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So the world is in a bit of a scary place right now. Social distancing is the newest trending term, and self quarantine has become the new norm.
I’ve already seen tons of social media posts offering their own ways of staying both positive and productive at home in order to squash this coronavirus.
But understandably, self quarantine is boring for most people. You don’t even have to be a super social person to get sick of staring at the walls all day.
I mean, the current world has never ever had a situation even remotely like this. And if we’re lucky, we won’t ever have to experience it again.
But those reasons are also why you will probably never have a better opportunity to focus on learning another language.
Most of us have naturally busy, fast-paced lives– but this self quarantine is finally forcing us to slow down and re-evaluate.
Even if you’re working or schooling from home, you’ll still have plenty of extra time thanks to the removal of generally integral parts of our day.
No more commuting, social hangouts, eating out, gym, recreational activities, sports, cosmetic trips, grand shopping events, community service, work events, school events, etc.
But don’t let this freak you out. If anything, it should motivate you even more to start learning another language now rather than later.
With some of the methods I mention in this article, you’ll even be to able to fix any boredom issues.
Plus, with it being pretty obvious which direction the economy is already going in, it’s more than fair to say that strengthening your resume definitely won’t hurt.
I want to remind you though that as consumers, we all play a role in just how far our economy may plummet. There’s little reason to stop online shopping if you’re still making a steady income. Plus there are still certain necessities you’ll have to buy even while social distancing.
But being a broke student myself, I want to make sure that all of my readers are finding ways to shop smart and save some coins. Both BeFrugal and Rakuten ($10 back after $25 spent!) are resources designed to give back to online consumers; so there really isn’t any reason for you put yourself at risk just go get groceries.
This Covid19 pandemic is proof in itself that business is becoming increasingly global. So by online consuming and learning another language you’re making sure that you’re prepared to move with it.
Now onto the steps.
1. Choose your language (& how to go about choosing it)
Well this one is obvious, but I had to at least mention the smart way of going about it.
Choosing your target language is much more than what would be the simplest for you to learn. You have to find your “why.”
Because there are going to be times that you feel like giving up and you’ll have to have to reconnect with your inner motivations. Personally, I’m learning Vietnamese to eventually volunteer in Asia and partake in faith-based discussions.
But that’s me. I say this to say that you don’t have to limit yourself to the few languages that English speakers commonly learn.
I have a whole list of different languages on my home page here, categorized by difficulty levels.
So I suggest considering whether you would ever:
- study abroad
- live abroad
- volunteer abroad
- go into the language industry
- or a certain nationality dominated industry
- partake in international business relations
Or even if there are any large ethnic sub-populations in your area that you could be of assistance to. If you’d like to learn an Asian language, check out 8 questions to ask yourself before deciding which Asian language to learn.
But as always, follow the language of your heart. If you want to learn a family language, then don’t let the fact that it’s not that “marketable of a language” stop you from studying it.
Because chances are you simply won’t be as driven going after your second choice.
2. Learn the needed time commitment & commit
None of us know quite how long this self quarantine is going to last– so don’t take a slow approach to this language learning process.
I’d suggest 3 hours per day as a minimum.
Which isn’t at all hard if you approach it right. You’ll just need to be flexible in the forms of learning that you partake in; which I’ll discuss more in the next steps.
But with 3 hours being the goal I generally set for normal-paced language learners, you may want to kick it up a few notches if you’re looking to attain near fluency by the time this self quarantine is over.
Nonetheless, you need a clear understanding of the amount of time you’ll actually be dedicating to this endeavor.
Just to put the numbers into perspective, let’s say this self quarantine ends up lasting 6 weeks. At 3 hours per day, you’re looking at 126 hours of language learning.
And while that’s definitely an impressive number– it’s definitely not enough to be even remotely close to fluency.
But what you will be is good at the language. If this self quarantine lasts for 2 months and you dedicate 5 hours/day, then you’ll be up to 280 hours.
Meaning you’ll be just about halfway to fluency in category 1 languages, a little over 1/3 of the way to fluency in category 2 languages, and 20 hours short of 1/3 of the way to fluency in category 3 languages.
Growth won’t appear as substantial in category 4 or 5 languages but you’ll at least have reached a general comfort doing some basic conversing.
A big factor in determining your time commitment now could also be figuring out how much time you’ll be able to commit after this self quarantine.
If you’re looking at just about 30 minutes once life returns to normal, then you better set a very high time commitment up until that point.
