Ten Under-Utilized Techniques for Learning a Foreign Language

Ten Under-Utilized Techniques for Learning a Foreign Language

Conventional language learning will have you believing that memorization drills and bland structured lessons will get you closer to becoming fluent in another language. The most obvious problem with that is that it lacks real world practice, personalization and it can be dry as hell. Hard to master a skill when you're bored out of your mind conjugating grammar every day. Gaining fluency doesn't have to be boring - there are a plethora of under-utilized techniques to make foreign language acquisition more natural and fun. These can work either alongside traditional methods or act as stand-alone strategies, but I do find mixing two or more to be effective. Here's a list of ten to try:

1. Social Media Platforms: Utilize social media in the target language. Follow native speakers or pages dedicated to the language you're learning. The casual, everyday language usage encountered here will improve your comfort level with the language.

2. Video Games: A fun and informal way to learn a language is through video games. This not only improves vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure but also enhances colloquial understanding which textbooks often fail to provide. Try a video game that you're already familiar with and change the language settings. Don't forget the Google translate can translate speech so you can get a rough translation in a pinch. 

3. Music: Listening to music in the language you're seeking to learn exposes you to the language's rhythm, tone, and structure. Try to understand the meaning, write down the unfamiliar words, then revisit and revise for thorough learning. My favorite thing to do is to grab the chorus from foreign songs that I like and translate them. When that song plays, I'll be the first to be belting it out!

4. Language Learning Websites: Websites like Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone gamify language learning, making it fun and interactive. This helps keep motivation high while providing practical & comprehensive language education.

5. Gap Filling Exercises: Reading a text in the target language with specific blanks encourages language learners to use context clues to fill in the gaps correctly. It's a fun exercise that tests your comprehension and deduction skills.

6. Flash cards: Flash cards practice can really boast your vocabulary in a substantial way - especially if you make them yourself. It can also be a great way to track your progress.

7. Podcasts: Listening to podcasts in foreign language can dramatically improve your understanding of the language, its tone, cultural nuances, and colloquialisms. Podcasts offer various topics catering to different individuals' interests increasing the engagement level.

8. Watching TV: What I like most about this method is that you can learn from shows that are filmed in countries where your target language is spoken so you can get the slang and the fun phrases in a fairly passive way. Subtitles can initially aid in comprehension, and with time, you may understand without needing them. Lingopie has many different TV shows with subtitles in English and nine other foreign languages; plus, you can slow down the play time and click on individual words in the subtitles to get a quick translation. Check it out here. (I make a small commission.)

9. Language Exchange Programs: Engaging in language exchange programs puts you in contact with a native speaker of the target language. This, in turn, offers a unique opportunity to practice speaking directly with an individual who can correct your mistakes in real-time. There's a ton of free online language exchanges but there are a variety of in-person language exchanges through things like Meetup. 

10. Journaling: Lastly, but certainly not least, journaling can be an incredibly powerful tool. Writing about your day, thoughts or dreams in the foreign language helps apply learned vocabulary into practical and personalized use and enhance writing skills, accelerating language acquisition.

While there's no perfect way to learn a language, a mix of these under-utilized techniques can certainly create a comprehensive platform catering to the different aspects of language learning. Have fun nerds!


Vandergrift, L. (2006). Second language listening: Listening ability or language proficiency? *Modern Language Journal, 90,* 6-18.
Racine, T. (2011). The social Ontogenesis of metacognition in Commonly Underutilized Resources. *New Ideas in Psychology, 29,* 139-155.
Lin, Y., Chang, H., Hou, H., & Sung, Y. (2014). Learning achievement in solving minigames: a context-aware ubiquitous learning approach. *Interactive Learning Environments, 22,* 37-54.

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