I am excited to share the fourth annual Language Learning Reading Challenge with you.
Starting January 2019, we’ll tackle one book per month covering a topic related to language and share our experiences as a group. Please feel free to join us. You can participate by commenting on the posts here at Eurolinguiste or by joining the group on Facebook.
As part of the challenge, we will be read books that cover everything from culture, language learning, general learning techniques, history, and more. Plus, we’ll be reading both in our native languages and target languages.
If you’re at a more advanced level in your target language, feel free to read any or all of the books (not just the ones indicated as target language only) in the language that you’re learning. If you’re still just getting started, that’s okay, too! You can read along in your native language, discovering more about the cultures and histories tied to the language(s) that you’re learning, opting for lower level or graded readers for books in your target language.
Please note that you don’t have to pick just one language for this challenge. If you’re learning multiple languages, feel free to mix and match. The challenge is pretty flexible. I’ve planned it this way so you can get the most learning possible out of it over this next year.
The Materials that make up the 2019 Language Reading Challenge
1 January // A tutorial, recipe, or lesson in your target language (if you’re up for a bigger challenge, read an entire book on the subject) 2. February // A book on learning strategies (any learning strategy, not just language related, but it can be about language learning if you prefer) 3. March // A book written in your target language (this can be a translation from your native language or a book originally written in your target language) 4. April // Read something humor-related in your language to get a sense of comedy and what’s funny in your language 5. May // Read an introduction to your language – if you’re an advanced learner, find an article or chapter in your coursebook that explains something that you’re struggling with in particular 6. June // History of the region, culture, or language that you are studying 7. July // Read something about a language you’re not learning (it can be an article, an introduction to the language, or an entire book) 8. August // A book written by a language blogger (you can find books by bloggers such as Steve Kaufmann, Anthony Metivier, Kerstin Cable, Benny Lewis, Barbara Oakley, yours truly, and more) 9. September // A book about a language, a family of languages, a writing system, or something related to linguistics 10. October // Read a Wikipedia article in your target language 11. November // A book written in your target language (originally, not a translation) 12. December // Read a book about your native language
A Few Notes Regarding the Challenge:
The challenge doesn’t have to focus on one language, if you are studying multiple languages (or have an interest in languages you’re not studying), feel free to go for books in or about those languages.
You are absolutely welcome to read books of any level. Graded readers, children’s books, academic books or any other genre are acceptable for the challenges that require you to read in your target language(s).
You do not need to participate every month to be a part of this challenge. You can choose the months that align with your interests.
If you do not complete the book you take up in any one month of the challenge, that’s okay! You can still join in the conversation and share some of what you’ve learnt from the sections of the book you were able to get through.
Language Reading Challenge Linkup Rules:
1. Share your post discussing the book that you’ve read this month. Submissions unrelated to the theme or links to your homepage will be deleted. You can share in the comments or use the link below to join us on Facebook.
You’ve worked hard this last year at your language studies, and what better way to celebrate your progress than by rewarding yourself with an early holiday gift?
By investing in your studies, you’re also preparing yourself for the new year with new resources so that you have a place to start when all of the craziness of the holiday season is through. Or, you can always get a little something for your language learning friend!
As a part of Black Friday, I’m really excited to offer an incredible selection of discounts on my courses this year.
Language Learning Accelerator
With four jobs, a toddler, a blog, and eight languages under my belt, I’ve had a lot of experience developing time management and energy management skills. I created this course to share them with you. If you ever feel too busy to learn a language, or too tired, Language Learning Accelerator has all the tools you need to work through it and finally find the time to learn your language.
In partnership with Fluent in 3 Months, I put together a course to help you build the confidence to start speaking your language and connecting with others. Each module includes a video lesson, a worksheet, and exercises that put you on the path towards becoming a confident speaker of your target language. As a part of the course, you’re also given access to Say Goodbye to Shy.
I recently launched a Croatian language course and you can get all of the bonus materials for the first season for 50% off. There will be 20 total lessons and for each you have a video lesson, the audio, bonus audio, and a PDF worksheet.
Lindsay and I recently launched a new monthly subscription hub and study club under the radar. It’s a fun new platform where Lindsay and I alternate each month, providing tons of tips, video lessons, and actionable advice around different themes. To start, Lindsay tackled motivation in the first month and I covered building your personal script in the second. You’ll have access to all of the archive months in with your purchase of a membership.
I’ve also partnered up with Fluent in 3 Months to offer you some amazing deals this year as a part of their Black Friday promotion.
Of course, they have an incredible package put together. In it, you can get:
Benny’s BootcampLive // A 3-month language hacking program with live video webinars every week.
Fi3M Premium // This is their cornerstone product and a long-term learning portal. It’s a great place to start planning your routine for the new year. Plus, they recently brought it over to Teachable, so it has a much nicer user experience.
Conversation Countdown // Their 7-week email course that helps you prepare for your first conversation in your new language.
Why X is Easy // 6 eBooks that break down the tough language stuff (like word gender and conjugations) for German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, French and English.
Drops // You can get 50% a Premium subscription to Drops, my favorite vocabulary learning app. The offer expires on Monday. This offer is only available through their web payment and isn’t offered within the app itself. Get 50% a Premium Drops Subscription.
How one start-up is aiming to revolutionize language learning by combining augmented reality with gamification in 5-minute Drops.
In a time when, on average, nearly everyone is too busy to invest time into intensive side projects, is there a place for language learning? Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky, of Plan B Labs, believe, without question, that there is, and they’ve developed the app to prove it.
Rather than tasking learners with hour-long study sessions, or daily point goals, this app challenges you to learn as much as you can in a limited time.
The Birth of a Language Hero
It was in his final year at university and after one particularly sleepless night that Daniel Farkas had a realization that would set him upon the path to developing one of the most popular language applications. “It just struck me: nobody taught me how to learn.” This epiphany led to Farkas developing a passion for meta-learning, or as defined by theorist Donald B. Maudsley, “the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized.” But it wouldn’t be for several more years, after a brief career as a salesman for a luxury bike company, and a collaboration with two trivia app designing friends until he would be able to completely make the leap into a career that would allow him to fully explore his enthusiasm for meta-learning, channeling his hard-earned knowledge into an app designed for specifically for language learners.
At the time, other language apps were becoming wildly popular, but despite their success, Daniel still felt that there was still a key element missing from the available options. “None of the big names were combing cutting-edge technology with the findings of behavioral psychology – things like habit forging, gamification, the psychology of play -, neuroscience, and direct visual association.” In his opinion, most language applications try to do too many things. They offer excessive language choices in an effort to appeal to a wider audience, and in doing so, correctness and quality suffer. In other cases, they attempt to cover too much of the language’s grammar, only scratching the surface when it comes to vocabulary – arguably the most important tool for anyone looking to really dive into a language.
And so, in 2012, Farkas and Szulyovszky set to developing a focused alternative concentrated on the “meat” of language learning – vocabulary acquisition and the building of a rock-solid language learning habit. Kicking off with just three languages and limited features, Drops has rapidly grown in both its offerings and its subscriber base. It is now the powerhouse application behind many language enthusiasts’ consistent study habits. Recognized as one of the Top 5 Language Learning apps by Bloomberg, Drops has also been featured as one of the best educational apps in more than one hundred countries. Today, it is used by millions of learners.
Before There Was Drops – Mnemonic Gaming and Language Learning
Drops’ use of mnemonic association and gaming psychology to teach languages is not by accident. It all started when, back in 2012 the two Drops founders, Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky, were introduced at a party. Daniel had been working on a book about applying meta-learning techniques to learning vocabulary (meta-learning is basically using cognitive shortcuts to learning anything), and Mark–a longtime gamer–had developed a visual pattern recognition game called Thinkinvisible. Similar to the Rorschach test or the concept of Rubin’s Vase, ThinkInvisible images can be viewed in multiple ways, but in particular, they rely on the cognitive trick negative space to define the image. The lack of full contouring forces an “aha” recognition moment, which is at the root of mnemonics.
Daniel and Mark instantly agreed that a similar mnemonic approach could be used to learn vocabulary. They set about designing and building an app they would later call LearnInvisible. Somewhere along the way, they decided this idea was more than just folly and they applied to the GameFounders–the Estonian gaming accelerator. They were accepted into GameFounders very first cohort of start-ups, received around $15K and were off to the races. They initially incorporated as PlanB Labs and soon after they launched LearnInvisible to some early fanfare, but suddenly soon realized that while people said they loved the app, they used it once or twice and then never came back.
