5 Creative Ideas for Boosting Results and Adding Fun in Your Online Language Lessons

Language tutors are a favourite resource in any successful learner’s arsenal. But it’s not always easy to stay excited about your language lessons, and to turn up regularly…If there’s no creativity in online lessons, no one gets to have the results or the fun that they should have. 

No problem! Check out the following 5 ideas for lessons in any language, and you’ll be on to a winner!

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9 of the Best Resources for Learning Spanish Online

Finding credible resources for language learning can be difficult and time-consuming, but don't worry...I'm here to help! Welcome to a new blog series called 9 Best Resources. Every month, I'll bring you trusted and reliable apps, courses, books and more.

The series kicks off with one of the most popular languages among learners everywhere: Español!

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3 Tutor-Approved Ideas For Learning a Language With Duolingo

Language learning was so boring before a little owl in a tracksuit came along. 

Armed with addictive streak and modern technology, today's smartphone language learning feels more like a computer game than a language lesson. And in many ways, that's a great thing.

Read on to find out my top 3 tips for getting the most out of your Duolingo time.

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My Challenge Results & 17 Tips For Language Learning on Social Media

social media tips

This is 2017: Social media is more powerful than ever. The next US president is tweeting at all hours. The Facebook algorithm has contributed to shaping public opinion. And over 80% of the population (in the USA) are on some kind of social network.

You'd think we're all a bunch of timewasters, scrolling our life away. But in this world of chaos, a small idea came and brought new motivation: "Use social media for good", it stated. Let's all stop wasting time and turn that naughty Facebook habit around.

Today, I'm here to tell you how that idea works out in practice. I've just completed a 28 Day Social Media Challenge, supported by the course Social Media Success. This course by Lindsay Williams is made for language learners and builds up your new study habit over 4 weeks.

Download the Guide

If you want to get more "behind the scenes" insight and find out which social networks are my top recommendations for language learners, be sure to download the new Guide to Social Networks from my Fluent Cool Kids Club by signing up here for free..

My Challenge Results

In my main language, Welsh, I spoke more sentences, discovered more native speakers, and added new vocabulary. In other words: HECK YES. This habit does not replace bigger study sessions, but it didn't take away the time for them either. Instead, I spent an effortless extra 3 hours on language learning.

I also found more time for my secondary languages. Currently these are Malaysian and French, and in the challenge I did things for both of them. Just a little bit, but it was there and lets me build onto them. I'm already working on a schedule.

17 Quick Tips for Language Learning on Social Media

Over the course of the 28 days, I collected short and simple tips that can help anyone get started with language learning on social media. Feel free to try a few of these, or even just to pick one.

Learn when you are busy

We already spend so much time on social media that this isn't a new time demand for most people. In fact, when was the last time you checked Facebook or Twitter? 20 minutes ago? Good! If you can do that, then you will find the language activities very easy. I was able to stick with the plan even on days where I travelled for over 12 hours, or met my whole extended family.

Here are my top tips:

  • Mix language tools (flashcards) and social media together

For example, you can add new words you learn on Snapchat to a list on Memrise, or document your Duolingo tree in a Facebook group.

  • Edit your newsfeed to stay focused

Are you following someone who tweets more nonsense than helpful things? Edit your newsfeed! You can mute some posts and set up focused lists to help you get there and save time. Twitter is my favourite tool for this.

  • Newsfeed a mess still? Make a new profile

I created a language profile on Instagram so that I could stay focused on languages and have a newsfeed that gives me support and motivation. You can do the same on any social network, and most apps now support quick switching.

It pays off in 4 ways

Lanugage learning on social media is not just a way of taking your language skills to the next level. It also keeps you accountable, meaning you will stay motivated and keep going for longer. You will create documentation of how you're doing in languages, allowing you to see and feel progress. And finally, the community of language learners will start connecting to you meaning you make new language loving friends and find more interesting things about your language.

Here's how to get the most out of this:

  • Follow teachers, bands and businesses

Social Media for Language Learning is about getting your newsfeed right, so make sure you follow as many useful accounts as you can. Find them by searching for your languages or seeing what's related to people you follow.

  • Find existing communities

Every social network has a bunch of great groups that are already talking about your language. Check out Instagram challenges, Twitter chats, subreddits and Facebook groups.

  • Avoid hiding your mistakes

When there is something wrong, people like to comment and correct it. This is how you find the best language community online, so forget about looking flawed and start putting your mistakes out there - they're like community bait!

  • Make and share a goal

If your followers know what you are working on, they will be more invested in your success and you'll get lovely support messages. This also works for your own motivation, as stating the public goal keeps you more accountable.

Not every social network is great for language learning

In my experience of working through the social media jungle, some apps and websites emerged as stars and others felt like a waste of time. You can read more about my experiences in the special guide to social networks I created for the Fluent Cool Kids Club, which is free to join.

  • Organise everyone you follow

On Facebook it's groups, on Pinterest it's boards, on Twitter it's lists. The better your organization, the faster you can find the right people.