3. Learn the Absolute Basics
Personally, I like the language acquisition process to be as enjoyable as possible.
But you’ll have to put in some elementary-styled work before you’ll able to utilize all the…. fun resources. (I’m talking YouTube, NetFlix, Social Media, etc.)
Just like when children acquire language, you’ll need to learn foundation words and very basic grammar for your target language. Start with introductory phrases, simple ways of describing yourself, and questions about learning the language.
This is so that when you begin joining language exchange applications and platforms (step 4), you’ll be able to ask native speakers things like “can you write down that word,” or “do you know how to say that word in English?”
And since you’re going to have start somewhere, why not start with the phrases that’ll actually speed up your learning?
So use a variety of beginner learning resources, and make sure you’re writing new vocabulary down.
All of these needs to be stored in some kind of repetition-spaced flashcards application, or else you’ll never remember them.
If you’re taking the free route, then flashcard systems based on demonstrated mastery are your best bet for actual retention.
Depending on the platform you choose to start learning with, that feature may even be included.
I started out with LanguagePod101, also known as Innovative Language. The site’s basically an all-in-one toolbox, providing flashcards, a vocabulary bank, vocabulary list, dictionary, “common words” storage features, and native-taught video and audio lessons.
What really sold me on it though was it’s dirt-cheap plans. While all users do get a free Lifetime account, features are quite limited.
Fortunately, the site offers a 7-day free trial of all its’ premium features, a one dollar 30-day fast track to fluency package, and a 6-month deal at $3/month after the first two run out.
Their premium plan includes Line-by-Line Audio Transcript, an Exclusive Premium iTunes Feed, Bonus Lesson Content, Interactive Lesson Quizzes, Personal Word Bank, Core 2000 Word List, Audio Spaced Repetition Flashcards, and a reliable translation dictionary (so you won’t have to use Google Translate.)
Plus the site teaches 34 different languages, with extensive content libraries in typically excluded languages, like Thai and Urdu. This site offers a more well-rounded and enjoyable learning experience than Duolingo, by allowing you to focus on topics that actually interest you.
The languages that they offer both free and paid subscriptions in include, but are not limited to:
- Chinese — Cantonese
- Chinese — Mandarin
And that’s just a few of them! With 1+ billion lesson downloads since 2005, you’ll be learning with the largest library of lessons.
Consider this step your “week 1.” That’s 21 hours solely devoted to mastering the basics and introducing yourself to the language.
4. Digital Language Exchange
Now is a better time than ever to start utilizing digital forms of language exchange. ‘Cause any kind of physical exchange kinda goes against this whole self quarantine thing the nation’s got going on.
But beyond that, digital exchange is the key to rapid language acquisition. It forces you to connect all the vocab you’re learning and develop your grammar skills.
And there’s truly no better teacher than native insight. When you have partners who personally fix all your mistakes, you’re way more likely to stop making them.
For really rapid progress I’ll will tell you from the get-go that paying for a Language exchange tutor is much more effective than the “two-way” tutoring you can expect with free partners.
Simply because the free partners I usually talk with primarily speak in the language they’re learning– English. The biggest “immersion factors” would be their constant corrections, cultural insights, and hearing their accents.
Apparently just 19 hours of using the paid tutoring platform Italki is equivalent to 35 hours on other language Apps, and 48 hours in a college semester.
But as you’ll hear when it comes to success at anything in life, you’ll either need to make a time investment or a money investment.
I generally go with time on the simple basis that I have more of it than money. And I know that after this self quarantine is over, I’ll still have time to devote to language learning.
But if you know you’re going to be much too busy for 3 hours daily after this, then there’s no problem in taking a paid route to fluency.
Language exchange is language exchange, regardless of whether or not it comes with a price tag.
Just make sure that you make interchange with natives is a regular part of your learning routine.
And that typically looks like text-based conversations in the beginning; so you’ll have time to think and/or translate before you respond. But keep translation to a minimum– your partners will correct you or at least inform you that your sentence makes no sense.
For a high-value free app, read The 5 best language exchange apps to use when you’re too broke to travel.
No need to make that plunge alone.
As this should turn into your main means of collecting new vocab terms, make sure to continue adding to and reviewing your flashcard set, mentioned earlier.
Language exchange should be just about your main focus throughout the entirety of this self quarantine.
For those on a free path, it’s definitely one of the quickest ways to naturally acquire the language.
5. Immerse yourself in the language right from home
No need to leave your haven just to immerse yourself in your target language.