In a post-mortem of LearnInvisble’s failure, Daniel suggested that maybe they had strayed too far from Mark’s gaming background. They had built a great app, but it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sticky. It wasn’t a game. So they pivoted and redesigned the entire app from scratch with a laser focus on retention. In January of 2015, they launched Drops and never looked back.
While the Drops and Scripts apps appear simple (intentionally), their deep intersection of mnemonics and gaming comes from Daniel and Mark’s unique backgrounds, as well as the painful failure that resulted from neglecting that background the first time around. I, for one, am glad they got it right.
Rising Above the Rest
What makes Drops a stand out language tool? Some might tell you that it’s the simple, yet elegant design and a user-friendly interface. Others are convinced that it’s the interactivity. And then, there are those that fancy the well-thought-out vocabulary lists. For the learners for whom Drops has become a part of their daily regiment, it’s all of the above. And then some.
Drops is a powerful resource for learners because it isn’t time intensive. By restricting users’ study sessions to five minutes, Drops guarantees that even the most occupied user can work a little learning into their routine. Of course, for more serious learners, or what Drops likes to call the ‘genius’ or ‘polyglot’, there’s the option to unlock more time and more languages, respectively, for a sensible fee.
Currently, the app provides around 100 unique vocabulary lists each containing around twenty words for nearly thirty languages including Korean, French, Hebrew, and Chinese. And while they aim to tackle a large selection of languages, they ensure the quality of their product by hiring native speakers, professional translators, and established polyglots to double and triple check the lesson content.
There’s a lot of thought and care that goes into creating the wordlists and you’ll find plenty of vocabulary that isn’t readily available on other platforms. Whether you’re interested in discussing business-related topics, the birth of a new baby and an introduction to your family, figuring out what you’ll need to know to get around town on an upcoming vacation, or just learn the basics, you’re covered.
The app experience is an exciting whirlwind of swiping, matching, and competing with a timer to get through as much new material as possible. The minimalist illustrations and color changes provide a backdrop that keeps your attention on the task at hand. It’s addicting insofar as it is educational, and although it feels like you’re merely playing a game, you’re building a useful life skill.
Drops’ functionality is, in part, based on Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi’s studies of ‘flow’, that feeling you get when you’re so immersed in an activity that you lose track of time. It’s something you experience when you go out dancing, bury yourself in an excellent book, or get into the rhythm with a task at work. The execution of this element in Drops is flawless. As you compete against the timer, blazing through as much material as possible, you become hyper-focused. The message you receive when the time is up is the only indicator that you’re due to return to reality.
The platform combines a series of exercises so that you’re doing far more than flipping over a flashcard to learn more vocabulary. You do everything from matching to fill in the blank, true or false to a Boggle-like word search as a part of its spaced-repetition based system. It seems like the only thing you don’t do is type. The variety of exercises is an effective way to give the new words you’re learning more than one context – a way to improve retention. With the swipe-based functionality, you can work through the material seamlessly and as you progress, the difficulty of the exercises progresses with you.
A premium account also offers the opportunity to focus on tough words in its Tough Word Dojo once you study your first fifty words. Using the data collected on how many times you’ve answered questions incorrectly during the normal exercise section, the Dojo rounds up the words that you’ve struggled with most and offers you the opportunity to focus on them. This focus allows you to concentrate on your weaknesses and review a mix of vocabulary (this feature doesn’t focus on a specific theme).
The vocabulary in Drops is very much noun-focused, but a few relevant verbs are included as a part of each lesson. You don’t learn how to conjugate them or get the chance to give them context, but it’s still a valuable resource. Particularly because it does what it does extremely well.
For users with a free account, you’re given five minutes of study time every ten hours. It may not seem like much, but for those struggling to make language learning a part of their routine, it’s an excellent start. You get to spend that daily study with a crucial element of language learning success – vocabulary – and you get to have fun while doing it. The result? Developing a love for languages, a desire to learn more in other places and an opportunity to take things further. It’s all about building a strong foundation.
Drops uses minimalist design features and detailed illustrations as a part of their functionality to help the learner eliminate the need to use their native language as much as possible. This means that rather than asking you to translate, you’re shown an image and asked to connect it directly to the language that you’re learning. This feature is one of the big characteristics that sets Drops apart from the other leading language learning apps which still, in large part, rely on translation. Using the app gives you five minutes of total immersion, though if needed, pressing and holding your finger over a word or image will give you the translation.
Boost in Motivation
When creating a language study habit is as easy as ‘playing‘ with vocabulary for five minutes, twice a day, feeling motivated to learn is a natural outcome. According to one user, “It’s so simple. Instead of playing Candy Crush or Tweeting during my breaks during the day, I play Drops. It’s easy, fun, and my vocabulary is expanding rapidly.” When you enjoy something, you’re more motivated to continue doing it. And Drops undoubtedly makes language learning enjoyable for many learners.
Visual Progress Tracking
As you progress through the vocabulary sets, you can track your advancement with a small progress bar that appears beneath the title of each vocabulary section. It’s motivating to see the bar creep towards the 100% mark and to watch all of the bars add up as you work through the various word lists.
Audio from Native Speakers
One of the biggest complaints when it comes to language learning apps are that they use poor quality audio or computer-generated voices. Paying voice actors who are native speakers of the language can be pricey – especially when you’re developing an app that offers a large number of languages. When it came to this feature, however, Drops spared no expense. Each of the courses includes high-quality audio recordings of every word read by a native speaker.
For those who speak more than one language, Drops offers the ability to practice language laddering. Laddering is where you study one language through another. So, for instance, if you’re an intermediate French speaker and beginning German learner, you can learn German through French. This means that, rather than seeing the translations in English, you’ll see them in French (if you opt to turn them on).
For learners looking for a more personalized flashcard experience, Drops has several settings that enable you to tailor the app’s functionalities to your level and preferences. Learning Japanese but you still don’t have the writing system figured out? No problem, you can take it a step at a time starting out with the romanization turned on while using Hiragana only, then transition to no romanization and then Kana + Kanji whenever you’re ready. If you’re learning Chinese, you can modify the writing system so that it uses either simplified or traditional characters. You can also turn English translations on or off.
Additionally, you can change the following features to get the best experience using Drops:
Select your learning style. The options are business, romantic, traveler or enthusiast. Changing this setting arranges the words lists so that they appear in an order most relevant to your goals. In this section, you can also select your gender so that the vocabulary you learn is tailored to you (in different languages word choice and word forms change according to gender). Most resources are targeted towards male learners, so it’s nice to see an app that tailors vocabulary to a wider audience.
Premium subscribers can change the session length. While free users are limited to five-minute study sessions, premium users are able to set their study sessions to five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, or unlimited.
You can turn the audio on or off. Want to enjoy the dings and fanfare effects without the pronunciation? Or perhaps you just want to test your ability to read in a new writing system without hearing the word first. With Drops, you can turn the pronunciation on or off.
You can also turn the sound effects on or off. Perhaps the celebratory noises produced by the app are more distracting than motivating for you. If this is the case, you can mute them while still getting to hear the pronunciation.
You can set the phone to vibrate when you get answers right or wrong. It’s extra confirmation that you’re making connections as you study new words – especially since everything is swipe-based. But if you prefer not to use this feature, it too can be deactivated.
Choose your skill level. If you already know some of the language, you can choose to start at the ‘intermediate’ level. When doing this, Drops drops you into the more advanced vocabulary and automatically turns off some of the aids like ‘show English’ and ‘Romanization’. For languages like Japanese, this means it defaults to Kana + Kanji rather than Hiragana. If this seems a little too advanced for you, you can also use the default settings for a beginning learner.
Room to Grow
Even with its gorgeous interface and useful word lists, Drops has room for improvement. To start, there isn’t a way to monitor your consistency as a premium user. A short time back, Drops featured a table that showed your daily progress. It included how many words you learned, how many days in a row you had studied, and it was a great way to stay both accountable and motivated. The app still includes several statistics, but because one of its biggest selling points is that it helps you build a language learning habit, having some way to track that habit is important. More varied and detailed statistics on your learning would definitely add to the experience of using the app.