  • Organise early, but not too often

Invest half an hour at the start to get your lists or groups set up, and then don't worry about it anymore and enjoy the journey!

  • Be ok with not being everywhere

Over time, you will realize that some apps or networks feel more like an obligation than a pleasure. The best way for you to find out what works for you is to try the challenges in Lindsay's course. After 28 days, look back and ask what worked best for you - then ditch the duds and stick with your daily practice where it matters!

Oh, by the way: This is fun!

Maybe this all sounds like a lot of hard work, but let me tell you: I had lots of fun with my languages. This way of learning is creative and lets you try out anything such as practice with kids, singing new songs, sharing pets or photos of your books.

Some tips to get more out of this:

  • Use apps to go with your apps

The app store is full of great ways to take your photos and words to the next level! You can create images with apps like Wordswag, discover Snapchatters on Ghostcodes, and much more. Simply search your app store for the name of any social network and you'll find new ideas instantly.

  • Explore more social networks

No one said you have to stick to Facebook and Twitter! Try language learning networks or look around on the boards of Fluent in 3 Months or Italki for example, or investigate the extra social networks in my new Cool Kids Club guide.

  • Use algorithms to find more and more

Once you follow a language learner, the social network will learn what kind of people and topics you're interested in. Wait a few minutes, and watch your newsfeed transform into a language class like no other!

At the end of every week, you should spend 30 minutes on a review for new words and lessons. Here's what I did:

  • Review your liked/saved posts

On most social networks, you can access a list of everything you've "Liked" so that you can use this as a bookmark system and work through it once a week as you review the best of the week.

  • Learn social media vocab

The easiest way to find out vocabulary for "post", "comment", "tweet" etc is to switch the user language in your social network.

  • Add your new words to a separate vocab list

Every week, it pays to invest a little bit of time to take all those new posts and words out of the internet and put them into your notebook, flashcards, and, ultimately, brain.

  • Stay organised

Building habits is not the same as doing an intensive challenge, but this investment of your time in "little and often" will pay off. Use a diary, a tracker or follow the Social Media Success schedules so that you don't give up halfway through. The goal here is to start a daily language practice, not to become fluent in a short time!

So here's the conclusion: Social Media for Languages is something you should try - immediately! It won't take a lot of time, and it will pay off for sure.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here and tell me what worked for you and which social network you use all the time.

And don't forget that my free guide to ALL social networks is waiting for you in the Cool Kids Club!

How to Learn a Language Using Snapchat (Podcast Episode 45)

Everyone's talking about social media, some people are talking about social media for language learning. In today's podcast episode, get the most specific advice possible as Lindsay and I guide you through the Snapchat app for language learning.

Listen to the episode:

Don't forget to catch the mention of our good friends at Flashsticks, the language learning post-it guys. You can purchase vocabulary post-it notes in 8 languages and get 10% off with the code KERSTIN10.

snapchat language learning

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a social media app for any smartphone. It lets you share photos or videos, and your snap only lasts 24 hours unless you make it a "memory".

Of course you can change the menu language, but with such strong visual focus that alone won't teach you a language.

It's designed for camera phones and not available on your desktop computer.

Why is it awesome?

  • It's easy, fast and low-pressure. In other photo social networks, you would be tempted to make every picture stunning and impressive and beautiful. But in Snapchat, you'll just play and learn in the process. What does that mean? No more shyness, no more reasons to avoid speaking!
  • It allows you to stitch things together into a story, so you can share a 5-second snap, or go ahead and combine several videos to show how you speak a foreign language.
  • For language learning, the new Memories feature is a way to track your progress. Record yourself speaking today, save the memory, and try the same thing in a month. You'll be surprised at your own progress!

How to Get The Most Out of This For Languages

You may have to set up a little system in order to get the most out of this, for example an evening review or a regular vocab routine.

1. Document
Lindsay studies every morning and documents her mistakes on Snapchat, while I am more spontaneous and use the system to show and share how languages pop up in my day.

2. Check and Correct Errors
One other idea is to practice what you want to practice, then check back and correct the errors that you made. We go into detail about how important it is not just to make the mistakes, but to correct the mistakes so that you can get better.

3. Make Yourself a Vocab Resource
As you go through your day, why not take pictures of all you see around you and build yourself a little daily vocab resource? You can save the story in Memories at the end of the day, or do an evening review to add the words to your vocabulary bank.

Great Accounts to Follow (Click for the Snapcodes)

Are You a Snapchat User?

If you use Snapchat for language learning (or not), leave us a comment and share your usernames and snapcodes.

Thank you guys so much for being podcast listeners, chatting to us on twitter (I'm @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages) and making your voices heard!

Podcast Episode 43: Language is Everything: Talking Language Activism with Wikitongues

Our good friends at Flashsticks are back as podcast sponsors - go check out their awesome new app Flash Academy (it's free), their post-it notes in 8 languages, and claim 10% discount using code KERSTIN10.

An organization dedicated to raising awareness of language diversity.

"This is one of the most important things that we can do as humans - to constantly strive to learn about things that we don't understand."

