Did you know that Bob Dylan is a visual artist?
Or that Vladimir Putin can play Russian classics on the piano?
Or that Angelina Jolie is a licensed pilot?
And hey, did you also know that Facebook is a language learning powerhouse?
Yep, you just need to approach it with the right mindset to fully harness its educational potential.
In this post, we’re going to show you how to master a language through strategic “Likes,” friendly “Follows” and other Facebook-based tricks.
Below are 10 ways to make your Facebook account burst with language lessons and insights that get a big thumbs-up from us.
Learning a Language Through Facebook? For Reals?!
Despite the funky press it’s received over the years, many find it hard to imagine life before Facebook. The social network has practically embedded itself in almost all aspects of life. But all this success aside, Facebook is still often an untapped resource when it comes to learning a new language. When our idea of Facebook is primarily a place to tag our friends, post cryptic “I hate somebody, guess who” updates and watch viral videos, we miss out on huge learning potential staring us right in the face.
The thing about Facebook is, you’re already there, and you already know how it works!
So you might as well make it count.
Think about it. The world is on Facebook: the native speakers you seek, the language content you’ve been looking for. All the big language content producers are there. And in a place like Facebook, unlike with standalone websites, you get to talk to everyone. You get to comment. You get to ask questions. You have a say in things. It’s very democratic.
But people have not yet woken up to the idea of Facebook as a major language learning resource. The language learning taking place, if it happens at all, happens tangentially, or by chance. This shouldn’t be the case, however, because if you think about it, Facebook is practically designed for the language learner. (It has translation capabilities, for goodness sakes!)
It’s time we take this platform by the horns and milk it for all its worth.
So here are 10 things you can do today to re-discover Facebook as the awesome language learning platform it’s always been.
10 Facebook Language Learning Ideas You’ll “Like” or “Love”
1) Join language learning groups.
Facebook is a very good platform for people with similar interests to find each other, interact and, ultimately, become a community. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of groups that cater to language learners. You can join general purpose language groups that welcome learners of all tongues into their fold. You also have language-specific groups like those interested in Korean, Arabic or German.
To find these learning communities, simply go to the search bar and use search terms like “[French, Spanish, etc.] language learning groups.” This will bring up relevant results for groups you can instantly join.
To maximize these communities, be an active member of your groups. This goes from the very day you join. Give everyone a hearty, “Hello! Newbie here!” The people who wave back will likely be the ones who are the most active in the group, and you should take the opportunity to strike up a conversation with them.
Language learning groups can be wellsprings of information and opinion. You can ask for reviews for certain language products, you can be pointed to resources you would otherwise have never heard of and you can make friends along the way!
2) “Like” pages that deal with your target language.
Want your FB feed to be an automatic learning machine, continually serving you up language learning opportunities? “Like” those pages and posts that relate to the language you’re studying. Smashing the thumbs-up button on these babies will let Facebook know that you’re interested in topics related to your target language and will prioritize displaying them on your feed. Facebook goes, “Oh, so you like that, huh? Well, here’s more…”
So how do you find out about content to “Like” and “Follow” in the first place? Well, it’s best to step out of Facebook and use Google for this. For example, let’s say you want to get to the major Italian newspapers. Type in “Italian newspapers in Italian” on Google and you’ll get the names of their major dailies. Pick one newspaper, say, Corriere della Sera (Evening Courier). Copy and paste its name into the Facebook search bar to see if the publication has a FB presence. When you see they do, don’t hesitate to smash “Like” on their page. Do this for several newspapers, and soon, your feed will be populated with updates and news in Italian.
Try this method for any type of content you’d like to have on your feed—for example, foreign language TV shows, like the German “Der Tatortreiniger” (“The Crime Scene Cleaner”), or foreign language magazines, like the French Le Point.