For those interested in multiple languages, it’s not always clear which dashboard you’re in. Are you in the French vocabulary list or Hebrew? Without going into your settings or actually starting a lesson, you have no idea which language you’re logged into. And once you open a vocabulary list, the timer commences counting down and you start to lose precious time. With Drops, what you do during those five minutes really counts. There’s no room for error.
Second, for the time being, you’re not given the option to create or import your own personalized word lists. While having vocabulary selected for you is a nice way to take a major task off your plate, this is a desirable feature for many language learners. When it comes to picking up a new language, learning “you-specific” vocabulary is important. In order to get the most out of your language studies, you want to spend time with the words and grammar you’re most likely to use. And the best way to ensure you do this is by curating your word lists. A feature that Drops does not yet include.
Finally, you aren’t able to preview the words included in each vocabulary list and knowing how to mute words that aren’t relevant takes a little detective work. Again, having the power to decide which vocabulary you spend time learning is conducive to getting the most out of the hours you put in. With Drops, if you forget (or don’t realize that you need) to drop the word onto the ‘x’ when it is first introduced, it isn’t until you scroll through your learned word list that you can swipe right to “hide” or “unhide” words that you don’t really need or those you already know really well (so they don’t come up for review).
These, of course, are features the developers are currently at work improving, along with a whole slew of recently and soon-to-be-released options. Teaching learners vocabulary on a beautifully designed and well-curated platform is only a part of what Drops offers.
From here, they have plans to continue to make vocabulary learning even more immersive and fun through a combination of augmented reality and other features.
Can Five Minutes of Language Study a Day Work?
One of the biggest criticisms of Drops is that five minutes a day just isn’t enough. It’s a fair assessment. If you’re looking to go deep with a language, or to learn fairly quickly, Drops alone isn’t a complete solution. But it isn’t trying to be.
Drops aims to do one important thing well – provide an interactive and enjoyable method for acquiring vocabulary. They are extremely successful at accomplishing this.
There are people who would argue that you won’t get far with a vocabulary-only language learning app, but you can’t get far without a strong foundation either. Focusing on building a strong vocabulary gives you that foundation, something to build grammar rules and speaking or comprehension skills on, and a ton of confidence, too. In short, Drops is the perfect place to start when learning a language. It will not only set you up for greater successes in the future, but it will make learning a new language an enjoyable activity and thus, a habit.
There are countless reasons why studying a language has the reputation of being boring or difficult. Traditional learning methods are often laborious and tedious, and other resources on the market promise ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ learning without delivering. Drops is an exception to the rule, offering an experience that supports quickly building a strong vocabulary in a new language in a way that is entertaining, engaging, and effective. Highly recommended.
After writing this review, I spent a lot of time trying out Drops and I loved it so much I decided to join the Drops family. I am excited to announce that I am now working with them as their Resident Polyglot. If you’d like to see how my learning with the app went, you can see how I used Drops to learn Hungarian.
What about you?
Have you tried Drops? What did you think?
I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
When people ask you how long this has been going on, you tell them it’s been about a year or two, your eyes glued to the floor.
The truth is, you barely have enough courage to order at your favorite taco stand in Spanish!
If there were a way to kickstart your language learning would you take it? How about if you were stuck in the intermediate plateau and have yet to make any conversational breakthroughs?
Or maybe you’ve lived in a Spanish-speaking country for a while with the hopes that being forcibly immersed would lead to a transformation in your fluency.
But it hasn’t.
Let’s Rethink Immersion
Immersion is often spoken of as the ideal way to learn a language.
While this is true for a child who seems to learn in an effortless manner, attaining staggering results in just a few short months, for you, as an adult, this isn’t the case. Instead, it can be a brutal ride with many moments of embarrassment or feeling like a failure.
This has nothing to do with age, but rather well, life — the responsibilities one assumes as an adult.
Let’s be honest, moving to a new country is never easy.
There’s so much to do! Getting the house set up, finding a new circle of friends, understanding this new foreign culture, the list goes on and on!
At times you may feel quite vulnerable and the truth is that for some, your language may be the only comfort zone you have left.
Even if you don’t move to another country, the same still holds true.
The last thing you want to do when getting home from a day of work is putting in an hour to study a language you don’t even use at work!
I know for myself by the time I finished work, spent time with my family and put my son to bed at 8:00 PM, language learning was out of the question.
It may be considered lazy by some, but all I wanted to do was have a nice glass of wine and relax…
This is where the power of language retreats comes in.
Language Retreats Change Lives
“A change of pace plus a change of place equals a change of perspective.” -Mark Batterson
He was happily living in France and enjoying his job as a mergers/acquisitions attorney.
Then the unexpected happened.
He was told he would have to relocate to Shanghai and learn English within the next 6 months.
His company hired him a language coach to come to the office every other day, but with the distractions of work and meetings that often ran longer than expected, his progress was not anywhere near what he needed.
Jerome was given three weeks to visit the French countryside distraction-free and immerse himself in English.
He spent the time wondering through chateaus, touring the vineyards and enjoying all of the wonderful food France has to offer.
If you asked him before the retreat, he would have never thought what happened next would be possible. On the fourth morning, he came down to breakfast and admitted he had even dreamt in English that night!
This was the distraction free space that he needed.
Because he was relaxed and enjoying his time, he forgot that he was learning for work and because of this, made staggering progress.
This is what a retreat offers you.
A retreat immerses you in a language. And it does it in an amazing vacation-style setting with a small group of similar-minded people in a unique class prepared just for you.
You may have been told that language learning needs to be fun because it maintains our concentration and thus propels our learning exponentially… And guess what>
Just think about it.
How much faster would our learning be if kayaking, museum trips, and VIP treatment as we explore some of the areas best-kept secrets was all a part of the package?
Because it can be!
What Happens in a Language Retreat?
The entire day is spent with your language coach. A person devoted to strengthening your command of the language and giving you the courage to speak in what will soon be an effortless manner.
Each day includes classroom time with lessons perfect for your level and interests, mouth-watering meals and exciting activities which allow us to place emphasis on practical communication to help to develop fluency and confidence.
Accent work, colloquial speech, cultural exchange, you got it!
The best part is that all is done in a relaxed environment which not only helps you learn but also increases memory skills. The retreats are all customised to ensure you are learning things that are of interest to you.
You may be thinking this will be costly, however, when you look at the results you get and what you would pay for a language coach on a weekly basis, you will soon see that not only are you getting a luxurious vacation for free, you may also be seeing some savings.
Here’s what some past participants had to say “The language retreat was a life-changing experience and worth every cent.”
“...the week was full of laughter as well. I have years of experience in learning several languages with a number of different texts and resources, and I truly consider this retreat one of the best experiences I have ever had.”
The most astonishing point which gets the most amount of praise is the time that is no longer wasted.
Rather than having time to forget things between lessons and not having the proper balance between theory and practical, you will see tremendous improvements throughout the week and a surprising burst of confidence.
As said earlier, if you’re looking for something to kickstart your language learning or move you out of the stagnant language plateau, a language retreat is for you.
The next Spanish retreat is September 16 – 21, 2018 in San Diego, California with Fiel Sahir of the Between 3 Worlds podcast. For more information on upcoming retreats or to customize your own, contact Therese LaFleche or visit LaFleche Lingo.
The above is a guest post from fellow language learner and musician Fiel Sahir, and host of the upcoming retreat. If you have any questions about the retreat, you can leave them for Fiel in the comments below!
When I first started learning languages on my own, I didn’t realize that the key to mastering them was speaking them. I tried learning on my own, but whenever I had an opportunity to use them, nothing came out. I’d get too nervous, tongue-tied, or flat out forget everything that I learned.
Soon, I realized that the only way I’d get better at speaking would be by practicing that very skill. I needed to speak more.
I started looking for ways to use my languages more often, but there were hardly any meet ups in my area (if any) and the cost of tutors could be prohibitive.
I had one more option — language exchange partners.
Lingora is an online membership portal that offers language learners the chance to connect with language exchange partners around the world for free. You can chat with native speakers, upload audio for feedback, or even text for correction.
Currently, it supports dozens of languages including Korean, Spanish, Chinese and Serbian.
My Experience Using Lingora
Lingora offers its members a variety of ways to get language practice. I wanted to make use of each of these, so I made sure to try out the voice recording feature as well as the text and chat features.
Unfortunately, between when I posted my material and writing this review, I had yet to receive feedback. Because the site is fairly new, the membership is not yet that large and so finding active members (especially for Croatian) was tough. That said, when I do get feedback, I really like the criteria.
