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How to learn a language when working from home

In the last month, many of our lives have changed vastly and very suddenly. ‘Working from home’ has now become a trending phrase on social media and those of us who are lucky enough to still be working are now creating our varied versions of our own home office.  

Whether working or not, it’s normal for us to develop feelings of boredom or unproductiveness and to have a desire to use our time productively whilst confined to our homes. Learning something new keeps your mind engaged[1] and helps you adapt better to change, so is the perfect activity to fill the extra time we now find ourselves with - find out more about our online language courses here.

Have a look below at why it’s worth thinking about learning a language whilst in lockdown, and indeed once things are back to normal!

 

Why learn a language?

You may be thinking, doesn’t everyone speak English? Whilst it’s estimated that there are 379 million native English speakers[2], English falls behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish as the language with the third-highest number of native speakers and there are many situations where it can be beneficial to talk or write to someone in their native language.  

In a time when you can feel very isolated and alone, languages can help you feel closer to individuals in similar situations all around the world. Besides to communicate, there are many other reasons that learning a second language can be beneficial. Check out our blog on the benefits of learning a second language for more information.

 

Which language should I learn?

Ok, so now you’ve decided to learn a language, you’re probably wondering which one to choose. Here are a few things to think about when selecting which language you want to set out learning:

  1. Which language(s) do I already know?

You may already know some words or phrases in a language and want to build on that so you can have meaningful conversations in the target language. In that case, you are known as a false beginner. Perhaps you already know some Spanish and would like to learn another of the romance languages; learning a language from a similar family tree will certainly accelerate your progress.

  1. Should I learn a hard or easy language?

Did you learn a language at school and enjoy the lessons? Perhaps you found it a little more challenging. Some people have a natural aptitude for languages and others don’t. This is completely fine, and there is a language out there for everyone. Have a look at this table showing some of the easiest and most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn.

Languages considered easier for native English speakers to learn

Languages considered more difficult for native English speakers to learn

Dutch

French

German

Italian

Portuguese

Spanish 

Japanese

Korean

Chinese

Arabic

Russian

Polish

       

 

  1. What do I want to achieve?

If you want to learn a language for work, choose French, German, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. These are the languages rated by the British Council as being the most beneficial to employers post-Brexit[3].

If you want to better understand a friend or family member’s cultural background or learn a language for travel, then these can be great motivators and help you stay on track with your progress.

 

What platform should I use?

Language learning thrives on variety, which is why it’s important to find the best solution for your learning style and even combine the available options.

 

Digital classrooms

Nowadays, virtual classrooms can mimic physical classrooms with a range of functions, such as interactive whiteboards, screen-sharing, virtual break out rooms, live chat, and resource sharing.  The face to face contact with teachers is invaluable in developing the 4 skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing), as well as your communicative strategies and cultural agility. Our teachers use Zoom for online lessons and we advise that you incorporate some remote teaching time into your language learning schedule.

 

Apps

Applications like Busuu can be great for vocabulary building and practicing receptive listening and reading skills. They use gamification and daily reminders to incentivise you and help you to regularly set aside a small amount of time to practice the language. However, app usage alone will not develop your language skills as they often don’t address the productive skills of speaking and writing, and are best combined with other online learning methods, like virtual lessons.

 

Video streaming

Video streaming services, like Netflix, have not only opened a door to foreign cinema but also a window to help us learn about the culture of the language we are learning and develop our advanced listening and reading skills. The key here is to not be overambitious and de-motivate yourself. Keep chunks of audio manageable, so that you don’t fatigue yourself, and take regular breaks. You can also go back over the same scene you just watched and switch the language. Finally, don’t try to understand everything - set yourself tasks like picking out keywords or discourse markers. Watching videos in your self-study time can help accelerate your progress.

 

Following government guidance, Professional Language Solutions and our teachers are now working virtually, providing online lessons for our business clients. If you want to learn a language online then take a look at our courses:  https://www.langsols.com/index.php/uk-services/online-courses-for-the-public.html

 

References:

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201408/6-ways-engage-your-brain

[2] https://www.ethnologue.com/language/eng

[3] https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/languages_for_the_future_2017.pdf                                        

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A group of companies providing English and Foreign Language Training, as well as teacher recruitment, to international organisations since 1991.

 

 

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