English Dictionary + SRS Flashcards =
GET Lockcard, IT's free
Students

How to Learn A New Language By Yourself, At Home - COVID Edition

Jewel Enrile
March 24, 2021
Illustrations by Yuxuan Wu

We've all been stuck at home this pandemic. I've picked up baking, copying Top Chef recipes, going through every single fitness YouTuber program, and yep, learning a new language.

Learning a language takes a lot of time. But, you can immerse yourself quickly if you want to learn new words, write better, and handle a conversation.

Learn a new language at home with me with my tips below! You can integrate it into your regular routines, whether it's watching Netflix or listening to a podcast.

6 Easy Ways to Learn a New Language At Home

To learn a language, you have to dedicate time and look for resources. I compiled some methods you can apply while learning a language below:

A Short Background and Motivation in Language-Learning

I have a tip: a goal will help you in learning a language better. Whether it's just to speak and understand native speakers, laugh at French memes, or sing along to your favorite Korean group, a goal will keep you motivated. You can get started easier, too!

Method #1: Use Your Screen Time on Netflix and YouTube to Learn a Language

Price:

  • Netflix subscription: $8.99++
  • Otherwise, you can get all tools for free!

Tools:

  • Language Learning With Netflix
  • Mate Translate

Benefits:

  • Immersion
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Learners can listen and talk better

Do you watch Netflix? If so, you probably spend an average of 3.2 hours a day on either the site or the app. Use your screen time to expose your brain to the language's basics, grammar, and new words!

Use a Chrome extension: Language Learning with Netflix. Most of the time, Netflix shows have subtitles in other languages. You can make use of that to understand how the characters speak, too.

The app Mate Translate allows you to hover over the words, click it, and translate to your preferred language.

Of course, mere translation isn't enough for learning a language, so have a dictionary in hand!

Tip: Search up anything unfamiliar and write down the meaning. What's important is to review them regularly. Too lazy? Use dictionary apps that have built-in review notifications, like Lockcard.

After doing this for a while, I realized I could follow most of Netflix's storyline without confusion. But honestly?

The biggest payoff is that I can now understand the memes.  

Some memes from the hit Netflix show Control Z!

RELATED: Spending too much time on Netflix and YouTube? Here's how you can focus in online classes.

Method #2: Learn a New Language With Journals, Diaries - and a Secret Twitter

Price:

  • Free!

Tools:

  • Pen and paper
  • Online writing apps or sites
  • Twitter

Benefits:

  • Increased writing skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • New vocabulary

It doesn't matter if your writing is still in broken grammar! Get your brain comfortable in expressing yourself in in new languages.

Lost on how to start? Here's how to practice:

  1. Pick a time of the day or a habit you can integrate language-learning writing practice into. For example, it can be before your breakfast, or after an evening shower.
  2. Start with two to three sentences about your day.
  3. Integrate any word or new phrases you learned in your new language!
  4. Check a foreign language dictionary if you need to.
  5. Have grammar tools - or ask a study buddy to check over your practice writing. Native speakers are always willing to help.
  6. After several weeks, you can start expanding your entries to paragraphs.
  7. Review entries every now and then!

Not the writing type? Make a secret Twitter. Jot down 140-280 characters, and you're good to go.

I have a private Twitter to follow news and people in foreign languages on the site.

If I don't have time to write or I simply forget, I Tweet instead. It still hones those language skills!

If you want to write better, I can recommend some tips here.

I also vent in (probably broken) foreign languages. There's a reason why it's private, but it's a way to learn.

Tip: Social media is probably one of the best places to find a language-learning community. Join #langtwt or #studytwt! You'll find people working towards their target language and people are native speakers of your target language. You'll like the encouraging community as a whole.

RELATED: I Joined a Language Challenge and Failed - Here's Why You Should Do It Anyway.

Method #3: Learn a Language With  Translated Stories

Price:

  • Free!
  • $19.99+ - if you want to become a member of The Fable Cottage

Tools:

  • The Spanish Experiment
  • The Fable Cottage
  • Fanfiction.net

Benefits:

  • Reading comprehension
  • New vocabulary

A beginner-friendly approach is reading or listening to kids' fairy tales. We're all familiar with the plot-line, some of the dialogue, and the characters. Even if the language is foreign, you know how the story is supposed to go.

