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Tips for Nonstandard Language Learning


New member
I saw a few mentions of attempts to learn a language through unconventional means (i.e. not books, courses, or apps), and wanted to share some tips from my own personal experience. I know two languages besides English (my native tongue) and unconventional means have been a major part of my learning for both languages.

One note: Make sure you keep up your learning on your own with grammar, vocab, etc. These methods are great ways to practice what you have learned via conventional means.

1) Conversation Partners - Find a person that you can speak with on a regular basis. Even a half hour a week can make a big difference. There are websites that can match people, for example, or you might be able to find someone on your own. If the language you're trying to learn is popular in your community, I recommend attending community events (I have had success in volunteering for one-off or regular events). If the language is offered at local high schools or colleges, contact the teachers or professors there and ask if they know of anyone who either is also looking for a conversation partner or wants to earn a little money.

If you can't find a conversation partner who is fluent in the language that you want to learn, try to find one who wants to learn a language that you know fluently. E.g. if you're trying to learn Spanish and speak English fluently, find a partner who wants to learn English and knows Spanish fluently. It exercises the brain in a different way than if you were both speaking the same language. It takes a lot of practice but can help you think in the language you're trying to learn, instead of translating everything in your brain and then back again. Hope this makes sense (let me know if it doesn't!).

2) TV, Movies - If you're a Netflix fan, this should be a fun one though it may not work if the language you're trying to learn isn't available. Rewatch a few of your favorites in the language you're trying to learn (e.g. Spanish). You can turn on the subtitles if you really need them but try it out without them first. Once you are pretty comfortable with understanding episodes/movies you've already seen, try "graduating" to shows and movies you haven't seen before. Also applies to content that is original to the language you want to learn. E.g. watch Hindi films if you want to learn Hindi. Watch telenovelas if you want to learn Spanish.

3) YouTube - YouTube is *amazing* for language learning! There's so much out there! And definitely more variety in terms of languages offered than say, Netflix. There are users who have set up accounts geared specifically toward language learning (e.g. I used to watch Deutsch fur Euch avidly when I was prepping for a trip to Berlin). There are TV shows targeted to language learners. Look up Extra (there are versions available for people trying to learn English, Spanish, and a few others I think). And if you're more advanced in your learning, check out native speakers who have accounts on YouTube. Try to find something in line with your interests. E.g. if you're into style and makeup, follow and watch beauty vloggers. This should also give you more of a sense of how the language is spoken outside of formal settings, with slang, etc.