What do you do when you can’t go to an institute to learn a language or don’t have the time to sit and learn the language? Well, let the language follow you around and permeate your day to day life, instead.
I’d like to thank you, Michael, for your question on the previous post, it prompted me to write this hack sooner! 🙂
How can we practically incorporate language learning in our day to day lives?
I believe that sometimes it’s not that the language is too hard, but that we haven’t spent enough time with it, despite what we tell ourselves.
Making the time to learn a language might be one of our biggest challenges in our fluency mission.
The nice, but not very effective ways
One of the most obvious, and yet not necessarily effective ways, would be to listen to a song or an audio book in the language you want to learn while you go about doing your stuff throughout the day.
The problem with this method, I’m afraid, is that it’s often done mindlessly, especially if the audio is playing in the background and we are carrying on a different activity.
What often happens is that we intermittently switch in and out, one second we are listening and the five minutes after it we are lost in our thoughts.
There is a big difference between purposefully and attentively studying a song or a dialogue in an audio book and then actively rehearsing it while you are on your way to work; as opposed to using the song as a background music and hoping you’ll understand what the lyrics or the plot is about, eventually.
In addition to that, you might also have already heard about the tip on watching news/movies in swedish, or changing the interface of your mobile and computer to hebrew if those are the languages you are attempting to learn.
But what I’d like to introduce you to here are two other ways in which you can incorporate the language in your day to day life actively.
The problem with the previous methods is that for the most part, you are the receiver and not the doer, you are mostly (hopefully) listening.
I believe that with more carefully selected and carried on actions taken on our part, the closer the goal of language mastery lays. With the two methods I’ll present, you are the hero. On addition to that, the beauty of it is that you can practice all day long, as long as you want and without anyone noticing that something is going on, if that’s what you want.
METHOD A – NAME CALLING
Often, when we are learning new vocabulary, we learn them depending on the content of our resources. That’s actually very impractical, what we should be doing instead tailor the vocabulary to our personal needs. You should make sure you are able to be able to name every single object that surrounds you in your target language, versus every single word that is mentioned on your book.
I know that seems a no-brainer now, but we are so used to learn languages in the classroom way that we forget that learning a language should be a practical matter, communication requires few essential elements, not a ton of interesting but superfluous vocabulary.
It might be okay for a classroom teacher to teach general stuff, after all, it would require so much time to learn about what each student needs. But when you are studying on your own you have the advantage of being able to set your own pace and curriculum.
I feel that sometimes we go about learning as if we were in a platonic relationship: we focus on the ideal of learning the language instead of actually learning it.
Okay, I’ll stop with my rant and get back to the method: name each of your surrounding object in your target language. Because you see these things everyday of your life, you gain an amazing opportunity to review vocabulary on the go. Starting from a couple of objects, make an action that is related to the object and make a sentence with it in German, in my case.
Ex. : I touch the table, I sit on the chair, I hold the keys.
As a bonus, make sure that you actually do those action at it will stimulate different parts of your brain and thus will more likely remain longer in your memory.
Don’t be afraid to do absurd things with the objects, the opposite, the more absurd the action, the more vividly the images and sounds will be impressed in your memory.
Ex: I drink my phone, I hear the walls, i tickle the keys.
METHOD B – THE NARRATOR (OR THE VOICE OVER ;))
Write down what your usual day is like. There is a high chance that most of the things that you do are routine actions and habits that you lived with most of your adult life.
Ex: Wake up at 7 am, brush your teeth, make coffe, wash dishes, put on clothes, open/close the door, make a call, etc,,,
Starting from a couple of actions at a time, make sure that you translate what you do everyday into your target language and whenever you do it, describe out loud or to yourself the action that you are performing in German, for example.
Over a period of weeks you should be able to nonchalantly go about your day and, as a result of pure repetition, be perfectly confident to describe in details how you spent your day.
Once you get good at this, you can go on the next level and describe the actions as if you were a narrator, so instead of saying “I do such and such”, you would say “he makes breakfast”, “Linda calls her mom”, or “they are going out for a walk”. Might be a bit weird but I bet once you see how much your language skills improve, you won’t mind a bit of weirdness in your life.
Next level? Once you mastered describing the action in the present tense, try narrating the action in the past tense or in the future. If you get really good at it, go on and try the conditional tense, and if you want some more weirdness try using the imperative! That would be definitely fun to watch!
If you missed the first language hack with Duolingo, check it out here.