No More Aimless Scrolling! How to Learn a Language on Instagram
Did you know that Instagram has over 2 billion monthly active users?
2 billion. That’s a ton of photos, captions, and hashtags.
And it’s all available in more than 30 languages!
So if you’re addicted to Instagram and want to use it as an awesome language tool, here’s how to take advantage of the platform in terms of language and culture lessons.
- Why Use Instagram to Boost Language Learning?
- How to Maximize Your Insta-learning
- How to Find the Best Accounts to Follow
Why Use Instagram to Boost Language Learning?
There are two words that seal the deal as far as Instagram’s value for language learners: visual media.
Remember when you were a kid and all your books had pictures in them? There’s a reason for that. It’s called the multisensory learning theory, which is a fancy way of saying that when information is presented in more than one sensory format (like pictures that accompany words) it’s easier to learn and remember.
So those beautiful Instagram posts are more than just pretty pictures. Combined with the comments and captions in your target language, they provide a multisensory learning experience.
By following the right accounts (we’ll show you plenty below), you can also get up-close cultural lessons about the places where your target language is spoken.
And, let’s be real here. Instagram is fun. I don’t know about you, but any way I can bring fun into my language program is totally on my radar.
How to Maximize Your Insta-learning
Interact with Others!
Interaction with other Instagrammers is invaluable for language learners. The ability to exchange opinions and share ideas in this global format is a communication boost that many language learning apps and programs just don’t offer.
To maximize this interaction, comment and read others’ comments. Instagram even has an automatic translation feature so if a caption or comment exceeds your language ability, just hit “See Translation” to activate this option.
Bookmark Posts for Later
Instagram offers a “bookmark” feature, which makes it easy to return to posts that you want to review later. Just hit the little bookmark icon on the bottom right under any post and it’ll be saved for you.
When you’re ready to review, go to your profile and click the same bookmark icon in the upper right menu. This will show you all the posts you’ve bookmarked.
Use this feature to create collections of especially helpful or motivational language posts. It’s also possible to collect and categorize bookmarks for more than one language, so if you want to become a polyglot, organize a collection for each language you’re learning!
Quickly Scan for Video-heavy Accounts
As you’re searching for target language accounts to follow (more on that below), remember that Instagram isn’t just for static images. There’s also a video clip feature.
Choose accounts whose native speakers post a lot of videos so you won’t just see the photos and read the captions but also hear the language spoken! This is an invaluable way to round out your comprehension skills and hone your own pronunciation.
You can see which Instagrammers post frequent videos just by scanning their account page. All the thumbnails with video camera icons on them are video clips.
How to Find the Best Accounts to Follow
The trick to boosting language learning with Instagram is following accounts that have more than gorgeous photographs. I know, Instagram launched as a photo-sharing platform and yes, we all agree that the pics are amazing, but for language-learning purposes, we need more than just that.
Fortunately, finding useful accounts isn’t difficult. Here are the two main types of accounts you’ll want to follow:
Native Speakers in Your Target Language
Native speaker accounts offer armchair traveling at its best. They bring authentic language and culture lessons right to your phone.
Simply put a hashtag and the language or country you’re looking to follow into the search bar—just be sure to translate the language or country into the target language, so you can filter out tourists. For example, hoping to find some legit Spanish Instagrammers to follow? Try #España (#Spain) and see what pops up.
Search for your hobbies in the target language, too. Think travel, sports or cooking. Your search will produce a list of accounts that you might enjoy, so scroll through them and check out a few.
As you scroll through the accounts you find, follow the ones that consistently post long captions and have lots of comments. Those will help you acquire vocabulary, idioms and phrases every time you start scrolling.
To give you an idea of what to look for, check out these follow-worthy native language accounts:
- A Casa Di Cindy (At Cindy’s house) is a charming Italian account filled with gorgeous photographs on subjects that almost anyone would find pleasing. Think pets, cooking, scenery and you’ll get the idea. This is a perfect spot to pick up basic Italian vocabulary that can be used in everyday conversation.
