So this week, I’ve spent a lot of time unintentionally watching children’s TV programmes on Netflix due to my siblings always wanting something on. Not only does it keep them quiet, but if done right, I can actually help them keep their French at the front of their minds over the summer.
Yes, that’s right. I’m using TV to make sure they don’t forget their French when they go back to school. Today, I’ll show you the ways I keep language at the forefront of my mind in an English-spoken environment. If you’re learning a new language, these can also be used to improve on your skills without actually going to the country.
1) Use children’s TV programmes.
But wait! I’m surely too old to be watching kids TV! Well, normally you are. But if you use Netflix, many shows have the option to change the language spoken. For example, most episodes of Peppa Pig can be set to Arabic, French, Mandarin, English and Portuguese. I find children’s TV can be a great place to start, because it usually consists of simple sentences rather than long, complex speeches. It can also help your ear get used to the sounds and delivery of the language. And if it gets too difficult, you can always put on English subtitles and compare what is being said to what is written. If you have younger children that you want to teach a language too, this can help engage them, as they’ll enjoy watching the programme, and absorb everything at once.
2) Read children’s books.
This is kind of repeating the above. It’s a lot better to start off with children’s books as they will always have nice, short sentences. If you’re learning a language that consists of symbols/a non-Latin alphabet (A,B,C etc.) such as Japanese, Russian, Mandarin or Thai, the books will have big letters and words, so you can see them better. If you’re more of a vocab person, consider picture books (I know, stay with me here!). A great book to start with is the My First 100 Words In… series. Public libraries usually have one or two of these, and they’re simple and easy to follow.
Buy it here: https://bit.ly/2vaSVSR (Amazon)
3) Read news articles.
Okay, so this is a step up from the previous suggestion, but still very useful nonetheless. By reading news articles in your target language, especially big stories, you can keep up to date with the news, and learn some vocabulary in the process. A good idea would be to have a bilingual dictionary to hand, or an online one. I highly recommend wordreference.com, as they have quite a few languages to choose from. Unlike a paper dictionary, they give examples for word uses, and there’s a community to ask if you still don’t know how to use a word. For some languages like French, they even have a verb conjugator, so you have no excuse for putting off learning conjugation.
4) Listen to the radio.
In the language you’re learning, of course. Wondering how to pick the stations up? Never fear, there’s an app called TuneIn Radio. Available on both Android and iOS, they even have a website player. You’ll find a plethora of radio stations, both English-speaking and non-English-speaking. Most European stations are definitely available (including Iceland, if Icelandic takes your fancy), and you’ll even find some Japanese and other Asian stations on there. It’s fantastic. And because it’s internet radio, there’s no chance of being out-of-range. If you’re pretty much a beginner in a language, you should go for music-based stations, as they have shorter passages of speech, and you can immerse yourself in the music the country listen to. For more advanced learners, podcast, talk and news-based stations should work well.
5) Buy your favourite book in the language.
I can’t deny that I love reading. Once I start a book and I like it, you won’t see my nose for a while. If you’re a bibliophile like me, buying a book in your target language is a great way to learn it. I’d recommend having a copy in English as well, so that you can compare. A few years ago, I bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in French (or Harry Potter et les Reliques du Mort) and I love reading them side-by-side. For well known series like this one, you’ll find they change people’s or place names. For example (spoiler alert!), Tom Marvolo Riddle had to be changed to Tom Elvis Jedusor to accommodate the scene in Chamber of Secrets. When Riddle writes his name, he puts ‘I am Voldemort’, but in French, this is ‘Je suis Voldemort’. I won’t bore you with all the instances of changes like this but as you can see, it’s great to read something you love in another language. If you’re not a novel reader, try comic books or manga. The shorter sentences should make life easier for you.
If you have any of your own ways to keep a language in your head, or to learn language by example, do let me know by contacting me or writing a comment below!