10 Fun Ways to Learn a Language

20 April 2020

Any MFL teacher will tell you that there’s no easy answer to the question of how to learn a language.

However, at WST we’ve accumulated a lot of language tips in our time. And we know that while learning French, Spanish or learning German might not be easy, there are lots of fun ways to improve a second language.

So if you’re looking for teaching resources for the classroom, new KS2 or GCSE learning tips, or engaging ideas for Spanish homework, you’re in the right place!

1. Use Duolingo as homework

Duolingo is a fantastic tool that breaks language-learning down into achievable daily tasks. Using gamification theory, it motivates users with awards, achievement badges and ‘streaks’ to keep them coming back for more.

Now available in over 35 languages including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic and Latin, it’s one of many great apps that enhance your teaching away from the classroom.

There’s also a free ‘Duolingo for Schools’ feature, that lets you track students’ progress through a handy dashboard. Simply task students with gaining 50XP or completing a certain themed category for their homework, and watch them go.

2. Try Anki digital flashcards

‘Anki’ comes from the Japanese for ‘memorisation’ and is one of the most effective memorisation tools out there. It uses a clever algorithm to space out your language learning flashcards, to help your students learn vocabulary and grammar faster and more effectively.

There’s also an interactive element. If you rate a flashcard ‘hard’, you’ll see it more often, to help you master the things you find difficult. If you rate it ‘easy’, it might take two months to pop up again. Anki is available as a desktop and mobile application. 

3. Make the most of Netflix’s language tools

A great example of how to learn a foreign language in your downtime, Netflix’s subtitle and ‘alternate audio’ features are available on a wide range of films and TV shows.

Netflix’s own productions are your best bet, many of which can be watched with French, Spanish, or German dubbing, with English subtitles to help you keep track of what’s being said.  

Simply open a programme, then click on the little speech bubble at the bottom of the playing screen to see what language options are available.

Alternatively, you can click ‘Account,’ ‘My profile’, and then ‘Language’. Changing the overall language of your Netflix app might be a little brave, but it can also make even more subtitle and audio options available. So even if you’re still watching in English, you can add subtitles in your language of study.    

4. Meet the new Muzzy

An oldie but a goodie, the world’s leading language program has been doing the rounds in schools for three decades. Featuring a cast of colourful characters including Muzzy the Monster, Princess Sylvia, her true love Bob the Gardener, and a clever villain called Corvax, kids learn by simply watching short, engaging animations. Don’t worry, the animation style has been upgraded significantly since the days of classroom VCRs!

Teachers can also make the most of an extensive range of educational resources, including online games, printable worksheets, flashcards and more. A fantastic, award-winning facility from the BBC.

5. Suggest podcasts for the school run

Why should learning only take place in the classroom? Podcasts are a fantastic way for students to immerse themselves in their language of study, before they’ve even got to school!

Examples such as CoffeeBreak (Chinese, Italian, French, German, and Spanish) and OneMinute (Arabic, Greek, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, and many more) are designed to offer maximum learning in a pocket-sized timeslot.

6. Set recipes as homework

What’s the best way to teach languages? With delicious rewards!

French macarons might be beyond most high schoolers’ cooking skills. However, you could print off foreign-language, no-cook recipes for easy things like fruity lollies, guacamole, or rocky road, and see how your students go.

While following the recipe will put their reading comprehension to the test, you can also improve your students’ conversational language skills by chatting about it the next day.

7. Have a musical language lesson with LyricsTraining

LyricsTraining plays your favourite music videos with accompanying lyrics. The aim of the game is to fill in the missing words.

This is great training in both listening and writing skills, and helps students to understand how languages sound with different accents. Try it out with Despacito and you’ll get the idea.

8. Connect with other classes over Skype

‘Skype in the Classroom’ allows you to connect with other schools all over the world. You can filter your classroom search by age range, subject, languages and more, then agree to a Skype session on a particular time and date for a fascinating chat and cultural exchange.

Alternatively, you can play ‘Mystery Skype’ – an interactive Q&A game where two classes try to guess each other’s locations. They could be around the corner or on the other side of the world – it’s up to your students to find out!

9. Change the language on your tech for a day

Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or just your phone settings, navigating your phone in a new language is a great way to learn some of the vocabulary that isn’t in the textbooks.

You can also add different languages to your ‘Content Preferences’ in TikTok, which will make the app serve you with more videos from other countries.  

10. The Real Deal

Of course, there’s no better way to improve fluency than visiting a place where your chosen language is spoken. Ordering in restaurants, shopping at Christmas markets, reading signs around the city, and chatting to local native speakers are all invaluable experiences that can leave you with a great vocabulary and even better memories.

For examples of a great modern foreign language school trip itinerary, take a look at our Paris study visits.