6 ways to improve your language skills for free

Published by flag- Juan Álvarez — one year ago

Blog: Erasmusu Blog
Tags: General

6 ways to improve your languages skills for free

The polyglot world is becoming more and more competitive, so anything you can do to give yourself the edge, accelerate the learning process and improve your language skills is a great idea, even more if it's for free.

There are countless little ways in which to improve your skills and you are the best person to decide which ones work for you and which don’t. Some aspiring multilinguals put post-it notes around their houses to remember objects; some people make their own personalised associations with words. However, we’ve whittled it down to the 6 main options to improve your language skills that you have at your disposal. The rest is up to you...

1. Free courses

Believe it or not, there are lots of free courses for learning a language; however they are almost exclusively for learning the language of the country you are in. Usually, they are provided by the government to help people integrate into the culture. However, if you are not currently living in the country of the language you want to learn, then it may be more difficult. Often you can find heavily discounted courses when academies or companies are training their new teachers.

If you’re willing to go online there are many free courses. They are of varying quality but it’s definitely worth having a look at what’s on offer. You should find them with a simple Google search.

2. YouTube channels

Depending on what language you’re looking to learn, you will find a varying amount of support on YouTube. If you are learning one of the more widely spoken languages (Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese, for example), then you shouldn’t struggle to find online help. There are channels dedicated to teaching people languages, but YouTube as a regular way to learn is quite hard to maintain in terms of discipline. With no routine or reminder, this resource quickly goes cold if you don’t commit to it. Having said that, the opportunity is there for you to take advantage of.

3. A notebook

There are certain types of people, like me, who really struggle to remember something until they’ve written it down. It’s usually not enough to just hear the word, we have to visualise it. A notebook is especially useful if you are in the country of the language you are learning, as you are surrounded by people who can help you most of the time. It is really frustrating when you try to remember a word or grammar rule and you know that it is already slipping from your memory. If I don’t have a notebook to write it down then the word will disappear from my memory within the hour. A good accompaniment to a notebook is a good translation app. Deepl works well but there are others available; this way, when you hear a new word on the metro or in the street you can learn it practically, in context and make a note of it.

4. Language exchanges

This is when two or more people with different native languages exchange conversation with the other person. The idea is that you want to learn their language and they want to learn yours. The great thing is that it’s free! This is a fantastic way to meet new people and to practise your language skills with like-minded people. Language exchanges are all about not being shy in front of a native, if you can accept the fact that you will make mistakes then this is an invaluable resource, and they often work best if the two people have similar levels of the language they want to learn. If you live in a city, there will be native speakers of the language you want to learn... You just need to find them. Facebook groups are definitely the easiest way but websites such as Meetup also work really well.

5. Apps

The technology age has brought most of the world’s information to our fingertips and the learning of languages is no exception. There are many free language learning Apps on offer, but probably the most famous is Duolingo, which combines pictures with simple exercises and also reminds you to complete a section daily, emphasising the importance of perseverance. Most apps combine grammar with games or simple images to make the process of learning very visual and interactive. But, like the YouTube videos, it is hard to maintain discipline in completing a section every day – and doing it every day is essential for effective learning. These apps are designed like this. Little and often, is the best way to go about improving your language skills through apps. Maybe you could download all the free ones you find, see which one works the best for you and delete the other ones once you’ve made a decision.

6. Immersion (Books TV and Music)

To really master a language or any skill, you need to make it a big part of your life. So that means buying a book in German, or watching a French TV show, or listening to Spanish songs – whatever it is, immerse yourself and learn to love it. Get addicted to a series and you’ll want to watch it and you will forget you’re even learning. Enjoy the music and look up the lyrics after; but out of interest, not because you feel like you should be trying to learn. Read books about things that interest you, and even if your level is very low, there are always simpler texts to read. Try to start by watching cartoons with subtitles (first in English, then later in Spanish) and reading children’s books in Spanish, apart from making you feel massively nostalgic, it will produce great results, and good results lead to higher confidence and confidence is the absolute key to language learning.

Each of these tactics for perfecting and learning a language, are about more than just studying: they’re about loving what you’re learning - especially the last point. People can have 15 years of mandatory language classes at school without being able to construct the simplest sentence. Why? Because they don’t want to learn. Passion is a catalyst for learning and it also makes the process a pleasure. As soon as you can shift your mindset from learning a language being something that you have to do, to something you want, or even need to do, that is when all the above things will naturally grow into a part of your daily life and you will achieve the best results.

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