For audio, you’re scored on accent, intonation, fluency, and pronunciation. You’re rated as either “adequate to good”, “good to excellent” or “needs work”. For written entries, you’re scored based on grammatical accuracy, punctuation, spelling, and style. For both, when members offer feedback, they also have a space to leave you more specific comments.
The Pro’s of Using Lingora
Everything is available to you in one convenient place. // The platform offers you a place to practice your writing, your speaking, to chat with native speakers or other learners, and even find a tutor. You don’t need any external equipment. Lingora even includes a built-in audio recorder that converts the audio files for you.
It’s free. // With the exception of lessons with a professional tutor, Lingora is entirely free to use. For those learning a language on a budget, this is an incredible tool for getting valuable feedback.
They offer prompts so that you have support if you’re not sure what to record or write. // One of the toughest things to do when you hit record or sit down to write in your new language is coming up with ideas. What should you write or talk about? Unless you have something specific in mind to practice, it’s hard to avoid rambling or to feel confident when you need to click the “submit” button. Thankfully, Lingora has already thought of this. Whether you’re using the writing or audio recording tool, you’re shown a list of prompts to help you get started (or to stretch outside your comfort zone). You can choose a theme, and then from that theme, any one of several prompts to help you get started.
You can view chats between other members. // In addition to starting your own chats, you can also check out chats between other members. Initially, I was surprised when I first noticed this feature but I think it’s a positive thing for two reasons. First, it’s a way of moderating the discussions between members. When participants know other members will see your conversations, they’re less likely to engage in anything that isn’t above board. Second, it offers the Lingora community the chance to get reading practice and learn from the conversations taking place.
You get weekly summaries of your feedback. // At the end of the week, Lingora sends you an email with summaries of the feedback you’ve received on whatever you submitted. It’s a great reminder to log back in and get more practice AND get an overhead view of how you did the previous week.
Features I Feel Can Improve
Lingora has a lot of potential, but there are a few things that could be improved. First, as far as I can tell, you can only search for exchange partners based on the language they’re learning, not on the language they speak natively. If you’re hoping to connect with a native speaker, this isn’t very helpful. The search features could definitely be improved with the addition of more filters and options.
Second, the cost for lessons is a little higher than the average compared to other online tutoring sites. That said, they do have unique options – some of the tutors offer “on location” lessons.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, there aren’t a lot of members who speak languages like Croatian (and the members that are there don’t seem to be active). But this will surely change in time as its membership continues to grow.
To Sum Up
I really liked the motivation behind Lingora and I think it has a lot to offer learners. It’s still a small community, so at the moment, it’s not as active as it could be, but this is sure to change in time. If you’re looking for places to get speaking or writing practice in your language and to get feedback on how you’re doing, Lingora could be a great option.
For the past few years, I’ve hosted the Language Learning Reading Challenge. It’s grown into a fun community of learners, but I wanted to take things further.
Reading is an incredible way to get comprehensible input, but it’s also an enjoyable way to work on your languages.
Through the Language Learning Reading Challenge, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of incredible language learners who also love reading. And while the monthly prompts are a great way to combine the two, I also thought the community could benefit from a more intensive version of the challenge.
Hence the 30 Day Language Reading Challenge.
The 30 Day Language Reading Challenge
So what’s the 30 Day Language Reading Challenge and how is it different from the normal challenge?
The normal challenge is year long and each month has a theme. And while I encourage participants to read in their languages each month, it’s not required as long as the reading benefits your knowledge of the language (or it’s culture or even learning strategies) in some way.
In the 30 Day Language Reading Challenge, only reading done in your target language counts.
During the 30 days, we’ll aim to rack up as much reading as we can. We’ll count pages (or words) read, keep track of new phrases and words we’re learning, what they mean, and share weekly summaries of what we’ve read – in our target languages!
It’s going to be a ton of fun.
If you’re interested in the 30 Day Language Reading Challenge, you can sign up here.
I hope to see you in the challenge. We’re starting September 1st, 2018.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Will there be another challenge after the one in September?
A: Most likely, but that will depend on participation in the September challenge.
Q: What should I read?
A: Whatever you like. Whether it’s coursebook dialogues or crime fiction, news articles or comic books, it doesn’t matter. The goal is to get you reading in your target language every day for an entire month.
Q: Where will the challenge take place?
A: The challenge prompts will be sent out via email, but the conversation will take place on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, that’s not a problem. You’ll have access to all the documentation and can still share your progress with me via email.
Q: How do I count how much I’ve read?
A: If reading digitally (ebooks or with LingQ), these tools can help you do this. If you’re reading a physical book, count the number of pages you read per day. If a dialogue is most of a page, it counts as one page. If it’s half or less, it counts as half a page. Any English (or native language to you) explanations do not count towards your reading if you’re working with a textbook.
When it comes to learning languages, the expression “all work and no play…” is true. Without any playtime, language learning can be dull.
That’s not to say there isn’t value in doing the book work – there is a ton of value. It just means that it isn’t all you should do.
Finding a way to engage with your language beyond hitting the books is important to not only succeeding in your learning, but in connecting with the language on deeper level.
Media has been used for generations as a medium for language learning. Films, television shows, books, and music have all proven powerful methods for immersing yourself in your new language. But there’s another powerful way to learn a language through rich context and interaction. A method that makes the language that you learn more memorable because of all the connections you form while doing it.
Video games can be a powerful language learning tool, and there are loads of different ways to use them to maximize the time you spend both playing and learning.
I’ll get into just what these are in a moment, but before I do, I want to share a word of warning. This post is massive.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.
Level 1: Introduction to Learning a Language with Video Games
In addition to being the language enthusiast behind Eurolinguiste, I’m also a gamer. I’ve used video games to improve or maintain a variety of languages on a variety of systems and I’ve found it to be a highly effective element of my language learning routines.
My history with gaming dates back to my early childhood when my brother and I would hijack our dad’s NES system to play Ice Hockey and Super Mario Bros., huddle around our neighbor’s Sega Genesis to take turns at Sonic the Hedgehog, or rack up points for tricks in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the original Playstation.
As I got older, entered the realm of PC games, and realized I could lock my brother out of my saves by swapping the game language, games were no longer entertainment but a learning tool. My curiosity peaked, I suddenly enjoyed the challenge of playing games in new languages and in figuring out enough of the walkthrough I found online in a different language to get to that next level.
Today, I play games almost entirely in other languages. It’s only when support for a language I know isn’t available that I resort to playing in English.
Some of my favorite games are The Legend of Zelda and Skyrim, so they’ll make quite a few appearances in the examples below.
The Stigma Behind Gaming as a Learning Tool
Video games still to this day often get a bad wrap. I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard someone say they’re useless or a waste of time, but studies have shown that there are a surprising number of cognitive benefits to playing video games. In fact, in an article from Psychology Today, the author states, “The bulk of the research suggests that the claims about negative effects of video gaming are largely myths and the positive effects are real.”
These include everything from improved visual processes, improvements in spacial attention and the ability to track objects, reduced impulsiveness, overcoming dyslexia, improved problem solving, improved ability to multitask, increased mental flexibility, and more. Plus, your time spent playing video games can also count as language study time if you play your cards right.
Why Learning a Language with Video Games Works
When we find ways to make what we’re learning more engaging, it becomes more memorable. And when you’re playing a game, you’re highly engaged.
The interaction, the processing and the figuring out that goes on while playing all add up to an immersive and interactive language learning experience.
Here are just a few ways video games can be a powerful language learning tool:
The more you see something, the more likely you are to remember. Games are a great place to get repetition. There’s a good chance that there’s a limited set of moves/options you have as you play, so you’ll get a lot of exposure to the vocabulary for these actions. Plus, most games today have a story of some sort, so you’ll get repetition in the narration as well. Finally, there also tends to be a limited number of objects or places you interact with within the game, so these too offer you plenty of repetition.
Procrastination Becomes Action
If you’re into playing video games, there’s a good chance it’s one of the things you do when you put off doing your “work”. But when you use games to learn a language, suddenly your procrastination becomes action. Your playing becomes a learning opportunity.
When you don’t understand what’s going on in the game, there’s a good chance you’ll lose (or your character will die). This can be frustrating, so it’s a good incentive to learn fast.
