Five ways to Learn a Second language using Modern Technology

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Lucia Leite is Portuguese, with a degree in English and German. At the moment she is taking a Master’s degree in English as a second language for young learners, and working on improving her Spanish and French. You can find her work at Lingholic.com.


The global economy has created such a demand for intercultural communication that people have to pay more attention to language learning, and a problem that needs to be solved as well as a business opportunity that could be explored. The oft-quoted remark that more people in China are learning English than the total United States population is not only accurate but also provides an insight into the incredible demand for learning languages in the world today. But there is a problem of a large scale because there is nowhere near enough qualified teachers of languages to meet the increasing demand. So everyone relies on technology to bridge this gap. There are many technological advances useful for language learning. Here are a few of them.

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1. Watch movies with foreign subtitles

No wonder that watching movies and TV shows in the language you are learning is a great way to get an authentic practice in listening that you need to improve your knowledge. The majority of people think that watching foreign films in the language they’re learning, but with subtitles in their mother tongue, improves their overall communication skills. However, as soon as you start watching movies with subtitles in your mother tongue, you condemn yourself to failure. It’s because reading overrides listening and you do not pay attention to the speech. After a few moments you’re used to the subtitles, and you will not even notice that you are reading them.

2. Listen to GPS directions

GPS in your car may seem like a place where you will not improve your language skills, but if you can change settings to the language you are learning, you will get authentic practice in the real world by following the directions on the new language. Studies have shown that learning a language through tasks that are relevant to your daily life is very efficient. GPS technique works well for several reasons. First, you will gain practice in listening with real consequences, because if you do not follow the instructions you will not arrive at a destination. Second, you have some context and background information that might help in understanding the language. If you start using GPS on a well-known route, it can certainly assist in learning new words for guidelines that you already follow. And as a more advanced student, you can use GPS on unknown roads, when the stake and the pressure are higher.

3. Change your settings

Changing the language settings on your devices such as computer or phone can be a frustrating exercise. But if you are actively trying to learn a language, changing these settings gives you the opportunity to use the new language while you are finishing your everyday activities. You can sort and filter messages, search for apps, browse the web, all in a language you are learning. And, as with GPS advice, you have some context of new words you learn, and some sense of how to fulfill these tasks, which can be helpful. Also, there are frequent opportunities to practice reading, because every time you want to open an application, check e-mail, or find a document, you are automatically forced to practice the selected language. Later on, when you feel particularly brave and confident, you can also try it with an ATM!

4. Take advantage of the apps

With the development of technology, numerous applications and platforms became available in the market that may help in overcoming any foreign language. All of them are characterized by ease of use. Just install them on your mobile phone or laptop and learning can begin. Vacations are the ideal time to try out some of the popular applications. Why not have some fun somewhere on the beach and start learning new stuff or just repeating the things you already learned? The most apps are intended for easy adapting in an unknown language environment. Therefore, they offer the most common phrases that tourists need for basic communication in a foreign country. If you want to know more than basic greetings and phrases, you should definitely think about using some of those applications and platforms for learning languages.

5. Watch courses on Youtube

There are specifically created channels on Youtube for quick and easy learning of a second language. The best-covered ones are English, Italian, French, Russian, Arabic, and Spanish, while you should allocate more time searching for other languages. Simplified exercises, which combine visual and grammatical elements, accelerate the learning process, so the user apparently figures out how particular language works. Therefore, the learning goes much faster and natural. Some courses will only teach you how to read words correctly, while others will serve better when it comes to grammar and spelling. In fact, everything you need to do is to sit on a chair or stool and start searching for language courses. It might take some time in the beginning, but do not give up! Keep in mind that some of the courses available on YouTube are not officially certified, but they will probably help you more easily communicate in an unknown environment.

The challenge of learning a second language is a huge one, primarily because it is known that such a process requires a significant investment of time and effort. This investment is something that many people are not willing to do unless they are learning something relevant and important to their daily lives. One simple way is the utilization of everyday technologies that do not necessarily serve for language learning, but can still provide some useful instructions and guidelines.