12 Fun Ways to Learn a Language: Have a Blast as You Become Bilingual
Language learning doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it can be full-on fun.
I know from personal experience that language learning can be fun. I learned Spanish using the 12 methods described in this post and along the way, I made good Spanish-speaking friends, started an amazing relationship with a Spanish-speaking guy and became a much better cook.
So take it from me, with these 12 tricks and tips, you’ll have fun as you learn a new language.
- 1. Browse Reddit
- 2. Use Region-specific Social Media
- 3. Play Online Video Games
- 4. Find Friends Online
- 5. Date in Your Target Language
- 6. Set Your Phone to Your Target Language
- 7. Use Only the Most Entertaining Apps
- 8. Seek Out Recipes in Their Native Language
- 9. Watch Culinary Instruction Videos
- 10. Shop in Grocery Stores with Imported Goods
- 11. Order Imported Food Online
- 12. Eat Out in Authentic Restaurants
- And One More Thing...
1. Browse Reddit
Reddit’s my go-to place for language learning.
Make an account, explore and subscribe to “subreddits” (pages that are thematically-oriented to one specific region, interest, etc.) where people speak or study your target language. For example, if you’re learning French you might want to subscribe to the subreddits reddit.com/r/learnfrench, reddit.com/r/french or reddit.com/r/france—that last one being bilingual.
There, you’ll find great articles in your target language, along with comments from users. You’ll also come across memes, GIFs and fun images. Not only will you learn how other countries and cultures use these media—which is kinda fascinating all on its own—but you’ll also learn about a society’s favorite types of humor, plus ongoing jokes related to popular culture, current events and social issues.
You can also filter Reddit search results to only pull up posts in your target language.
You’ll just feel like you’re browsing away on Reddit, but you’re actively connecting with communities of language learners and native speakers.
2. Use Region-specific Social Media
Yeah, Facebook is popular pretty much everywhere. But you may have also noticed that certain areas of the world have their own social media sites with intense regional followings. See what native speakers of your target language are using, then sign up and start chatting!
For example, WhatsApp is popular in Europe and Latin America, while Kakao Talk is what Koreans use to chat.
3. Play Online Video Games
In terms of fun ways to learn a language, it’s hard to beat games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Team Fortress, which let you join group conversations and work cooperatively with others.
To get an idea of what gameplay will be like in your target language, check out the videos on Twitch. I’d recommend either searching the site by language (for example, type “German” into the site’s search bar) or by video game title—or both. Listen to how French trolls berate other players and work the word “n00b” into their sentences.
As for other popular games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and so on, Google “party up” threads for speakers of your native language. Search for this using your target language! They often look to recruit more game companions on online forums, since gaming is always more fun when you’ve got buddies to chat with.
4. Find Friends Online
Don’t just stop at language exchange sites for fun ways to learn a language. You may find it fun to use chat messengers and video conferencing to converse with native speakers, but that often involves stiff, formal conversation, awkward pauses and corrections. That adds a different level of pressure to the situation—you’ll still be in “learning” mode, trying to watch your words carefully and improve your speaking.
Want some more chill interactions? Try making friends in real life!
To get started, try Meetup. This is ideal if you’re living abroad and looking for more opportunities for casual interaction with native speakers or fellow learners. It’s also great while living in a country that doesn’t speak your target language—simply search for conversation nights and cultural activities related to the language, and you’ll be sure to find some like-minded peeps to hang out with.
5. Date in Your Target Language
Single and ready to mingle? Full disclosure—I got into something committed before the inglorious rise of Tinder and Grindr—but I know there are a lot of language learners out there looking to hook up. There are a few ways to go about finding matches who speak your target language, which may be the single most fun way to learn a language.
- Set your region to a place where your target language is spoken.
- Change your application interface to your target language.
- Include your spoken languages in your profile, and attract native speakers like flies.
- For sites and apps offering this option, filter potential matches by “languages spoken.”
Want to arrange a hookup in your destination before your plane even touches down? Tinder Plus, “the next level of Tinder,” is working overtime to market to us international, jet-setting, traveling types. If you’re hoping for something a little less casual, Match has separate pages specifically for seeking partners internationally.
6. Set Your Phone to Your Target Language
Easy as cake. Navigating your phone in your target language forces you to use your target language every time you pick up that mesmerizing little device.
Eventually, you’ll learn all the key words you need to get to text messages, contact lists, emails and Facebook, and you’ll find that you’re swiping and tapping your device as quickly and easily as you did in your native language!
