Why and how to explore languages, one of the best ways to test the waters before committing to learning a language 

When I was young, really young, I used to get my hands on all types of publications in foreign languages and try to read and listen. I also spent a good deal of my allowance money on language learning kits.

I was passionate about exploring languages. So, without hesitation, I dipped my two feet in as many languages as I could. My home library had books, magazines, language kits in German, Spanish, Italian, Farsi and probably other languages that I don’t remember anymore. The level of effort and dedication varied greatly from one language to another and even from one period in my life to another. My individual interests in these languages were so different that while it was the farsi music that piqued my curiosity to explore that language, a pure academic interest in the German language motivated me to buy different books and audio CDs to learn it.

All that time spent reading vocabulary, repeating phrases, and writing new words and sentences didn’t go to waste.

First of all, I had loads of fun. While learning anything should be bound to two factors, passion and purpose, exploring languages would probably run just fine on passion.

I learned a thing or two about these cultures. Let’s not forget that the cultural aspect of a language is one of the main reasons people learn languages that are culturally rich or interesting like the Japanese, Arabic or Spanish cultures.

I knew what to expect if I ever decided to take my learning to the next level. This is super important when you want to make a plan to learn a language.

I enjoyed doing that so much. I learned the Russian alphabet and a few words along the way. And I listened to some audio phrases. I also discovered Farsi, which is mostly written with an Arabic alphabet but has its own phonetic and grammar systems. I also listened to many songs in Farsi. I was more dedicated to German and Italian languages. I had full kits and I was regularly listening to radio stations in both languages, which was similar to podcasting today, as there were some dedicated programs to learners of German. I also watched some TV shows in these languages as well.

Why is it fun?

☑️ You basically do something you love for yourself and there’re no strings attached. You’re not expected to reach a certain level and you’re not going to be tested. There might even be an exciting project in mind linked with that language, like traveling or meeting a friend who is a native speaker. Learning for the joy of it might be the highest level of motivation to learn anything in life. Most of the time, you’re learning things where you’re expected to perform in a certain way and to achieve a certain goal which may take the joy out of the work you’re doing.

☑️ You can start your learning session at any time and end it at any time. Usually, when you’re exploring a language, it would be like playing a video game. Yes, you dedicate time to it, but since it is just a “hobby”, it can start any time, be interrupted, and ended at any time. There’s a sense of freedom there.

☑️ You don’t have to keep going if you don’t want to. When you take a language course, you have to see it through or there will be consequences, like losing your tuition money, wasting time and effort, etc. When you explore a language on your own there’s none of that.

☑️ You will get a feeling of the language sounds, the writing system and some aspects of its culture as well.

Now, that you’re convinced that it’s a good idea to explore a language, how to do it?

✅ Use Duolingo, Busuu and other similar apps that you can download and use on your phone. Just add your target language. Duolingo will let you add any number of languages, while there may be some limitations to what you can do on the other apps.

✅ Watch videos in that language on YouTube, Libry, Vimeo, Odessy etc. The best thing to do is to find key words of topics that interest you in that target language. Put them in the search bar, sift through the results and watch these videos. Combine this with captions in that language or subtitles in English if available. You will hit two birds with one stone, you will watch something you like and listen to the language sounds with or without closed captions and subtitles.

✅ Use the free language learning resources available online. I have videos to learn French and Arabic. You can explore these two languages if you like, just by watching the videos, including the advanced ones, and see how you’d like to learn any of them.

✅ You can also take a shallow or deep dive into phrasebooks. You can find them written and in video format. You will be able to try the pronunciation and get a feel of the language structures. You can find many such formats online. You can search for key words like “learn a language in your sleep” in those videos you’ll be provided by a variety of common phrases in your target language (And if you’re interested you can read my blog post on the topic of learning languages in your sleep). You can also use other key words such as #phrasebook I have a series of Arabic phrasebook that may interest people wanting to explore the Arabic language. You can also try things like “basic vocabulary” or “basic phrases and sentences”

👍 I tried that for Portuguese. I had had a bad impression of that language many years ago and thought I wouldn’t like the sounds, besides, I wanted to avoid all confusion with Italian or Spanish. But I was watching a dystopian show in Portuguese on Netflix and thought to myself ‘hmm, I think I want to explore Portuguese’. So, I watched a few videos teaching the basics and explored phrasebooks of Portuguese. I will probably take it to the next level one day, who knows? Anyway, I enjoyed the exploration and will keep looking for different ways I can explore that language and the Nordic languages as well in a combination of the ways I am explaining here.

✅ A very fun way to explore a language is through songs and music. Nowadays, you can find the lyrics of almost any song online. Long gone the days when we waited for those lyrics to be published in magazines or whatnot. There are websites where you can explore French lyrics here and here. On this website you can look up songs in different languages and their translations into other languages as well.

Exploring a language can be as short or as long as you wish it to be. It can be done in bursts of interest. It can also last as long as you feel like it. So, it’s a win-win situation.

Now that you’ve explored a language, what’s next? 🤔

It depends on your goals and how you modify them or even cancel them over time. If you feel like, well, this language isn’t really for me, that would be fine too. Once you feel like you want to take your language exploration to the next step, just do it. You developed a cultural interest, or you took a liking to the sounds, you can do what you please with the knowledge you gained during your language exploration phase. You can take a course, find a language partner, study on your own. You are embarking on a whole new journey.

Now, it’s your turn to tell me what languages you explored, by which methods, and what was the verdict in the end? Make sure to leave a comment 📝.

Happy learning languages!

Summer Languages

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