Ever “accidentally” distract yourself from your language study by binging on some Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through social media? We’ve all been there, but those seemingly malignant distractions can actually be beneficial to your language learning! Here are a few tips for making the most of those distractions:
Social Media: Join a Group/Event Page
Look through pictures and captions (pictures can help you to understand captions, since they provide visual context), read posts, and pay attention to comments. As you read, focus on what you DO understand, or on words you notice REPEATING over and over in posts. Try to get yourself used to focusing on what you do understand, and letting go of the rest, unless it seems truly interesting or vital to you. If you’re a beginner in the language, consider that just reading the TITLES of various groups (and then reading them aloud) is going to be good reading & pronunciation practice for you.
Do something active: post in the group—even just a few words! Try to engage someone in an exchange of info. Or, construct posts that you’d want to make. Write them down and practice them aloud, without reading them, as if you were responding in oral conversation.
Benefits of searching for & following pages on social media:
- you discover some current, popular topics relevant to native speakers
- you get to follow meaningful linguistic exchanges back and forth among native speakers.
- you’re likely to see relevant vocabulary repeated over and over again, since people are discussing the same topic. You might see useful and repeated expressions of thanks, excitement, anger, agreement, etc.
- The language used on Facebook can be colloquial and conversational, which should be useful for you! Just keep in mind, it might contain errors (autocorrect is NOT just a problem in English)
How to find a group:
- You might search for a “humans of…” group, a news outlet, or a social cause you’re already interested in.
- It’s usually best to do your search in the target language (one caveat: “humans of…” groups often are titled in English regardless!)
- If you’re a beginner in the language, consider that just reading the TITLES of various groups is going to be great reading practice for you!
Netflix for learning vocab in context
We spend a good chunk of time trying to memorize vocabulary items, and they’re often coming at us only in writing, and often without a context. While it’s useful to create your own written context (for example, trying to put a word you’re learning into a meaningful sentence), you really need to see, hear, and experience vocabulary being used in authentic contexts.
This is especially true for listening, which is the most neglected skill in language learning! Your ears and brain need to practice picking the word out of a stream of sound, linking the sound to its meaning, and understanding how the surrounding words (and grammar) function together to make that word meaningful.
- Which leads us to…captioned and subtitled movies & TV!
Subtitles (in English) or Captions (in the target language) can help you notice words and phrases being used, so that you can rewind and listen to exactly how the words are being used. Next time you’re watching a show in your target language on Netflix, turn on the captions in the target language, if available. Read them as you’re enjoying the show. Pause and rewind when you want to focus on how a particular word is used. First, can you actually hear the word being used? Next, what words surround it? Are there prepositions involved? What about tone, facial expression, or gesture? Now, try to use the word in a similar context (create a similar sentence, use it aloud, try it out on a native speaker) to solidify your understanding!