Outside of language exchange, there are still tons of way to replicate a foreign environment right at home.
The language you’re learning will determine how hard this will be. If you’re learning a widely spoken language (like Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, etc.) you’ll have more than enough content to keep you occupied.
But sites like Google, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, and Facebook are all super inclusive with the languages they provide.
So after you’ve got got the basics down and spent some hours exchanging languages, you can start including videos and social media in your learning routine!
Meaning you’ll get to focus mainly on topics that interest you. But take it slow at first — even entertaining content will require active study.
With videos, I’d suggest not jumping straight into a movie, but rather watching (and taking notes on) multiple shorter YouTube videos.
Vlogs and vivid story-times can be great at providing the visuals you need to understand the general message.
And with videos being produced by content creators, you’ll be able to find content in basically every language.
Shorter TV episodes can also be a non-intimidating option for active watchers. Watch with the foreign subtitles, and come prepared to translate as needed.
Netflix allow you to set your language preference to 1 out of 26 different languages. But show options will still be very limited in some languages.
If you’re unable to listen to the video/show/movie you want with both audio and captions in your target language, then skip it. Research has proven that learners don’t retain anything by listening to foreign language content with English subtitles, or listening to English content with foreign subtitles.
You miss on the immersion aspect of it by throwing English into the mix.
I’d only suggest doing the former to hear correct pronunciations, and if you plan to actively add as many words to your flashcard stash as possible. (The more words you add now though, the more you’ll have to review later!)
So get into the habit of listening and reading in your target language.
Don’t translate everything though; stick with repeating words/phrases and those that seem essential to understanding the plot.
You’ll have to get use to being mildly frustrated every time you watch a video. Jumping from elementary to native level is is always a mind-boggling transition– so don’t let that deter you.
And use reliable online translations. If you’re going to use Google Translate, then only trust translations verified by the Translate community.
And search any words of interest with their context. Because individual terms often mean something different than they do in phrases.
Or you could use Languagepod101’s Dictionary for both translations and examples of searched words.
To really imitate immersion in a foreign environment, set your browser and devices in the language. Fortunately Google is available in 149 languages, so it’s pretty easy to switch over the material you view daily.
Once you change your default language, all of Google’s products and the search engine itself will show up in that language. But search engine results will still appear in English as long as you search things in English.
And as for social media, you can either set the whole platform in the language, or follow users who speak the language.
If interested in the former, Facebook is available in 101 languages and Instagram is available in 36.
And personally, I find captions under photos to be significantly less intimidating to full-blown passages or news articles.
And you can even use Pinterest as Language Learning Resource!
So continue with your language exchange daily, reviewing your flashcards daily, watching videos when you can, and immersing yourself where possible.
So what now?
Before you head out, let’s recap. Your 5-step Self Quarantine plan is:
- Choose your language
- Set your time commitment & total-hour goal
- Learn the absolute basics with a good teaching platform
- Join Language Exchange platforms: regularly converse with natives
- Immerse yourself using videos, social media, and device settings
And your last bonus step is to sign up for your free 4-week Self Quarantine Language Learning Checklist designed for rapid progression (without all the added fees!)
It’ll keep on track with your goals and walk you through all these steps weeks by week.
We’re still together with our language-learning even if we do have to social distance ourselves.
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My mission with this site is to help other language learners who, like myself, are simply too broke to travel.
Regardless of what language you’re learning, I want to make sure you’re learning the highest-quality information at the lowest possible costs.
Rocket Languages offers online language courses that are simple, powerful, and effective. Devised using the strategies polyglots use, their award-winning courses are designed to get you using your new language quickly, correctly, and confidently.
The languages that they offer courses in include:
For other languages, I strongly recommend Innovative Languages. Native taught courses & podcasts available for both free and paid subscriptions.
For Japanese, Russian, and Hebrew, I strongly suggest Lingualift. You’ll be able to learn a language without memorization, frustration, or boring lectures. You’ll have access to:
- Dedicated tutors
- A Customized study plan
- Language Learning Secrets book
- 25% off with the code courage during quarantine
But before you head off on your language learning journey– I want us to stay in contact with one another. Us language learners have to stick together right?
My language craziness expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out polyglot inspiration on Instagram or Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this screen.
Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.
All exclusive content curated specifically for atypical language learners looking to make the language acquisition process as fun and unconventional as possible.
Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas, the keys to a “naturally simple” approach, and a rapid acquisition 2-week plan. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.
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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.