Can your phone help you learn a language? Absolutely! Check out these tips and ideas from Spanish tutor Joan B. and start exploring…
You’re addicted to your phone (join the club) and love everything it offers you — access to friends, amazing deals through apps, and up-to-the-minute news. But did you know you can also use it to help you learn a language?
It’s true: your smartphone is one of the best tools you can use to strengthen your language skills — especially when you use your phone to supplement your learning in between regular language lessons with a tutor.
Ready to get started? Try these tips to transform your phone into a portable language-learning console!
1. Visit fun sites.
You now have permission to play games and fun apps as often as you’d like on your phone — as long as they’re in another language. Here are a few language-learning apps and websites you can explore:
Tip: If you’re working toward a specific goal, ask your language tutor for their recommendation for an app to use or a game to play based on your strengths and challenges.
2. Watch YouTube videos.
Try watching music videos in your target language! Often you can find the lyrics in the notes below the video to read along if you need extra help. You can also watch how-to tutorials on any subject that interests you (chess, yoga, etc.), or you can even go for language-learning videos.
3. Listen to foreign music on Spotify.
You can also discover new artists and reap the benefits that come with listening to music in your target language. You’ll get a feeling for the culture and sentiment in addition to learning new vocabulary and pronunciation.
Tip: Check out tutor Christopher S.’s recommendations for 5 New Musicians Who Can Improve Your Spanish.
4. Message friends on WhatsApp.
This is my favorite way to communicate with friends abroad, since it’s secure and free for everyone (no surprise fees here!). You can send each other jokes, ask how their day is, and get in a little language conversation practice all at the same time.
Tip: Choose from one of these conversation starters in Spanish and start chatting!
5. Snapchat in another language.
Create snaps with language from your target language to practice, or watch snaps from the country or language you’re interested in to get a taste of what’s happening locally.
Tip: Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages offers some great tips for using Snapchat here.
6. Try the WordReference App.
This handy dictionary is actually way more than a dictionary. It also includes threads from native speakers who share the true meaning of confusing phrases and word usage. It’s exhaustive, and in the unlikely case that you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can start a new thread and receive helpful advice.
Tip: Word-a-day updates like the one from SpanishDict are another great way to continue learning.
7. Keep lists of new vocabulary using Google Keep or Evernote.
Retaining new vocabulary is key in language learning, and keeping it in a list on your phone will allow you to review it frequently. You can also share the lists with others, like your teacher or tutor, or other friends learning the same language.
Tip: Struggling with remembering the vocab you’re learned? Check out my advice for memorizing French words.
8. Talk to Siri (or Google).
Did you know that if you change your settings on your phone to your target language, you can have long, deep conversations with Siri? You can ask her various probing questions (“How was your day?”; “Tell me a story, please?”) that will provoke long answers. You can listen to her pronunciation and read her words. Even better, she will test your pronunciation. If it’s a little off, she won’t understand; you’ll become much more precise and accurate thanks to her insistence.
Tip: Here’s a cool post from author Mike Boyle about how iOS 7’s Siri can help you learn a language.
9. Change your language settings on a few apps.
If you don’t feel ready to switch your whole phone to your new language, try changing it on just a few apps, like Facebook. Spanish learners, for example, will intuitively understand that “me gusta” means “like,” even if you’re brand-new at Spanish language learning. And by switching languages, you’ll absorb all kinds of new vocabulary and key phrases.
Tip: Learn how to change your language settings on Facebook here.
10. Join communities to get more conversation practice.
The best way to learn a language and speak colloquially is to get in more conversation practice! Try browsing through Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks to see how native speakers interact casually. Or, join one of our live, online group classes to chat with tutors and other students at your level.
Tip: More ideas for using Facebook here, via AlwaysSpanish.
Feeling better about your smartphone addiction? With these tips, you can use your phone to improve your language skills and learn something new. There’s so much to explore! Get started today, and watch your skills grow and thrive.
Readers, how do you use your smartphone for language learning? Leave a comment and share your best tip.