A big part of why we have a hard time sitting down to spend time with our languages is because it feels like work. Flashcards, textbooks, and study aren’t often high on the “fun” list for many, but games are. When you associate language learning with gaming, you’re creating a positive association. And this positive association makes it easier to sit down and do it.
When you study random word lists or even a themed chapter in your course book, what you’re learning can feel a little out of context. Do you really need to know how to buy a train ticket in German? What if you never travel to the country? If, however, you find that knowing how to investigate certain areas at a train station to get to the next level is important, you’ll have a context for picking up that vocabulary. It’ll suddenly be much easier and much more engaging than simply reading dialogues in a book, memorizing a word list, and doing workbook exercises.
There is a community for almost every major game worldwide. This means there’s a good chance you can find a group of people who speak your target language and who love the same games as you. Whether it’s through an online game, forums about the game, or other message boards, there are tons of ways you can connect with people who share your interests.
Don’t want to invest in platform games? No problem. If you own a phone or a computer, you can still get all of the benefits of games without having to buy a gaming system.
Level 2: The Setup
To get started with gaming in a new language is simple. In the past, if you wanted to enjoy games in different languages, you often had to buy the version of the both the system and the games from the country that speaks your language (I may or may not have bought a Japanese version of the Nintendo 64 along with the Japanese versions of the Zelda games and by may, I mean I definitely did). Instead, changing the language today is just a matter of changing the settings.
There are two places you can change the language settings of your video games.
The first place to change the settings is within the system or computer itself. This means, if you’re using Steam, you’ll change your Steam settings to your language of choice. If you’re using a Wii Switch or an Xbox, you’ll change your system settings.
Here are links to do this for many of the major platforms. How to change the language settings for your:
Second, you’ll want to change the settings for the game itself. Often, changing your system’s settings will also change the language settings for your game (but not always).
When changing your game language, you first want to be conscious of what languages are available. Some games have subtitles or captions available in more languages than they do audio (this means that sometimes I may play a game with the audio in one language and the subtitles in another). And certain games only have support for a limited number of languages.
If you’re not sure if a game is available in the language you’re studying, you can often check the game description. This will let you know if you can enjoy the game in your language or if you need to look elsewhere.
Finding Games in Your Language
Getting games in your language doesn’t need to be a challenge. If you live in a country where your target language is spoken, it’s as simple as walking down to the nearest game or electronics store. But if you don’t, Steam is one of the best alternatives.
Steam is an online gaming platform that gives you access to an incredible selection of games for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. And the best part? You can filter all of those games by language.
And, not only can you search for games by language, but you can also search by games developed in specific countries. That means you can find games developed by the country of your target language, ensuring that you get high-quality content in your language.
When all else fails, or if you’re into some of the more classic games like me, you can always buy a game console from the region that speaks your target language. You may need to buy converters or adaptors so that you can power it on safely, but it’s a great way to get around having to tweak settings or worry about what’s available and what isn’t.
Some games also have player-generated subtitles or audio that you can download. These aren’t always the best quality, but depending on what is available otherwise, might sometimes be better than nothing.
Level 3: Types of Games and Their Content
Not sure if video games are your thing? Don’t worry.
There are tons of different types of games out there and there’s a good chance you’ll find something you think is entertaining and engaging. Here are just a few of the game genres out on the market:
Online Multiplayer Games
First, I’ll cover a broad genre of video game. Many of the genres below can also be online multiplayer games (though not all). What’s the difference?
With online multiplayer games, you interact with other players within the game (rather than play by yourself). In some of these games, you may work as a part of a team and in others, you may just “run into” other players as you progress through the game. These types of games also have chat features, so you are able to interact with other players in the game beyond any in-game dialogue or actions.
Some of the most popular games in this genre are World of Warcraft and League of Legends.
If you enjoy a good story with some interactivity, interactive movies and visual novels are a great option. These games are often called “interactive fiction” and they contain a lot of dialogue.
Popular games in this genre include Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, and even Myst.
Action games cover a wide variety of options – everything from platform games (like Donkey Kong) to first person shooters (like Call of Duty). These games rely on the response of the player, so you may often find yourself more focused on the gameplay than the language content.
Popular games in this genre include Super Mario, Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and Doom.
RPG games, or role playing games, feature a character who moves through a storyline. The world often includes monsters, towns, dungeons, and castles, as well as character development (leveling up, gaining skills, and experience). Often, the player has a choice in how the unfolds and this is determined by how they interact in the world.
Games in this genre include The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Skyrim.
Simulation games are games where some aspect of fantasy or related is simulated. This may include running a business, a city, vehicle simulation or life simulation.
Some of these games include FlightGear, the Sims, SimCity, and Tamagotchi.
Strategy games are games that require critical thinking and planning in order to win the game. This often include games with battle tactics and other war-games.
Within this genre are games such as Civilizations, Age of Empires, and Fire Emblem.
Sports games include racing games, sports and competitive games, and sports-based fighting games. They are a form of simulation games, but specifically built around sports.
Within this genre are games like FIFA, Pong, and Grand Turismo.
Games for Children
There are many educational games targeted at children, but just because they’re built for a younger audience doesn’t mean that you won’t get a lot out of them.
Companies like Nickelodeon and Disney have a wide variety of games for younger players in other languages (Juegos Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. France, or Disney Japan). Because the games are simple and targeted towards an audience with a limited vocabulary (relatively), they’re an easy entry point and often very educational. https://kids.disney.co.jp/game.html
Language Learning Games
In addition to playing games in other languages, you can play games that are designed for language learners specifically.
These games are still focused on acquiring a new language, but they’re presented as a part of an engaging platform.
In this genre, you have games like InFluent, Drops, and My Chinese Coach.
Text Rich Games VS Games with Little Text
When selecting games, bear in mind that the content you can use for language learning will differ drastically. Some games will have more audio dialogue, others more written instructions, and others still a mixture of the two. Depending on the language you’re learning and the stage you’re at, having a lot of audio content can be extremely helpful. It encourages to work on your listening comprehension. On the other hand, if you’re a beginner in your language, playing a game with mostly audio instructions may prove too much of a challenge and a game with a lot of text dialogue may be better suited to your level.
If you’re not sure what the audio and text content of a certain game will be like, you can do a search on Youtube for “[name of game] gameplay” to get a quick impression of what the game is like.
A point worth noting is that it is good to try out a variety of game types so that you’re sure to get a mix of audio and text input.
Level 4: How to Use That Content to Learn a Language
Now that you know what your options are for games, here’s how you can get the most out of your combined gaming and language learning experience:
Join a community of some sort. Whether it’s the community of an online multiplayer game or the forums on Steam, there’s likely a community of gamers who speak your target language. Find them and take part in the conversation.
If the game is online, choose servers where your language is spoken. Several years ago, I played an online game on my phone where joining a guild was critical to your success in the game. I found that if I joined the French servers, it was a great opportunity for me to practice French.
Try your best to use your target language. Even if the people you interact with speak English, do your best to keep the conversation in the language you’re learning.
Play at times when players from the country that speaks your language are online. You’re more likely to have a chance to interact with them.
Play a game where some of the vocabulary intersects with how you use the language outside of gaming. For example, a game like the Sims is great for learning the names of everyday objects whereas a game like Fancy Skiing might be a better option if one of your hobbies is skiing.
Experiment with the text and audio in the game. Because many games let you set one language for text and another language for audio, you can play with these settings to maximize your comprehension.
Make sure you choose a game that you enjoy because you’re most likely to learn from a game that you enjoy playing.
Just playing the game won’t teach you the language. You need to engage with the game and look up unfamiliar words. I usually add any frequent, unfamiliar words to my Memrise decks and do a bit of review between play sessions.
Level 5: Going Beyond the Games Themselves
Beyond the games themselves, there are tons of ways to use gaming and the gaming community to work on your language.
Not only will the following methods help you get more exposure to your language, but it will also give you the chance to produce in the language (speak and write).
Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube Games
Twitch, Mixer and YouTube Games are online streaming services that many gamers use to share their playing. And the best part – you can find game vloggers who speak a variety of languages.
When using this platform, the best way to find streams in your target language is by looking up the name of the games that interest you in your target language. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is by looking up a game on Wikipedia and then changing the article language. So, for example, the Legend of Zelda in Korean would be 젤다의 전설. I can then use that to search for streams about Zelda in Korean. You can then favorite the channels so that you can follow their game streams in the future.
