According to our research, the future world of work needs us to come prepared as bilingual global citizens. And we’ll probably get paid more for it. International travel and living abroad certainly ain't cheap, but this brilliant thing called the internet is here keep us more connected than ever despite our geographic limitations.
You might have been introduced to a second language at school, but it might not have been the language that you really wanted to learn, or maybe you’ve totally forgotten it! Lucky for you there are plenty of learning initiatives you can take up in your own time for little or no cost, and here’s the best bit — you can learn a language without actually feeling like you’re doing homework.
Apps and online
Duolingo offers bite-sized learning sequences online and as an app — using a combo of text, pictures, and audio to help you. The idea is to associate the sound of a translation with visuals, and then have you manually translate the audio back into your native language to help reinforce the new words. Every section you complete moves you forward to more difficult tasks, to build on your vocabulary and sentence structure. If you’re using Duolingo on your phone you can even speak into the mic and test your pronunciation.
Busuu is another comprehensive learning app with a wide variety of languages on offer (and they have an offline version, which means you can learn without having to be connected to the internet). The free version has everything you need to get started and is not in any way a “light” or reduced version of the app. But if you’re a super keen bean, they also offer a premium subscription between $10-$20 a month where you can access further special features like online conversation sessions with a native speaker.
One of the best (and most enjoyable) ways to learn a language is to eat it — yep! Dining can be a great way to not only experience culture but also to extend your foreign vocabulary. If the staff member seems open to it, don’t be afraid to ask staff about certain words and meanings, there could be a bit of history behind it. Dishes aren’t always named literally; you could discover that there is bit of a narrative that accompanies a meal.
Restaurants can be a great setting to practice your budding language skills too. They provide an opportunity to introduce yourself, make a request, ask simple questions, and give thanks. Giving it your best shot in an enquiring and respectful way is often well received. And staff might even be encouraged to share extra language tips and facts with you.
Movies and media
I loved Japanese animation growing up, and actually taught myself a huge portion of conversational language by watching Japanese TV shows and movies. I started by watching an English-dubbed episode (so I could understand the story line), then I’d switch to the original Japanese-dubbed version (with English subtitles) and then eventually just Japanese with no English translations. It got me to link phrases with actions and start listening for repeated words. This technique also helped me to understand pronunciation and casual grammar, which was super helpful when I eventually lived in Japan and went to school with Japanese-speaking teenagers.
Learning a language is made a lot easier if you can find a native speaker. A parent or relative of a classmate, a teacher at school, a neighbour or a member of a cultural club (not so common at high school, but things like Spaghetti & Wine societies do exist at plenty of universities) could be a great conversation partner. The trick is to get out there and start speaking and engaging with people to see if there’s anyone out there who can help you.
If you prefer to socialise from behind a screen — don’t worry, this is definitely my preference — there are also great groups to be found on social media. Facebook is a great place to start for groups of people learning a huge variety of languages; members will often post great resources and share tips. Tumblr is also awesome if you’re looking for study blogs, there are lots of people creating their own learning materials and documenting their learning process.