7. Use Only the Most Entertaining Apps
Skip the flashcard apps for now. Try out fun apps that aim to deliver instant gratification.
- Duolingo gets you learning through cheerful, addictive games. You choose game content based on themes (food, animals, etc.) or linguistic points (present tense, gender, etc.) and play a round of three-strikes-you’re-out. Get the answers correct to advance and earn points. You can use these points for rewards, like bonus lives and health elixirs to store for extra-challenging rounds. For our full review of Duolingo, go here.
- FluentU has material that is made by and for native speakers.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each video is equipped with language learning tools to make it accessible to you at your level, like downloadable transcript, interactive subtitles that show definitions at a click, personalized quizzes and exercises, multimedia flashcards and more.
- GPSmyCity is great for iPhone users who enjoy playing with the first-person street view on Google maps. Take walking tours of over 1000 cities worldwide!
Look at street signs, billboards and more as you go to learn about language, culture, architecture and more.
- Google Translate has improved immensely in the last couple of years and it’s now at that state where it can blow your freaking mind. The future has officially arrived.
Simply point your smartphone camera lens at a text and have it translated before your eyes, in real time.
- Bonus: Download your favorite smartphone and tablet games in your target language! For example, did you know that all those silly little games that you just can’t stop playing—take, for example, Plants vs. Zombies—are frequently available in Spanish, French, Japanese and many, many more languages? For some, you’ll need to do the initial download with the different language indicated. For others, you can simply change the interface language in game settings.
8. Seek Out Recipes in Their Native Language
Can Paula Deen really make authentic fried plantains as good as any Ecuadorian mamita? Does Martha Stewart secretly have a Korean mother who taught her how to make that “ultimate” kimchi? Um, probably not.
If you want recipes that are authentic down to every last step of preparation, you’re better off searching for them in your target language. For example, few English plantain recipes will suggest you grab a rock from outside to smash ’em down after frying. That’s one beautiful little cultural detail you miss out on if you’re not finding recipes directly from their country of origin!
9. Watch Culinary Instruction Videos
Step right into an authentic kitchen, and let a native speaker of your target language take you to culinary heaven. Quality, step-by-step cooking videos are absolutely everywhere on the internet. Just search for your desired recipe in your target language on YouTube!
You’ll find everything from beautifully-lit and organized walk-throughs by professional chefs to normal people filming their home food preparation. Each type of video has its own advantages. The best part about any cooking video is that it was created for you to follow carefully. That means they’re usually very detailed. The cook will speak clearly, slowly and explicitly, which is perfect for language learners.
Cook along with them, or simply binge watch these videos when you’re hungry and daydreaming about delicious food.
10. Shop in Grocery Stores with Imported Goods
As a lifelong dawdler, I love leisurely strolling through grocery store aisles and mulling over the different items. This is even more fun when wandering around an ethnic grocery shop.
Any major city is bound to have Japanese convenience stores akin to those found on the streets of Tokyo. Latin grocery stores are arguably the most cost-efficient places to stock up on bulk bags of rice and beans. Most or all of the items in these kinds of stores will have labels written in your target language. It’s a language learner’s goldmine.
Make a shopping list based on the recipe you’ve found online in your target language—and write it out in that language too, of course.
Head to Google maps and see what’s in your area!
Even if you live in a rural area, like myself, the nearest large town or small city should still offer plenty of options. Visiting one of these stores is really worth the occasional drive if you can swing it.
11. Order Imported Food Online
If you enjoy shopping online and get a rush of excitement when an Amazon box appears on your doorstep, try browsing online for foreign products related to your target language.
What do native speakers order while they’re abroad and feeling homesick? Is there a particular product their country is famous for?
Look for products with stellar reviews that offer little tastes of local cuisine. Try out sites like Amigo Foods, which specializes in Spanish and Latin American foods, or Gohan Market for Japanese ingredients and drinks.
12. Eat Out in Authentic Restaurants
If you’re learning abroad, eat where the locals eat. Avoid tourist-packed restaurants like the plague—they’re usually overpriced and serve food watered down to foreign palettes anyway.
If you’re in your home country, track down where native speakers of your target language own restaurants. This will introduce you to authentic food, and often the menu will be partially or fully written in their home language.
You can chit-chat with the hosts, waiters and busboys to your heart’s content, allowing you to try out your language skills and maybe even make friends.
See? I told you these were seriously awesome ways to learn a language without studying. Now go have some fun and get started today!
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.