Twitch and Mixer, in particular, allow streamers to set their broadcast language. And that means you can search for streams by language.
And since it’s slightly more difficult to find YouTube gamers by language, here are just a few to get you started:
Because the gaming community is so large, there are tons of communities around the world that start up discussions about the games that they enjoy.
One particular forum style site is Reddit. There, you can find several threads about games in different languages such as French, Spanish or German.
Walkthroughs are available as either text or video. For example, Beam is a German gamer who provides detailed walkthroughs in German and on Next Stage, you can find French game walkthroughs. The popular gaming site IGN is also available in a wide selection of languages, and they have very well written walkthroughs for a large number of games.
In addition to all of the above, there are also game blogs and review sites where you can read about the games that you enjoy (or find out about new games) like this one in French. http://hitek.fr/test/ubisoft-assassins-creed-origins_1479
To Sum Up: Choose Wisely
In gaming, there are a lot of ways you can get exposure to your language, but there’s one thing worth noting before you dive in.
Before converting your study time over to games, consider what your goals are in learning the language. While it may be fun to play certain games, not all of the language you learn may be useable outside of the gaming environment.
For example, some games use a lot of fantasy (or invented) vocabulary, others have a lot of words that focus on weapons or attacks, while others still may be strictly sports vocabulary.
It’s alright to choose games that cover this territory if it’s something you’re interested in (and that you’ll discuss). Plus, you’ll pick up some grammar along the way. But if you’d like to have conversations about anything not covered in a game, make sure that it’s not the only thing you do.
By complementing your other resources with video games, you can banish the guilt from procrastination, inject a bit of genuine fun into your learning, and master niche and varied language by actually using it to get epic wins!
What about you?
Do you play games in your language? What games do you play and in which languages? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Learning a language can be challenging. It takes time and effort. And sometimes, you can’t help but wonder what you were thinking when you started. But what if language learning could be fun? What if you could watch your favorite tv series while you learn?
This is exactly what I’ve done with Netflix. I’ve found a way to use it to my advantage, and I want to share it with you.
Why Learn a Language with Netflix?
Today, Netflix is one of the most convenient ways to indulge in our latest tv obsessions. With over 125 million subscribers it is also one of the most popular ways to stream the latest and greatest.
Not only can you choose from a huge range of series, movies, and documentaries, but you can also watch whatever you want from wherever you want. Even offline.
With series from all over the world and movies in many different languages it is very easy to find something in the language you want and with subtitles in different languages.
It is also as easy to switch audio and subtitle languages as you’re watching. You have the freedom to try out any number of subtitle and audio combinations in real time.
We Use Netflix Either Way, So Why Not Use It Wisely?
On average, people spend one and a half hours a day watching something Netflix. So why not use that time wisely by learning a language while you do it? With Netflix, you have the ability to do it your way – with a series you’re already watching or by indulging in something new in its original language.
By watching a series from a country where the language you want to learn is spoken, you will not only learn the language but also get insight into the people who speak it and the culture tied to it.
Are you sold on the benefits?
Great. You may now find yourself wondering just how to use Netflix to learn a language. Listening is a very important part of that strategy.
You may know a ton of words in your language by sight, but if someone talks to you and you don’t understand him what good does that knowledge do you?
This is why Netflix is a great way to get exposure to the language and to boost your listening. Plus, you can use it to boost your vocabulary.
And the best part is, by watching tv series, that vocabulary includes useful words you might never learn in a book or app.
Who is Learning with Netflix for?
Netflix can be used at any stage in your learning. In the beginning, you can use it to start getting used to the way language sounds, its rhythm and how its really used by native speakers.
Over time, you’ll have the chance to improve your listening comprehension and really start to understand people when they speak. You will also get used to processing the language at a normal speed as spoken by native speakers.
As you progress, you can use Netflix to pick up new vocabulary. This is great not just because you’ll learn the everyday words you need, but also the colloquial way of speaking from native people. You will learn common expressions you might not otherwise get exposure to without visiting the country.
Once you can speak the language, watching tv series is a great way to keep up your exposure to the language.
The Netflix “School” of Language Learning
Let’s jump into how I have used Netflix to learn.
I started learning Portuguese and used Netflix a lot to help me. Now I am able to understand a lot, and because this method is so effective, I’ve also started to use it with Korean.
The first step is to find a series that you want to watch. I recommend finding a series that covers an area or genre you’re interested in. And it should originally be in the language you want to learn (not an overdub).
By doing this, you avoid poor translations and picking up any inaccuracies. It is also a great way to learn more about the language’s culture.
Because you are going to use it as a learning tool, you won’t want to watch a lot of episodes at once. No binge-watching here! You should also have pen and paper ready.
Using this method, you will watch short segments of the series. Usually in the range of 5 minutes. I recommend no longer than 10 minutes at a time, especially at the beginning.
Once you’ve selected the series you want to watch, it is time to start watching. The first time you tune in, you are going to watch the series in its original version (the language you want to learn) with subtitles also in the original language.
In Round One, the rules are simple. Just watch and do your best to understand what is happening through context. This round is so that you can start getting used to the sounds of the language.
As you improve in the language, you can do this first time without subtitles.
Round Two is all about understanding what is being said in full. This means that this time around, you’ll change the subtitles into your native language.
This time you will understand everything, maybe not in the language that you want to learn, but you will know what the series is about and what is happening because you are reading it in your native language.
You might have understood some things the first time you watched it, or some you thought you did but were not sure. Now you will realize how much you actually understood the first time.
In Round Three, you will watch it again in the language you want to learn with subtitles in the same language. This time have pen and paper ready. Plan to hit pause a few times as you’re watching.
When you begin this time, one of the first things you’ll notice is that you understand more than the first time you listened. Thanks to reading the second pass in your native language, you can now understand a few words.
On this third viewing, you are going to hit pause every time you have trouble understanding. Rewind and write down the phrase you had trouble with. Because you’re using the subtitles, you will have the subtitles to reference as you’re writing.
Even though it may feel as though you’re writing down a lot, take pride in the fact that you’re writing down far less than you would have if you had done this step in Round One.
Translating the Words
Now that you have written all the words down, it’s time to translate them. Look for the translation on the internet or on a dictionary (not by watching again with the subtitles in your native language).
This way the words will stick because you’re giving them a new context.
Do this for about 5 to 10 minutes. The shorter amount of time you do this, the more you can focus, and the easier this task will be.
As you understand more, you will need to write fewer words, so if you’re up for the challenge, you can always increase the time.
Once this step is done, you can watch the entire episode once more (without having to pause) so that you enjoy the entire storyline uninterrupted and with greater understanding.
At Which Stage Can I Start This Method?
When you start this method depends a bit on which language you are learning. The more similar it is to your native language (or a language you already know), the more manageable this method is.
If it is similar to a language you already know (and with the same writing system), you can start right away. That’s what I did with Portuguese. Since I knew Spanish, I was able to start using this method on Day 1.
If I were learning a more distant language like Polish, on the other hand, I would wait to start after I knew a few basic words or phrases. I would also likely start with a kids show or a “soft” comedy with more accessible vocabulary.
For languages with a different writing system, I’d do the following…
Learning Korean with the Netflix School of Language Learning
Up to this point, I’ve discussed this method generally. That way, you can apply it to any language. I focused only on using it with languages which are similar to those I already know, but now, I’m going to dive deep and share how I’m applying this same method with Korean.
Why is it different with Korean?
With Korean, the most notable difference is the new writing system. When learning a language with a different writing system, it means you have to deal with subtitles using that writing system. So you need to know how to read it.
Another thing that can make this very complicated, especially for people that have never had contact with a language this distant from their own, is that it will sound very different. There are fewer cognates and loanwords, so they’ll be less vocabulary you’ll recognize by association. Very often, it will sound more like random sounds than words. It’s difficult to figure out when a word starts or finishes.
At least at the beginning…
How to Apply Learning With Netflix to Korean
You might be wondering whether or not it’s possible to use this method with Korean. My answer? A resounding yes!
My only tip is to wait just a little bit longer along your language learning journey to apply it.
Since the writing system is different, I first recommend taking some time getting acquainted with it. Before beginning, I recommend being comfortable the letters or characters (even if you don’t understand what you’re reading). If not, there is no way that you will be able to follow along with the subtitles.