Now your feed might be populated with friends or acquaintances whose love life or daily lunch pics don’t interest you that much. You can tell Facebook not to show things like this on your feed so your language-related content doesn’t get buried under the rest of the noise by choosing to “Unfollow” people or groups (you can still remain friends with them, but just not see their content).
This way, your timeline will show language learning content that’s worth a real look.
To really have more control over what shows up on your timeline, click the downward pointing triangle found at the top right corner of your screen. Click on “News Feed Preferences.” You’ll then be shown options like “Prioritize who to see first,” and “Unfollow people to hide their posts.”
3) Watch viral videos from people that speak your language of interest.
You’re already watching videos on Facebook, right? Might as well watch those that have something to do with your target language. Viral videos are highly memorable, and so they make the language they come in memorable as well. Maybe one shows a Chinese couple arguing about some silly thing, or a French boyfriend explaining an oncoming prank or even a Spanish sketch about the lovely differences between being single and attached—milk these visual contexts for language lessons.
To find these viral videos, it’s again best to search through Google. Type in “Spanish viral videos Facebook,” for example, and you’ll see an assortment of hits. You can also add search terms like “funny,” “inspirational,” “top,” “amazing,” etc.
This method can lead you to whole pages of videos and images. For example, Spanish learners can get to pages like Mexican Funny Videos, which curates humor content. There, you’ll find videos like “La Jefa” (“The Boss”), which shows a mother telling a son to clean the house, or else face terrible consequences.
Don’t forget to “Like” the pages or accounts containing the videos so their updates get locked into your Facebook feed.
If you enjoy learning with videos on Facebook, you’ll definitely want to check out FluentU, which curates the best of YouTube in your target language for you. FluentU tracks down real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
4) Add native speakers to your “Friends” list.
Native speakers are your ultimate language insiders. They can teach you their language in a way a textbook never can.
And the cool thing about native speakers is that you basically just have to find one. And that one will be connected to loads of others.
One way of finding native speakers is through the language learning groups we talked about earlier. Be on the lookout for native speakers who simply joined a group because they want to help everybody else. When somebody in the group asks a question and somebody else addresses the query with something like, “I’m a native speaker, and the answer to your question is…,” that’s a green light for you to add that person as a friend. They’ve already signaled willingness to help, and are therefore a high-quality friend add.
And like I said, you just need one connection, and this will likely open up a whole network of native speakers for you.
5) Study status updates and posts by your newfound friends, and write your own.
Let’s say you already have several native speakers added to your list. Milk their profiles by following them and studying their updates and posts. (What an easy way of learning with authentic content!)
They wrote something? There’s a language lesson for you! Find out what it’s all about. Like social media posts in your native language, it may be short, silly and mundane. Heck, they might just say that they just finished a good cup of coffee, but that’s a gold nugget right there for a language learner like you.
They posted pictures? Read those captions and learn the fastest ways of describing things!
As long as we’re on the topic of posts and updates, did you know that you can write your own posts in your target language? Just activate “Multilingual Posts” in the “Language” section of “Settings,” and every time you send out a post, you can choose to write it in French, Spanish, etc. This is an excellent way to practice writing in your target language.
Don’t worry that your friends might think you weird when their feed shows inscrutable French from you. Facebook will automatically translate your blurbs into English and your friends will be none the wiser.
6) Read (and write) comments.
Comments sections are a treasure trove of language gems waiting to be discovered. They can get even longer and more detailed than posts and updates, so they’re perfect for intermediate learners wishing to flex those linguistic muscles.
Whether you’re on a language learning page or a native speaker’s account, reading replies to updates will teach you things like vocabulary, common phrases, common expressions, sentence construction and idiomatic expressions. When you’ve got native speakers chatting back and forth, their language on full display, oh, that’s simply a masterclass in the language.
Just make sure that Facebook doesn’t automatically translate your target language into English. To do this, go to “Settings” and click “Language.” Under “News Feed Translation Preferences,” edit “Which languages do you not want automatically translated?” Type in your target language and save those changes.
