How To Use The Internet For Language Learning

There’s more ways to learn a language on the internet than you probably think!
A woman wearing sunglasses and looking at her phone for internet language resources

The internet is home to basically an infinite number of resources. This is both incredibly useful and incredibly overwhelming, as a simple search can lead you to millions of websites related to the information you’re looking for. Finding the right ways to use the internet to serve your needs is important, and there are a lot of ways that comes into play with language learning. Unlike most skills, some of the best internet language resources aren’t YouTube tutorials or WikiHow articles but instead are built into the way the internet itself works.

There are numerous ways to use the internet for language learning, and we’ve written before about the array of online communities that are out there. In this article, however, we’re focusing on ways to gear your internet usage to other languages. The internet is designed — especially for English speakers — to keep you firmly in your native language. But with a little effort, you’ll have lots of new ways to practice your target language.

Switch Those Language Preferences

This is the most obvious first step for anyone who wants to learn a new language. Both on your phone and your computer, there are options for switching your language. The most noticeable benefit is that all of the buttons will suddenly be in your target language, giving you some vocabulary specifically related to the technology you use.

Another benefit can be that switching your tech’s language will make it easier to access the parts of the internet that aren’t in your original language. When your phone is in English, it uses that setting to tailor what you see. If your device is set to another language, however, it will make finding things that aren’t in your native language an easier task.

Learn To Search For Internet Language Resources

Search engines are some of the strongest creators of online bubbles, and they do so invisibly. Breaking out of your English bubble will take just a little bit of maneuvering. You can try to use Google in other countries — for Germany, for Spain and so on — but even that won’t change your search results that much because your computer will still be broadcasting that it’s looking for English specifically.

The best way to get results in other languages, then, is simple: use search terms in other languages. This might be a little more difficult to start, but the benefits go beyond just getting results in another language. You also get useful information that might not be available in English. Being able to read restaurant recommendations from locals in their language, for example, is a real bonus when you’re searching for authentic cuisine.

Use Wikipedia Pages

Wikipedia is an incredible, if not entirely reliable, resource for information on pretty much anything. There is another advantage to Wikipedia: it currently has 304 available languages. Not all languages are treated equally — English has way more articles than almost any other language — but there’s still mountains of text in your target language to read. An added bonus is that there might be way more information on certain topics in your target language. Topics that matter to a native Spanish speaker might not matter as much to a native English speaker, so the kinds of information will vary greatly.

Want more of a challenge? Some language teachers even have students translate Wikipedia articles into other languages. This is for more advanced learners, as you don’t want to put bad translations out there. But this is a way to practice moving from one language to another, and it also helps make information more accessible to people out in the world.

Make A Linsta (Like A Finsta, But For Language)

We saved the most fun of the internet language resources for last. Chances are, nearly all of the people you follow communicate primarily in English. Which makes sense! Often our online bubbles emulate our real-life ones. But learning a language is about popping these bubbles, and so you’ll want to go and find people to follow who speak your new language. This can mean finding Instagram accounts specifically meant for learning — they’ll show helpful vocabulary and clear translations — or look for regular people who speak the language and share your interests.

If you really want to tailor your social media language, you could make a whole new account devoted to language learning. That way you aren’t filling up your already curated feed with a bunch of new people, and you can switch back and forth. Plus, you’ll have a separate account where you document your own language learning and try interacting with people in your target language. It might be difficult at times, and you’ll definitely make a mistake once in a while, but it will help you join a whole new community of people and ideas.

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