It’s an open secret that the best way to learn a language is immersion which means that you are surrounded by the language you want to learn for as long as possible throughout the day. And the Internet did not change that.
If you take a look at surveys on language learners like recent ones from busuu or Kaplan, between 23% to 65% of learners think that the best way to learn a foreign language is to travel abroad and learn in a classroom with other foreigners.
Being an expat myself, I know what a boost living in another country will bring to your language skills. Being forced to talk French most of the time has really helped me to reach fluency in a couple of months. Of course, I had had a good basis before I relocated but every language learner knows that putting your grammar and vocabulary knowledge into work once you are faced with a native speaker is a whole different story.
Another difference between speaking the language in the country or the classroom are the cultural aspects. The language you learn in books and classrooms is often very sterile and has little in common with how the locals speak. Learning how the language is used in real life is another aspect you can only find when living abroad.
Nevertheless, most of us can’t pack their bags and relocate to another country just to polish our language skills. And though the Internet and technology are not perfect they can still get us our daily dose of immersion.
For example, more and more TV and radio stations around the globe are streaming their shows on the Internet or have it available on demand. I recently shared three quality resources from Germany, lately. Watching shows or news in the language you want to learn also gives you cultural context, for example when the news team interviews people from the street.
The same is of course true for online magazines and newspapers. You will find tons of relevant outlets on the Internet that will suit your needs and interests.
Music and podcasts are another way to surround yourself with your target language. Just grab your mp3 player and load it with songs, audio books or simple vocabulary lists in the language you want to learn. Another positive side effect of this way to learn a language is that walking while you listen will enhance your memory performance according to new research.
All of this said, remember: you are the boss of your learning mix! Don’t pick content you are not interested in! You need to be willing to spend a maximum of time immersed in the language you want to learn. If your passion is football then embrace it and look for sources that cater your taste like fan magazines, sports news broadcasts and such. If you are into cooking why not buy the next recipe book in the language you want to learn – what could be better than learning French or Italian from a top chef?
Picture by mcandea via Morguefile