The other day somebody in one of the language groups on Facebook that I am member of asked, “What are some of the methods you use to learn a language?”.

Well, here is my very very very short answer in 🇬🇧 and 🇮🇹, adapted to the Instagram Reel reality of 30 seconds. Enjoy the video(s) or you can also continue reading under them.

Get ready for me on an English High Speed Train and/or an Italian Frecciarossa.

⭐ Music. A lot of music.

⭐ Singing along with the songs of The Lion King in every language I know. These songs are usually the first ones I turn to when I start a new language.

⭐ Reading Le Petit Prince in every language I study. Every time I read it, I discover something new.

⭐ Rereading books I really like in my new language(s): Angels and Demons, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Crusade in Jeans, …. To name only a few.

⭐ This might sound strange, but it really works and definitely underrated as a language learning tool: I talk to myself while taking our dogs for a walk. But you could also do while showering or brushing your teeth.

⭐ Listening to Podcasts, whenever possible: while running, while cleaning, while cooking, while gardening (but I keep some time for meditation; my mind does need a break every day at least twice).

⭐ Making mistakes (and trying to ignore the fear of sounding ridiculous).

⭐ Writing on Twitter in my target languages and hoping someone wants to check for those mistakes. In my experience, even if nobody gives feedback (but usually I get some), it is a good practice to add some writing and/or speaking to your language learning. It forces you to focus on sentence structure, you have to look up words you didn’t know and if you make a voice note or video you might have to check the pronunciation of some words (using for example Forvo.com).

⭐ Classes on Italki with great teachers. Don’t go for good, go for the best for you. Keep in mind that we’re all different and unique and a great teacher for your friend (with or without benefits) might be not your cup of tea.

⭐ Participating in language challenges as they force you to focus a bit more on your language(s) during a certain amount of time.

This is WHY I use the Google Home and Google Assistant apps during my language learning adventures.

  1. to maintain my languages (even when time is scarce)
  2. to introduce some authentic listening from day 1
  3. to check my progress in my target languages

The Google Home app provides the possibility to program the latest news. As a result, with a single voice command you can ask your Google Assistant to play the latest news on your smart phone or on your (Google) smart speaker.

If you don’t know how to program it, I explain it in a short video on Youtube.

When I started with Danish and Catalan in 2020 I immediately added both languages to my list. I selected news programmes that update each hour (some trial and error here) to have the most up-to-date information and then I put them at the end.

At the end, because the same subjects often return: elections, (natural) disasters, big events, wars, sports, … So when I reach my newer languages I already know what might be mentioned and that really helps.

Not all languages and countries are available, but the list is growing. If you aren’t really into current affairs, politics and economics, no worries as they also provide other categories.

  • general news
  • technology
  • business
  • sports
  • world
  • entertainment
  • politics
  • science
  • health
  • art and lifestyle
  • local

Back to the WHY.

1. Maintain your languages

Even if you didn’t have the time to study a language a certain day/week or certain days/weeks, you will have had a minimum exposure to your target language(s) for usually anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. I usually listen during the washing-up in the morning, so even if time is really scarce this is an activity you can perfectly do while cleaning 🧹/commuting 🚇/gardening 👨‍🌾/working out 💪/running 🏃‍♀️… You choose!

2. Authentic input right from the start

Newsreaders speak slower and clearer than the general population, keep it formal, hardly use slang, pay attention to using the right words and grammar (but are still humans and errors and mistakes do join the party) and as such are easier the understand. You can opt for 🇫🇷 RFI‘s Journal en français facile or 🇩🇪 DW‘s Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten, but here you get immediately real people, speaking as they speak to native listeners.

3. Check your progress

Here is my experience with 🇩🇰:

“I don’t now what they are talking about. No, that’s not right, I don’t even now where words start or end.”

“I recognised a word! And another one!”

“I think I know the subject they are talking about.”

“It’s going to snow in Denmark.”

“The prime minister made an announcement.”

“I know what the prime minister said. I think.”

You won’t see or hear your progress every day. That’s right. But I can tell you this from my experience: slowly but surely you will start to recognise words, phrases; and one day you’ll realise you get the gist of it and finally the day will come when you’ll be able to understand most of it. And that is a great feeling.