The Korean alphabet is pretty easy to learn. And bonus – while getting familiar with the alphabet, you’ll pick up a lot of words and phrases.
When you start to apply the Netflix method, this is great because you’ll already understand some Korean.
Once you’ve become comfortable reading you can start applying the method, in the same way, I explained before.
Why Learning a Language with Netflix Works
Listening is a very important part of the language learning process. You need to be able to understand what other people say to you in order to be able to converse and use your language.
It can often be difficult to get exposure to language so that you’re ready to use it when the occasion arises.
That’s why watching a series or films is so effective. It’s something that you can do easily from the comfort of your couch.
You also get to hear how people speak, the expressions they use and the more colloquial way of speaking.
When I was learning English, I watched every movie and every tv series I could in the original version. In result, my listening comprehension skills allowed me to understand everything I heard when people talked to me.
Of course, to really converse, you’ll also need to practice speaking. But using this method to boost your listening skills is a great way to get started along the right path.
Learning with Netflix works. And it’s a fun way to learn — better than the usual listening material aimed at learners.
You can choose what you want to watch. And by choosing something that interests you, you’re more motivated to learn.
If you find movies and a series that you really like, you’ll be eager to understand without subtitles. You can more fully immerse yourself in the story that way. That’s certainly the case for me with Korean.
If you’re already watching stuff on Netflix, it’s simple to start using that time wisely. What better way to learn a new language than by enjoying your favorite tv series?
If you try it out let me know what you think. I’d love to hear if it helps you and if you have any suggestions for improving this method. Let me know what language you are learning in the comments below.
About the Author:I am Carla and speak 4 languages, and I am on the journey to learning my 5th. Together with Oliver, I run Exciting Adventure where we share our journey on becoming digital nomads, as well as travel and language learning tips. I believe that everybody should do what they love and that is why I started the blog.
Every language has its own share of proverbs. Knowing a few in your language can give the impression that you’re well-versed in the culture that speaks it.
In my studies, I’ve had the pleasure of coming across a wide range of proverbs in different languages. Whether they’re the chengyu in Chinese, idiomatic expressions, some other adage, it’s clear that many of our values are shared across the globe.
“Even though you know a thousand things, ask the man who knows one.” | “Bin bilsen de bir bilene danış.” – Turkish proverb
“The pillow is a good advisor.” | “A noite é boa conselheira.” – Portuguese proverb
“We learn as long as we live.” | “Sarron, aq mëson – Sa të rrosh, do të mësosh.” – Albanian proverb
“Drop by drop, a lake becomes.” | “Капка по капка – вир става.” – Bulgarian proverb
“A problem shared is a problem halved.” | “Gemeene plaag rust wel.” – Dutch proverb
“No cliff is so tall it cannot be climbed.” | “A’ohe pu’u ki’eki’e ke ho’a’o ‘ia e pi’i.” – Hawaiin proverb
“Wait too long and the opportunity is sure to vanish.” | “Okazja na nikogo nie czeka.” – Polish proverb
What about you?
Have you come across any inspiring proverbs or expressions in your language studies? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Engaging with the language that we’re learning in meaningful ways is not important to our learning the language, but also to staying motivated, connecting with the language, and learning more about the culture.
Discovering music, podcasts, books, tv shows, and movies in Spanish is an amazing way to dive into the language.
But how do you know just what native source material to choose?
Hopes high, you take to Google hoping to find great Spanish books or tv shows, but lo and behold, the majority of the suggested material is what we politely call ‘classic’. In other words, it’s old.
You wanted recommendations for songs, tv shows, books or podcasts in Spanish that are fresh, relevant and up-to-date. Not some list that’s been passed around by generations of Spanish learners without ever once getting an update.
Today, Tamara is here to help.
Today, I’m excited to share a post from Tamara Marie. She’s worked hard to curate this list of 10 Spanish books, 10 Spanish songs, 10 Spanish podcasts and 10 Spanish tv shows that are not only interesting and relevant, but they also contain language that is suitable for those at the beginning level all the way up to the advanced level with straightforward vocabulary.
Take it away, Tamara!
10 Spanish Songs for Spanish Language Learners
Latin music has a special place in my heart because it helped me to learn Spanish and shed my fear of speaking. Learning Spanish with music is a great strategy to learn proper pronunciation, new vocabulary, and understand the culture. And it doesn’t hurt that you’ll know the songs at your next party with Spanish-speaking friends.
Here are 10 songs I recommend for Spanish learners that will boost your vocabulary and give you a better understanding of Latino culture:
1. Stand By Me by Prince Royce
I’ll admit I usually don’t like translations of songs originally in English, but this bilingual version of Stand By Me by Prince Royce is pretty well done. The song is slow and is already translated for you since he switches seamlessly between Spanish and English, sometimes in the same line. A great song. (Note: If you don’t know the original by Ben E. King, check it out here.)
2. No Hago Ma’ Na’
This salsa by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico gives you a ton of examples of reflective verbs. You’ll just have to take a minute to get used to the accent, but once you do you’ll love the song. It makes me think about retiring and buying a beach house. (Note: Ma’ Na’ is Puerto Rican speak for “más nada”)
3. Ojala Que Llueva Café
You may have guessed from the title, but this merengue song by Juan Luis Guerra will help you practice the subjunctive. This song is about his hopes for bringing prosperity to el campo (the countryside) in the Dominican Republic.
4. Pedro Navaja
This is a classic salsa song by the iconic Ruben Blades. It tells a story that unfolds on the streets of New York. You’ll learn a lot of Spanish sayings and expressions in this song, and the story will keep you engaged until the end.
This is a song by Luis Fonsi that you should know because of its popularity. The vocabulary isn’t exactly G-rated, so I wouldn’t recommend this song is you’re a teacher looking for a song to teach to your class. But the lyrics are flirty and fun, and you get bonus points if you can understand what Daddy Yankee is saying.
If you’re looking for a challenge, this classic bachata song by the now defunct group Aventura will definitely test your listening skills. The chorus is pretty simple to understand, but the lyrics tell a story that you’ll have to pay attention to closely to figure out what happens.
7. El Rey
I discovered this Vicente Fernandez song when I was at a party and found out that everyone knew this song but me. This is one of those cultural things that you probably wouldn’t get if you didn’t grow up in a Spanish-speaking household. So if you want to be in on the next sing-a-long, you’ll want to learn this one.
8. Cuando Salí de Cuba
This Celia Cruz song is a blast from the past. Its lyrics are slow, so you should be able to understand most of it. It gives you an emotional sense of how Cubans who left the island felt about their homeland. I think anyone who has moved or been homesick at some point can understand this feeling.
9. Nadie Como Ella
This Marc Anthony song is about a woman he’s enamored with (like most Marc Anthony songs). The language is on the informal side, but it’s a great song for Spanish learners because it’s pretty easy to understand the lyrics.
10. La Rebelión
This Joe Arroyo salsa song teaches you about Colombian history while making you want to dance at the same time, no easy feat. The song is about a slave rebellion in 17th century Cartagena.
10 Spanish Language Books
One of my favorite things to do when I’m driving is listening to audiobooks. And pairing up an audiobook with the written version can be a killer combo for improving your Spanish vocabulary. Books are great because they have rich vocabulary and stories that engage you. I’ve found a ton of great Spanish audiobooks on Audible.com. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Ágilmente by Estanislao Bachrach
This book’s subtitle says it all: learn how your brain functions to enhance your creativity and live better. This book gives a unique take on how our brains evolved and how to adapt to modern life.
2. Stranger by Jorge Ramos
In Latino media in the United States, it’s hard to avoid the topic of immigration. This book by Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos tells the tale of what it means to be an immigrant living in the US. He talks about identity and the feeling of being a stranger in your own country.
3. Los 7 Habitos de la Gente Altamente Efectiva by Stephen Covey
The Spanish version of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is worth checking out. Covey shares some great principles to live by. If you majored in business in college, this book was probably required reading. Even if you’re already familiar with the principles, this book will help you learn how to talk about them in Spanish.
4. La Reina del Sur by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
This thriller tells the story of Teresa Mendoza, whose life changes when she gets a call that her drug smuggler boyfriend is dead. She has to learn how to survive in his absence, and learns how to find her own way. The story was also made into a popular TV series.
5. Padre Rico, Padre Pobre by Robert T. Kiyosaki
The Spanish translation of Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a good choice because it teaches some fundamental financial management principles through stories. You’ll also expand your Spanish vocabulary as it relates to personal finance.
