time consuming, frustrating, or maybe even impossible task. It can feel like an unrealistic goal and you might not know where to begin, but just like anything else, if you decide to make it a priority, it can become manageable and even fun! Learning a new language will not only make you more marketable in the professional world, but it can also allow you to connect with people you’d never meet otherwise, grow as an individual by opening your mind to new ways of thinking, and help make the world a better place through bridging social divides and becoming a better global citizen. Now that’s a cause I can get behind.
So in my efforts to make Spanish practice more of a priority in my daily life, I came up with some strategies that I thought might help others feel like learning a new language could be a more achievable goal. I’ll lay them out in daily schedule format, so you can see when I usually fit these activities in throughout the day!
1. Morning: Listen to Podcasts
This might be my favorite language learning practice I’ve developed since the beginning of March. I walk 30 minutes to and from work every day, so I make sure to download two or three of my favorite Spanish podcasts to listen to every day on my commute to work. You can do this in your car, on the train, or however you might commute, and there are so many great, free podcasts out there for all levels of language learning! My top two favorites in Spanish are Radio Ambulante and Spanish Obsessed Advanced!
2. Lunch break: Read in Your Target Language
Here’s another fun one! Reading in Spanish is one of the more difficult skills for me, so it’s hard to muster the will to want to read in Spanish, especially when I feel like it’s already hard for me to get enough reading in in general. However, since it’s Culture Month, I decided to make my way to a secondhand bookstore here in Sevilla, and I found a book that I have really enjoyed reading: The Little Vampire or El Pequeño Vampiro! My sister and I loved this story as a kid and I can understand the storyline for the most part. I read it during my break at school and make a list of words that I don’t know, to make sure to translate them to try and commit them to memory. Finding a book at your level that actually interests you will make you more likely to pick it up and read it, and can make the process much more fun!
3. After Dinner: Netflix and Learn!
I can’t stress this enough. If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, as a language teacher, and a second language learner, it is that language learning NEEDS to be fun. If it’s not an enjoyable process, you won’t do it. So find content that is fun for you! You can find foreign films and shows on Netflix to practice your listening skills, and there’s the option to use subtitles to help with understanding. You can even turn subtitles on in the target language to make sure you catch what is being said, and read along to aid in your comprehension. A show I’m enjoying right now is a Netflix original series called Club de Cuervos!
4. Before Bed: Language Lists
Through all of my language practices throughout the day, I come across quite a few words I don’t understand. Over the course of the day I try to make a list in my phone of all of the words that stumped me, and before bed I will take a few minutes to go through and translate them. This way I have a running list of new words I’ve learned, and I can come back to them to remind myself if I need to over time!
5. Over the Weekend: Be Social!
The absolute BEST way to learn a language is by speaking it. It doesn’t matter what your level is, I encourage you to get out there and meet people in your target language. It’s a great practice in leaning into vulnerability, and people with experience learning languages are almost always accepting and helpful! Three of my top suggestions for real world speaking practice are:
- Find a language meet up in your city
- Get a language exchange partner
- Volunteer in your target language
Cities all over the world have language-focused meet ups where you can get together with other people who want to speak the language to practice and make friends. These are great because everyone is there to learn, so there’s no need to feel stressed about your language level. The atmosphere is usually very fun and inclusive, and every time I’ve been I’ve met lots of new and fun people that I’d never have known if I hadn’t put myself out there! These events are also great places to find a language exchange partner if you prefer a more one-on-one language learning experience. It’s especially helpful if you can meet someone who is interested in learning your first language, so you can practice their native language, while also helping them to practice yours!
Volunteering is another great opportunity to practice a language. Before moving to Spain, I spent time volunteering at the Hispanic Center in my home town. It’s extremely rewarding to see how you can use your new skill to help others and make your community a better place, and this becomes even more motivation to learn the language! Volunteering allowed me to meet incredible people in my community, help people study for the American citizenship test as well as English level exams, and in turn, see a greater purpose for knowing a second language.
Try these activities out and remember that everyone starts somewhere, and everyone is capable of learning a new language at any point throughout life. The key is making it a priority and sticking with it! I hope you enjoy my strategies for language learning! Let me know what works best for you, or what your favorite language learning strategy is in the comments below!