Let’s face it – most things, including the ones we genuinely enjoy doing, pale in comparison with lying in a soft, warm bed.
In fact, allow me to enlighten you with a little scientific formula I use to organise my free time. The amount of enjoyment derived from a certain activity always has to be equal to or greater than the amount of enjoyment I get from never leaving my bed. If it does not, I will inevitably struggle to do that thing with the enthusiasm it deserves
Language learning lies in a grey area for me. I enjoy it, but could I really enjoy it more than lounging in my bed or – if I’m feeling particularly adventurous that day – the sofa? Of course not. That is why I have become an expert at combining the two. Do you want to find out how to master Italian in a pillow fort? Or how about learning Mandarin whilst trying not to spill green tea all over your silk PJs? Anything is possible!
Let’s start with something really simple… The average American watches 34 hours of TV per week. Imagine what would happen to your fluency if you spent one half – or even one third – of that time watching Spanish soap operas or Russian cartoons! And you can definitely do that from bed.
Listen to music
My Spotify is always on – my life is just so cool it demands a soundtrack, you know? Why limit yourself to a boring monolingual playlist though? Let Shakira rouse you from your sleep in her native Spanish or blast some Scandinavian metal while you paint your toenails black. Sure, singing in a foreign language can help you reduce your accent and memorise words faster, but what’s more important – it’s really fun.
Change the language on your phone & Facebook
Aside from that one time I set my phone to Chinese and then spent a day trying to change it back, this method has always worked for me. You will probably accidentally “like” someone’s Facebook status from 2007, but you might also curb your smartphone addiction because speaking to your phone in a foreign language can get extremely frustrating.
My iPad is literally talking to me in Chinese.
Let’s say you’re American and you’d like to improve your Spanish. The website will connect you with hundreds of Spanish speakers who are keen on improving their English and let you exchange messages, free of charge. It doesn’t have to be English and Spanish, either – I counted 110 languages on their website, including Hmong, Kinyarwanda or Tamazight.
In the past, I used italki to improve my Russian and it’s probably the best language-learning tool I’ve ever tried. You can even write notebook entries, which other users will happily correct for you. Ideal for last-minute homework prep. To sum it up – it’s genius, simple and gratis!
Leveling up like a baws.
I live in London, so I spend outrageous amounts of time staring at my phone, trying to avoid making eye contact with people on the tube. All the annoying Facebook requests have put me off Candy Crush, so I play language games instead. Duolinguo is one of my favourites – it doesn’t offer much speaking practice, but it will help you improve your writing skills with extensive exercises
At the moment the app can be used for studying Latin American Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Italian, but with about 12.5 million active users it will surely expand its repertoire soon. Oh, and did I mention it was completely free?
Check out Mindsnacks (£2.99)
Mindsnacks is another app I like to use for language-learning. It lets you play cute little games and in the process you magically pick up some mad skillz. You can use it for learning Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Mandarin and Portuguese – you can either buy one for £2.99 or all of them for £12.99.
Wait, how do you say “tequila” in Spanish?
Read the dictionary
This might be a little extreme, but it’s also how I managed to drastically improve my English before being sent to an international school at the age of 13. You don’t have to read the book like a novel the way I did – just learn a few words a day, every day.
If you learn ten words everyday, that’s 300 words every month. According to conservative estimates, the average English speaker actively uses around 5,000 words. If that’s true, it’d take you a little over 16 months to become relatively fluent.
Actually, read anything
Try reading your favourite book in a foreign language or, better yet, get into a habit of reading books in their original language. You know that one person that seems to exist at any party who corners people and tries to have an intellectual conversation with them? You know, the guy who says things like: “Ugh, you haven’t read Don Quixote until you’ve read it in Spanish. Trust me, amigo.”? That could be you!
I can’t really pull off the whole post-it thing because it makes me look more psychotic serial killer than zealous polyglot. However, if it won’t make your friends admit you to the nearest asylum, it’s definitely worth a try. Label anything from your fridge to its contents and snack your way to fluency. Or, you know, obesity.
“Girl vs Globe”? What the patata is that?