6. El Hombre en Busca de Sentido by Viktor Frankl
The English version of this book is Man’s Search for Meaning, and it’s one of the most recommended books of all time. It tells the story of how Frankl found meaning and purpose in life despite living in a Nazi concentration camp.
7. Cómo Ganar Amigos e Influir Sobre las Personas by Dale Carnegie
This is the Spanish version of the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s worth reading (and of course, listening to the audiobook) because it teaches some fundamentals of interpersonal relationships and will expand your Spanish vocabulary in this area.
8. La Chica del Tren
This book is about a girl who’s daily routine of taking the train suddenly changes. A suspenseful story about the life of a couple that lives in an apartment nearby the train station.
9. Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
No list of Spanish book recommendations would be complete without Don Quijote. This book is a classic in Spain and the narration in the audiobook is almost like a movie production. It tells the tales of Don Quijote’s adventures throughout Spain.
10. El Alquimista
This book is a classic tale about a boy named Santiago on a journey where he learns many life lessons. It’s one of Paulo Cohelo’s most popular books and is a must-read.
10 Spanish Language TV Shows
There is a ton of Spanish content on TV…you just have to know where to look. In the US, you can find plenty of telenovelas, news shows, sports, and kids programming on both the Univision and Telemundo networks.
Expert Tip: Call your cable provider and ask for the Latino package to get more Spanish language channel options. You’ll find the prices are comparable to your current package, but you’ll just have more Spanish exposure!
Here are 10 series you will find entertaining, addictive, and informative. Most importantly, they’ll increase your Spanish exposure and help you improve or maintain your level of fluency.
This series is loosely based on the life of beloved Cuban singer Celia Cruz. The characters and story will have you hooked from the first capítulo (episode), and you’ll also learn some Cuban Spanish words like asere (buddy, amigo). The accent may take getting used to, and spoiler alert: the real life romance between Celia and Pedro wasn’t nearly as colorful as presented in the series.
Note: Celia originally aired on Telemundo in 2015 and is available on Netflix at the time of this writing. I’d recommend, however, that you view the series on the Telemundo website because you’ll be able to turn on closed captioning in Spanish.
Kate del Castillo stars in this Netflix original series, a political drama based in Mexico City. It begins with Castillo, who plays the first lady of Mexico, experiencing a shocking event that she spends the rest of the series trying to reconcile. You’ll be exposed to the Mexican accent and slang, and after the first episode I challenge you not to binge watch the whole series.
Narcos is the wildly popular Netflix series about drug traffickers. Although the lead actor who plays Pablo Escobar in the first season is actually Brazilian and only learned Spanish to play the role, the series is based in Colombia. The family scenes are laughable if you’re looking for an authentic Colombian accent. Instead, you’ll hear a variety of accents from throughout Latin America, but you’ll be so into the story you won’t really care. The narration is in English but some of the scenes are in Spanish. This is about drug trafficking so it’s full of cursing and violence, but the stories about Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel are intriguing nonetheless.
It’s hard to avoid the topic of drug trafficking in Latin American TV shows. But if you watch Narcos and find that you want a more in-depth, authentic take on the story you’ll want to check out this series. It’s 100% in Spanish and covers some nuances and details that Narcos does not.
This original and quirky show gives you a comical look at some of history’s most infamous figures. The series recounts stories from their lives with hilarious reenactments (picture Ben Franklin with abs of steel). Good for a laugh when you have some downtime.
This series isn’t about rum and coke with a twist of lime. It tells you the story of Cuba’s struggle for freedom beyond Castro’s infamous 1959 revolution. I’m glad I watched this before my visit to Cuba, since it tells the country’s history from their perspective. Make sure you watch the Spanish version, although you’ll still hear English, German, and French in some of the interviews.
It’s impossible to talk about Spanish TV shows without includes some telenovelas (soap operas). Sometimes criticized for being almost exclusively Mexican with lighter-skinned actors, and overly dramatic, they are still quite popular and a cultural phenomenon that you really can’t ignore. This Mexican telenovela is about yet another drug trafficker in the post-Escobar era.
This series has a cult following and is originally shot in British English. Think of it as The Twilight Zone 2.0, where everything from online dating to prison is given a technological twist that will have you scratching your head. It’s such a great series, and you can watch it dubbed in Spanish. It’s actually done pretty well unlike some where the voices don’t seem to match the characters and are overly dramatic.
Caution: If you’re going to watch this (or any other show for that matter) with Spanish subtitles, be mindful that the words on the screen often won’t match the words being said by the characters. I think the creators assume that if you’re watching the show in one language, you’d only need subtitles in another language. This can be mildly annoying, but you’ll still get the general idea of the story.
10 Spanish Language Podcasts
Podcasts have engaging stories, newsworthy content, and interesting conversations. Once you’re done listening to podcasts made for language learners, check out these podcasts that are 100% in español.
If you like podcasts, you’ll want to download the iVoox app. It has a great selection of Spanish language podcasts.
1. Te Invito Un Café
I listen to this podcast every morning on my way to work. The host Robert Sasuke broadcasts a new episode every weekday morning from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A psychologist and consultant, Sasuke covers a broad array of topics around self-improvement, relationships, and entrepreneurship. It’s a great way to start the day.
2. ¡Buenos días, Mundo! with host Oliver Oliva
¡Buenos días, Mundo! with host Oliver Oliva is an upbeat, energizing podcast. Topics from health to science and technology are covered in a humorous way that can make even the most dull topics intriguing.
3. DIAS EXTRAÑOS con Santiago Camacho
This podcast covers a range of interesting concepts through conversation and interviews. The host is from Spain so it will also help you get used to the European accent.
4. Somos Afrobolivianos
Alejando Guitierraz hosts this podcast the celebrates Afrolatino culture in Bolivia. It’s a dirty little secret in some parts of South America that huge populations of descendants of Africa have been suppressed and even erased from history. There is an ongoing effort to elevate and celebrate these populations.
5. Potencial Millionario
A personal finance podcast by successful Mexican entrepreneur Felix Montelara. In Dave Ramsey style, he gives practical financial tips and makes the information accessible to listeners. You’ll improve your finances and your Spanish at the same time ☺.
6. TED Talks (Spanish)
Hear the latest Spanish-language TED talks on this podcast. TED (technology, entertainment, design) is a network of conferences where speakers discuss interesting topics that the organizers call “ideas worth spreading” in 18 minutes or less.
7. Liderazgo Hoy
This podcast is hosted by Venezuelan entrepreneur Victor Hugo Manzanilla. He draws on his experience from working in management in Proctor & Gamble and advice from well-known experts to give practical advice on leadership and professional development.
8. Conocimiento Experto
Each episode of this podcast summarizes the key concepts in books by experts. This is a good way to save yourself time and get exposed to a variety of topics. And if you want to go deeper, you can always pick up a copy of the books covered in this podcast.
9. Historias del Más Allá
If you like mysteries and scary stories, this podcast is for you. The host Rubén García Castillo announced in a tweet that after listening to this show, you won’t be able to sleep with the lights off. The show tells stories “from beyond” and he even takes callers that tell their own stories live on the show. A great pick for Halloween.
10. Radio Ambulante
Saving the best for last, Radio Ambulante is a staple among Spanish learners because it’s so language learner-friendly. Not only do they provide full transcripts of each show in English and Spanish, but they also have a Vimeo channel with videos with audio and real-time transcriptions. This podcast explores a variety of interesting topics and tells stories from throughout Latin America.
What about you?
What are some Spanish native materials you’ve used to up your ability in the language?
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
About the author: Tamara Marie is a Certified Neurolanguage™ Coach and founder of SpanishConSalsa.com, a website that teaches Spanish with Latin music. Tamara is a language lover, proud mom, and self-described dance addict. She taught herself Spanish as an adult after being frustrated with language learning in an academic setting. She trained with Efficient Language Coaching in 2016 and obtained her language coaching certification to specialize in brain-friendly methods that accelerate fluency. Tamara is from the United States and speaks English, Spanish, and has started learning Brazilian Portuguese. Tamara is a lifelong learner and loves helping people learn languages.
Eurolinguiste is a for-profit blog, meaning that I occasionally work with brands who compensate me for my time. All products or services that I endorse or review are products or services that I would use even without being paid, and my opinions are my own.
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