How many hours a day do you spend on your cell phone, tablet or computer?
Come on, you can tell the truth. We’re all friends here.
Think about it. Take a minute if you need to.
Consider blogs. Facebook. Gaming. News. Netflix.
Okay, you don’t have to say the number out loud, but you’ve likely come to the conclusion that you’re like most of us and spend a lot of time browsing social media sites. Like, a lot.
Feels better to admit it, doesn’t it?
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with social media. I mean, who hasn’t whiled away time intended for other things, instead perusing attention-grabbing sites, laughing over silly photos or living vicariously through exotic posts written by strangers?
We all have. It’s just part of the social truth of our time.
Social media grabs our attention. And, in some cases, it holds that attention for a very long time.
One study estimates that an average person today may spend more than five years on social media over their lifetime!
Between us, I think that estimate might even be a tad low but hey, that’s just me.
Since we’re already using the technology of social media, why not apply it to something we all know and love—like language learning? Makes sense, right?
What Is SMLL?
Social Media Language Learning, or SMLL, is a learning approach that concentrates on connecting interactive social media channels with language learners. Studies indicate that language learning is both inherently social and interactive so this method facilitates learning.
Idiomplus, based in Barcelona, Spain, was one of the first to implement a solid Social Media Language Learning program. It focuses on integrating social media channels to stimulate conversation between language learners, which in turn provides a more natural method for picking up a language.
Several other language learning leaders, including FluentU, espouse the social and interactive nature of modern social networks as a successful route to language learning.
How Can Social Media Help in a Language Learning Journey?
SMLL isn’t just about surfing the web, watching random videos or clicking interesting links—although some form of each of those is at least a logical component of the method.
What matters isn’t whether or not you click, surf and browse, but rather what you’re interacting with.
So focus on language learning now. There’ll be time for random stuff later. For now, open only sites which encourage you to stretch your language skills.
Social media adds an element of interactive fun to the language learning equation. And when something doesn’t feel like work, we tend to apply ourselves just a little bit more—with seemingly less effort.
The social aspect also allows you to connect to others, including learners like yourself as well as native speakers. And think about it—you can do this without ever leaving your home!
Social media can even provide a way to hold yourself accountable. If you make a pledge to check in and report your progress, you’ll be more likely to work toward the goal you’ve set.
With others to encourage as well as pull you along, there’s less of a chance you may fall behind or discard your language commitment. The group mentality works, even from a distance!
Using videos, newscasts and conversations in chat groups to observe the cultural aspects of a country where a target language is spoken can be a huge advantage when it comes to learning. Remember, language learning is a social and interactive process so seeing, hearing and participating in things like fashion, food and the arts gives dimension to the journey, which you don’t typically find between the pages of a book or in a classroom setting.
Ready to Marry Social Media and Language Learning?
Let’s look at places to find communities of like-minded language learners like yourself.
For many of us, the biggest social media hot spot is Facebook. And that’s great! If you’re committed to meeting language learners, it’s a great place to meet up and interact.
There are groups for various and specific languages—and some groups communicate solely through the target language so it becomes an immersive social media experience. It can be intimidating at first to see every post and comment in another language but don’t let that put you off. The sooner you join in, the more quickly you’ll learn.
There are also general language learner groups which allow participation in several languages.
Use the Facebook search bar to look for language learning groups, and you’ll find several to choose from in nearly every language.
Remember, if you’re not comfortable with the first group you choose, there’s no penalty for leaving the group to check out another. Bounce around if you have to, until you find a social language learning environment that fits your needs.
One language study group, We Do Languages, is a starting point for many people. They have many learners intent on mastering several languages!
If you really don’t find a Facebook language learning group that makes you feel like you’ll learn and grow, start your own group! If there’s not one that feels like “home,” make your own home and welcome others in.
The idea is to learn through socializing. It doesn’t matter where you hang your hat, as long as you get to know your new friends.
Now that you’ve hopefully found a Facebook niche, add to that with some fun and interesting language learning blogs.
Bloggers write in countless languages, from nearly every spot on the globe. They provide a perspective and a slice of life from places that can seem new and exciting.
Lots of them come from countries that many of us won’t see in our lifetimes. But we can interact with those who live there and see what really goes on in the spots we dream about!
We can also do that with places we have visited, of course. For example, I’ve been to Italy and loved it. I speak Italian and am committed to staying fluent in the language so I read Adgblog, a blog about Italian culture. It’s written in Italian and there are some really interesting posts. Also, I read Wandering Italy, just for the culture.
There are also tons of blogs about learning other target languages. These blogs facilitate learning and are geared toward the learner’s mindset. The Polyglot Dream and Fluent in 3 Months are go-to sources for advice from polyglots who’ve walked the walk and can really talk the talk!
FluentU’s also has several blogs for those on their own language learning journey. They provide invaluable tips, advice and resources. In addition to this blog, which shares tips and resources for all language learners, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Korean and Italian each have their own blogs for language learners and are veritable warehouses of information. Additionally, there are separate blogs for educators in those languages, and there’s even a business English blog!
The next three social media resources are all fast-paced social meeting places which allow for interaction, connection and learning in a target language.
Using Twitter to read “tweets” in a foreign language can be a fun learning device. There’s no overthinking things, and it has the appeal of casually sharing information.
One of my favorite polyglot Twitter accounts is called Polyglot Club. Just stopping in there reminds me I’m not alone on my language learning journey!
Polyglot Weekly is also worth a Twitter peek. Many of Tweets are about language, but they also cover cultural issues.
Finally, there’s the Twitter account for Duolingo, the language learning program and app. They post interesting little tips and tidbits about many different languages.
WhatsApp is a messaging app that keeps the globe connected. Over a billion people in 180 countries keep in touch using this social device. Connect with people in a distant land and practice your language skills. It’s easy to interact with—and learn from—those who post in your target language.
Snapchat, the spot for posting photos and messages that are available only for a short time, can also encourage language learning. With users worldwide, there are plenty of people who can help with pronunciation and grammar issues. You can post a short video of yourself speaking and ask for critiques, then view replies on other users’ accounts.
YouTube is a social media gold mine for language learners. To get the most out of what’s available, search using hashtags related to the language you want to learn.
The point is, keep looking until you figure out what social media language learning resource and strategy best fits your lifestyle. Language learning is a personal endeavor with no one-size-fits-all method.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
So now you’re a social media whiz. You’ve made connections and interactions and have improved your language learning.
But the question remains: How do you make social media a top tool in your language learning arsenal?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Don’t be shy. Join conversations and participate. It’s not always easy, but just remember: You probably won’t ever see these people in real life and anyway, they’re probably too busy to worry if you make a mistake because they’re too concerned about the impression they’re making!
- Ask questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everybody’s learning together, and at one time the person who’s helping correct your mistake also made a similar mistake. Don’t forget that—and just enjoy the social aspects of sharing a language!
- Follow any accounts that facilitate learning. Of course, there are spots that don’t encourage participation but that doesn’t meant they aren’t useful. You can still drink up the content, learn about culture or simply glean insights by watching what native speakers do and say. There’s a lot to be said for observation!
Social Media and Language Learning, Living Happily Ever After
We live busy lives and it can be brutal to squeeze in time for language learning, unless we use what we have at hand to our best advantage. And for most of us, social media platforms are almost constantly at hand.
So reach out and touch someone, linguistically speaking, and learn while you’re getting acquainted.
Who knows, a social media learning experience might bring a new real-life friend into your life—along with a trip to somewhere fun and exotic, perhaps! What’s not to love?
Social media and language learning? Definitely seems like a match made in heaven!
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