Fairy Tales

I recommend The Spanish Experiment. For other languages - French, German, Italian - go to The Fable Cottage.

They have engaging visuals and a narrator, so you can learn better pronunciation and speech recognition, too.

If you want to learn in a relaxed manner, pick out a cozy story before bedtime!

The Fable Cottage - Learning Languages With Fairytales
Translated fairy tales, from The Fable Cottage

Fan Fiction

Another place to go to is Fanfiction.net for translated fan fiction, or just basic fan fiction in a foreign language.

You can open up two tabs (one for the English version, one for the Spanish version, for instance) and I can check comprehension easily.

And yes, this is me confessing I read Twilight fan fiction in Spanish. Edward Cullen was my first crush and it helps, okay?

Novels and Audiobooks

When you're ready, start learning with novels with English translations. It's fun!

To supplement learning, going with audio is also a good idea. Audiobooks are freely available to let yourself be accustomed to the sound of the language.

Method #4: Translate Lyrics Into Your Target Foreign Language

Price:

  • Free!

Tools:

  • YouTube

Benefits:

  • Reading comprehension
  • New words and conversational phrases

You can apply this to your favorite songs in your native language - something you know the meaning and lyrics by heart.

You can also look up foreign songs themselves and translate that. I've found that there are a lot of English songs with translations on YouTube, and even watching that helps me out:

Blue Jeans, by Lana Del Rey, translated in Spanish!

If language-learning originates from a hobby you already love, you find the most innovative ways to know more.

Method #5: Play Around with Free Apps for Language-Learning

Price:

  • Duolingo and other apps can have fees if you opt for the Premium versions

Tools:

  • Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel,
  • Lockcard

Benefits:

  • Immersion with the language's sounds
  • Increased knowledge of words
  • Listening comprehension


I'm mainly talking about Duolingo, otherwise known as our favorite emotionally manipulative owl.

Aside from the Duolingo lessons and exercises, the stories, forums, and ranking help out a lot, too.

If you don't want to go through picking out fairy tales, novels, or fan fiction, Duolingo has their stories and lessons.

On Duolingo, you get quizzed on vocabulary words and reading comprehension while you're at it.

Reading Comprehension & Forum Community - Duolingo

The ranking system is enough to motivate if you've got a competitive edge. I've had friends  try to take over the #1 spot on the Duolingo leaderboard, and as a result, end up spending hours on the app!

The Duolingo Owl is evil and knows human nature. But it does really get you learning.

RELATED: Duolingo VS Lockcard - Which One Is For You?

You can also try out other apps aside from Duolingo, like Memrise and Babbel. I like using SpanishDict!

For English vocabulary, use Lockcard.

Whether you're learning English as your second language, or a native english speaker, you want to continue improving your vocabulary passively over time. Our app, Lockcard, does exactly that using notifications only. Check it out, our users love it!

Method #6: Go For Online Courses in Language-Learning

Price:

  • Coursera: $49+
  • Shaw Academy: $50 - $1500+ (with lifetime memberships!)
  • Udemy: $13.99 - $19.99+


Tools:

  • Coursera
  • Shaw Academy
  • Udemy


Benefits:

  • Guided learning
  • Reading comprehension
  • Better writing
  • Better speech and language recognition
  • Reliance on teaching and more practicing

Courses can get pricey, depending on the site. But if you have enough time and resources on your hands, it's another way to learn a language.

It's easier to follow a course with enough lessons. Plus, you can adjust your learning to your level - from beginner to intermediate.

The lessons will be there to help you learn. Depending on how much you pay, you can get lifetime access!

Conclusion

A new language is a life skill. These strategies help you learn better if you've had even just a bit of a background with the language.

You can add these strategies to any lessons, routine, or course you have in place. Don't worry about the time pressure when learning a language. No one's holding you down and forcing you to learn it all in three months!

The best way to learn while keeping this fun is to be consistent - if you forget a day or two of practice, just pick it back up again.

I hope you enjoy applying these strategies. Let me know if you try it out!

Charlotte Chen, Designer @Duolingo

TRY Lockcard
TRY Lockcard
Try Lockcard on your phone