- Madrid en tus manos (Madrid in your hands) is an absolutely gorgeous account that Spanish learners will love. Visually appealing is an understatement! This Instagrammer brings the sights, sounds and tastes of Madrid to the screen, and shows all the amazing beauty of this incredible city to its followers—and no one even has to leave home to see any of it!
- French Words Journal is a cultural delight run by Julien Azarian, a French native who lives in Paris. With captions in both French and English it’s a visually-satisfying way to take French language learning to the next level.
Language Learning Accounts
These are Instagram accounts specifically designed to teach you a language in bite-sized posts. They’re often run by other language learners, creating a sense of community that can be very helpful for you when the going gets tough.
Again, use hashtags to find these accounts, but in English this time. For example, you can search #Spanish or #learnSpanish for lots of results. Also, be sure to check out the Instagram accounts of any language programs that you’re already using in your studies.
Some accounts feature flashcards and daily words, which are a great way to consistently boost your vocabulary and memory, so look for accounts that post this type of material at least several times a week.
These accounts can be used as a basis for your vocabulary lists, especially if there are idioms or location-specific phrases that aren’t usually found in other resources. Once you’ve gathered your list, you can create flashcards with spaced repetition systems like Anki and Quizlet. There’s also FluentU, which includes images and media clip references in its SRS flashcards to help you learn vocab in context.
Here are some excellent educational accounts for several major languages:
- French Words is a wildly popular account, with more than 580,000 followers who check in every day to learn a new French word, quote or expression. It’s the language-focused counterpart of French Words Journal, mentioned above.
Phrases range from the commonplace—Quoi de neuf? (What’s new?)—to the racy—S’envoyer en l’air (Get laid; although the literal meaning is to throw oneself in the air). All have pronunciation guides, so whatever is posted can be readily vocalized.
- Italian Words features a daily Italian word or phrase. The authentic expressions aren’t only entertaining but are also often socially relevant. La Marcia Delle Donne (Women’s March) and mai soli (never alone) were two recent posts. Both garnered hundreds of “likes.”
- How to Spanish is an Instagram account to tickle the funny bone. It’s a compilation of everyday expressions that are demonstrated with memes and video clips. It is, quite simply, a fast, fun way to acquire Spanish.
“Tengo un departamento en Manhattan” (“I’ve got a condo in Manhattan”) is a post presented by none other than a dancing Bruno Mars. And “Llegas tarde” (“You’re late”) lets Judge Judy hammer the expression home. Watch it for the fun of it. You’ll learn without even trying.
- English Outside the Box belongs to an American English teacher whose photos and videos of home, family and kids—in other words, average American life—are a great boost to anyone learning English.
- English with Adriana teaches slang, common phrases and pronunciation. This Australian English educator keeps it simple, clean and uncomplicated. It’s a great spot for basic-level English language learners.
- Irastudyru highlights Russian grammar and vocabulary using illustrations similar to those found in conventional schoolrooms. It’s a clear, concise account that focuses on the fundamentals of the Russian language.
- Russian Words Daily is an absolute go-to account for Russian language learners. The words and phrases are basic and come with pronunciation guides. This account offers great potential for building a foundational vocabulary.
- Learn Portuguese Daily is another account that helps build a good vocabulary, but this one even includes some texting shortcuts in addition to words and phrases. Each post is accompanied by explanatory captions in Portuguese, English and sometimes Spanish.
- Learn Japanese is a vocabulary-building account. There are illustrations rather than photographs on this account. The illustrations are inventive and fun—and apply perfectly to whatever word or phrase they showcase. A bonus with this account is that it includes kanji, which is great as that’s often a hurdle for Japanese language learners.
Instagram is a social network. By its very nature, social media is beneficial for language learning. It’s the perfect spot for sharing ideas, culture and language.
Boost your language learning. Follow some language-friendly accounts and take your communication skills from #adequate to #epic!