We all know that language is important, but after listening to this episode you'll be amazed at the enormous variety of perspectives on this topic. Non-profit organization Wikitongues looks at languages from all points of view - as a metaphor for life.

Listen to the new podcast episode now to find out all about Wikitongues and how Lindsay and I are connected to their mission.

wikitongues

When a language is lost, the individuals in that community lose a part of who they are. Language death is both a loss of history and a loss of identity.

If you oppose racism, mysogyny, genocide and oppresion, you must support language diversity!

And if you thought language discrimination was a thing of the past, think again: Languages like Occitan and Cornish are experiencing it right now.

Some cool languages documented on Wikitongues:

Note for pedants: In the interview, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights was mentioned, but the speaker may have meant the Universal Declaration for Linguistic Rights. I researched this but could not find the exact quote in either one. If you know more details, go ahead and leave a comment or itunes review to help us out.

When Should You Consider an Offline Language Tutor? + The Tutor Pages Reviewed

When I started out as a language tutor, the lessons I taught were face to face, right here in little Lancaster. I would walk across town or host students at my house, puzzling together language over a friendly cup of tea. It was lovely, and still one of the most comfortable learning environments I've ever worked in.

So when I was approached by British website The Tutor Pages, who asked me to review their service for hiring and finding a tutor right in your town, I was excited to bring you this perspective on studying. As a language learner reading a language blog, your first thought might not be "hell yes, IRL tutors are for me!" - I mean, we've got the world of Skype lessons and Italki open to us.

But even in a world of online learning miracles, there are a few occasions when finding a kick-ass IRL tutor could be the best thing you've ever done.

An Offline Tutor? Like..really?

Most of us associate an IRL "tutor" with after-school support for kids or teenagers, but you can actually find and hire tutors at any point in your life.

I know people who teach the Latin language to pensioners who want to follow their passion for history, and hundreds of native speakers who bring dry school materials to life.

Meeting Real People In Real Places

Being online is super convenient, but every now and then there's a huge advantage to being in the same time zone and same place.

Not only is it easier to demonstrate pronunciation and draw diagrams in a real-life meeting, but you can even take advantage of cool meeting spaces like the library or a favourite café. There are huge advantages of establishing such a Third Place, where you can be study-focused and work in peace.

Local Study Knowledge

If you're in full-time education and preparing for a specific exam, you want to find someone who can help you prepare in person. From mock examinations in person, to breathing techniques, I've found that having a local expert in the room really has the edge here.

What is The Tutor Pages?

In a nutshell, The Tutor Pages is an online directory for professional tutors who want to offer more than just conversation practice. It's UK-focused, so the easiest way to see what's available is to type in a subject and/or post code on the right hand side and off you go. You don't have to sign up and you don't have to purchase any credits.

What I Liked About The Site

First of all, I think it's great to see that the site pushes tutors to submit articles so you can see more about them and their expertise. Any professional tutor worth their salt will be super passionate about what they teach and have a lot to say. The profiles are awesome and give lots of detail about qualifications, pictures and personality of your tutor - here's an example I liked.

The variety of subjects on offer in this directory was super cool to look through. It's inspiring to see the range of what people are learning out there. I loved the sense of this website as a space where people go to improve their life.

I also liked the "Tutor Wanted" section, which is where you can post a request for lessons. If whatever is listed in the directory doesn't feel right, here's a space for you to put it in your own words.

What Wasn't Great About The Tutor Pages

It's clear that this website works hard on attracting web traffic, which means the site is keyword-focused at times. This is great because it keeps the directory alive, but it means you end up with a cluttered interface and a lot of words that no one needs. I certainly think they could clean it up a little.

The tutor search could also do with some improvement. The option of finding an online tutor is available, but I would have loved for the system to allow me more than one location option. Like, what if I want to find a tutor who lives in my area and still offers online classes?

The downside of having a directory that focuses on a wider range of skills is that languages outside the mainstream aren't represented. There's no shortage of people to hire for help with German, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian. But I tried searching for some of the smaller languages we polyglots feel drawn to and drew a blank. You can check out their full directory here to save yourself some time.

How The Business Side Works

The Tutor Pages is only the directory, but not the middleman between you and your tutor. On the one hand, this means you won't have to pay any extra commission. On the other hand, it could be a downside if there was any dispute between you and the tutor.

The rates are certainly fair for the British market. As you know from my other posts about language tutor pricing, there are lots of factors that go into deciding what you invest in.

Who Is This For?

A language learner looking for conversation practice based on their own studies might not need the full 1:1 pro experience. But if you're too busy to set and monitor goals, or want to cut out the hassle of following grammar rabbit holes, a tutor is for you.

In short, The Tutor Pages is best for:

  • anyone in UK full-time education who wants help with what their curriculum asks
  • families or parents with kids, who want to introduce languages to their kids at an early age
  • anyone who isn't sure about Skype tuition yet or wants to get out of the house to enjoy language lessons.

What do you think about IRL tutoring?

Have you had good or bad experiences?

Let me know in the comments below, or say hi to me on Twitter.