This will allow you to view the comments and post in the original language that it was written. And don’t worry, if you need it rendered in English, you can always click the ubiquitous “See Translation.”
7) Check out pages for language learners.
Earlier, we talked about language learning groups, right? Lo and behold, there are also pages and accounts run by polyglots, language bloggers, language content producers and institutions that give you heaps and heaps of free material.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry who produces language learning content is probably on Facebook. And guess what, you often get richer information from their FB pages or profiles than their websites. With standalone “.com” websites, you have a one-sided flow of information. It’s the company presenting their stuff. On Facebook, there’s a lot more interaction happening. People get to comment and write in their reviews, suggestions and queries.
So do check these out. Follow FluentU on Facebook and we’ll keep you updated on our latest posts with language learning tips and resources.
8) Pursue your hobbies and interests… but in the target language.
You have hobbies and subjects that grab your attention, right? What if I told you that you can pursue those wide-ranging interests and your love for languages at the same time?
Because Facebook is such an international brand, people all over the world are using it. And guess what, they’re Facebooking in their own tongue, posting content in a variety of languages.
Say you’re passionate about food and scouting for great recipes. Instead of hobnobbing with the FB accounts of your favorite cooking shows in your native language or your go-to native-speaking chefs, search for chefs and shows in the language you’re interested in. You’ll not only get to see a different set of fare from an authentic perspective, you’ll also learn a new language along the way. Even a one-minute video that time-lapses the process of making a simple dish, flashing the different ingredients on the screen, can be a great vocabulary lesson.
So whether you have an unmatched affinity for DIY projects, gardening, stamps or cars, Facebook can help you learn a language and engage your other passions at the same time.
9) Watch some live streams in your target language.
Facebook has launched live streaming capabilities on its platform, which means real-time language learning opportunities for those who know how to properly look and listen.
You can find videos that are currently playing live by scrolling down to the “Explore” section located on the left-hand side of your screen and clicking on “Live Video.” Follow enough language-related pages and you’ll have more opportunities to catch an interesting live feed in your target language.
However, the live streams you watch don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with language learning, as long as they’re in the target language. Hey, one could be about a French lady selling the contents of her closet online, or a German knife manufacturer exhibiting the virtues of his product—the smart language learner uses these events as learning opportunities.
They listen to what’s being said. They listen to the tone and inflection of words. They watch for the most commonly repeated phrases and expressions. They have a dictionary or translator app ready just in case.
Because live streaming doesn’t come with subtitles or transcriptions, it’s best suited to intermediate and advanced learners out to hone their listening and comprehension skills.
And… if you’re bold enough, you can test your writing chops by joining the live chat and asking a question or two of the host, all in the target language. There’s no guarantee that your comment or question will be answered (much less read), but it’s still good practice for communicating your thoughts in written form.
10) Unleash the beast: Set your Facebook language to your target language.
And last but not least, you can simply go all the way and immerse in the target language by changing the language FB comes in. Go to “Settings” and click on “Language.” Edit the section “What language do you want to use Facebook in” by choosing your target language.
Click “Save changes.” (It will change your world.)
So for example, if you change the language settings from English to French, the whole Facebook interface now is in French. The “Like” button becomes “J’aime” and “See translation” becomes “Voir la traduction.” (And you will never be the same.)
You’ll feel like a fish out of water initially, maybe even thinking, “This isn’t Facebook!” But resist the urge to navigate back to the settings and change back to English. Stop yourself, because very soon, you’ll get the hang of it. Soon, you’ll be breezing through the French interface without even missing a beat.
So there are 10 things you can do to your Facebook to turn it into a language learning site. Each is powerful in and of itself, but use three or four in unison and you’ll really be beginning to harness the platform’s language-enriching capabilities.
But of course, don’t forget to “Like” that picture of your friend’s cat. It’ll make her day!
Hope this post made yours.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.