Learning a Language in Quarantine
One of the best ways to stay mentally healthy in quarantine is to be productive. It’s all too easy to simply consume while you’re at home but there are plenty of reasons why that might not be the best use of your time. I find it important to maintain a certain level of mental stimulation, or at least not go too long without any, or I catch my mood shifting into a bored, easily depressed state. While there are many ways to counteract this I find that being productive is the simplest, and my preferred form of being productive is learning. Today I’m going to talk about learning language and, given the current situation, how to make the most of learning a language when you don’t have physical access to native speakers to help you.
Before I start I’ll say that what inspired me to make this, and one of my favourite language resources is the Langfocus channel on YouTube. It has videos about many languages, their grammar, similarities to other languages, their history, and tips on language learning.
If you’re starting out:
I always find the best way to start with learning a language is to listen to it. This could be through passively (or actively) listening to music in the language or watching foreign TV shows or movies. The key here is that you don’t even have to be paying a lot of attention, nor do you have to understand anything, for this to help. Every now and again something, beit a sound, a word, or a phrase will stick out to you and you’ll remember it next time you hear it (which is why I like songs, they are short so you can listen to them again). In addition to this you can get used to how the language sounds: its pronunciation, but just as importantly, its phrasing. People often overlook this as part of learning a language, but phrasing and intonation matter a lot when you’re trying to be understood. The English sentence “I didn’t say she stole my money” is the old example for this, where if you emphasise a different word in the sentence it completely changes its meaning. By listening and absorbing the language like a child would of course you won’t remember everything you hear, but you’ll grow accustomed to how it should sound, and you’ll have something concrete to aim for.
If you’re looking for some active practice:
Language exchanges are a great resource for those who would like to learn and speak to natives, and you can find them free on many websites offering to connect speakers of different languages. I personally don’t have much experience with them as I’m blessed with a rainbow of nationalities amongst my friends, but either way it’s important to talk to natives and learn how they speak and the words they use. You don’t want to sound like a movie every time you open your mouth.
My number 1 tip:
Engage with the content. It’s far more useful to learn vocabulary in context than from a textbook as you’ll remember it much more. The best way to make sure a word sticks is to use it. Find words that you don’t know yet, and use them. If you need to learn a list of vocabulary then write something like a story or just a paragraph using these words. Don’t just learn them as words, learn them as ways to communicate meaning, and meaning requires context.
Finally, always remember that progress is not always visible. More often than not you’re making progress without even realising it. You’ll never know until you use it and surprise yourself.