Hello everyone! If you read my Quarantine Bucket List post, you’ll know that one of the things that I am endeavouring to achieve during this period of free time is to improve my Spanish, along with learning sign language.
Throughout my five years of being taught languages in the school system so far, I realised that although school does give you a good basis for the language in which you are studying, it is possible to teach yourself a language through an array of methods from the comfort of your own home (which is kind of the only way that’s possible as of this moment in time).
Just to put out a disclaimer, I am not fluent in Spanish or any other language except English; but I do know that these methods have helped me to improve my skills and also many others who I have discovered through extensive research. Also, everyone learns through different methods and whichever methods work for you do still require solid commitment and dedication – there is no way to become fluent in another language faster, although ideally spending time with a native person would aid the process and even being fluent in another similar language; but obviously travel is not an option right now, so we have to make use of resources at hand.
To begin, if you have ever studied a language, you will know that there are five main elements to achieving success in your chosen idiom: reading, grammar, listening, writing and speaking. Without being able to recognise one of these elements, you won’t be able to reach full understanding – it is key that you practise each one of these.
Firstly, apps are a great way to start learning. I personally prefer Duolingo as it has a good range of all four elements and a lot of levels in a myriad of areas. A lot of people wonder if you can become fluent in a language using an app alone, and I think that the answer is no; but apps are a great aid to the learning process.
Another thing you can use for reading is simple books in your chosen language. If you search up easy Spanish books or Spanish children’s books, for example, in the ibook store, you can most likely find free books in your chosen language (obviously replacing the ‘Spanish’ with your chosen language). Write down all the words and phrases you don’t know, and this will also teach you to develop skills to work out what other things mean if you read articles or more complex texts.
Thirdly, something that I have done, partly because I have a lot of time on my hands, and partly because it does actually help, is labelled everything in my room with the Spanish equivalent word! This is a good thing to do because there is constantly a reminder of the language around me and I’m absorbing new vocabulary without even knowing.
*Tip: use Word Reference to look up words NOT Google Translate as it can be highly inaccurate.
Although this is many people’s least favourite part or learning a language, grammar is vital in understanding and being able to structure sentences and understand text. If you go online and do some searching, you should be able to find the different aspects of grammar such as tenses, conjugations and sentence structures (do the adjectives come before or after the noun? How many verb endings are there? Are there similarities to English?)
Practise writing out verb conjugations a couple of times a week until they go into your head and try to keep a grammar notebook that you can refer to.
If you use Duolingo or even type a word in your chosen language into Google Translate (the one exception to using it!), this will teach you pronunciation. When you first begin to learn a language, look up how each letter of the alphabet sounds so that you are able to recognise words, even if you don’t know them (remember, their alphabet might not be the same as your first language’s!)
TV shows, movies and YouTube videos are another great way to get used to the sound of the language you are studying. Try to put on subtitles in your chosen language, not any language which you are already fluent in as you will be tempted to just read the subtitles and not focus in on the sounds of the language.
Finally, listen to music! I am currently creating a playlist consisting of Spanish music and I am loving the new tunes I’m discovering! If you would like to check it out, here it is!
The main way I improve my writing skills is by keeping a sort of diary. Each day I write a few sentences in it either about my day or how I’m feeling. This can be something simple such as “Today the weather was nice” or “I am reading a book called…”, and you can build this up as you gain more knowledge and vocabulary.
Other than that, you can write short essays on certain topics you have been studying or reviews on movies you have watched or books you have read.
Also, make sure to write out new vocab and try to keep a word bank as you go along, and write it out a few times so you will remember it.
Speaking is a little more tricky if you are studying a language from your home and don’t know any native or fluent speakers. Some tips I do have are repeating words and phrases you learn through videos or apps.
If you ever get the chance, you can find someone who speaks the language you are learning and if they are trying to learn your language also, you could help each other.
Obviously the best way to take your learning to the next level would ideally be visiting the home country of your language, but it isn’t always accessible, especially right now – but if you ever do get the chance I would highly recommend! I got the chance to visit Barcelona last year and use a little of the language I had learned so far and have planned to go to Spain in August if that is possible by then.
I could talk all day about the benefits of learning a language, however I am sure that you lovely readers know already and don’t need me to go off on one! However, if you would like a post dedicated to that, I would be happy to talk about it! Honestly, if I had a YouTube channel, I would talk forever!
A few of you in my Quarantine Bucket List post were also wondering where I am doing my British Sign Language course, so if you’re interested, click here.
I hope that this post helped you or even inspired you to learn a new language – if you do want to, now is the perfect time! I hope you’re all safe and healthy!
Until next time, CoffeeeAndCream x