No one sets out to learn a new language just to be content sitting at a computer screen using software or reading foreign language textbooks. The goal of language learning is to have real-life conversations — which is no surprise, seeing as language is an inherently social mechanism all humans share. So it makes total sense that you can (and totally should) try learning a language with friends.
There are lots of ways to involve other people in your language-learning journey, whether they’re native speakers of the language you’re learning or they’re absolute beginners and can’t count beyond one, two, and three. Fluency is a spectrum, and everyone in your life will fit somewhere on that spectrum when it comes to the specific language you’re learning. Luckily, there’s a role for all of these people in your quest to master a new tongue, and they can help you achieve linguistic competence in ways you likely couldn’t do alone.
The joys and benefits of learning a language with friends are plentiful, and the most amazing one is that you get to, well, hang out with your friends. Read on to find out the reasons for learning a language with friends of all types of proficiency in your target tongue.
Strategies For Learning A Language With Friends Of All Fluency Levels
With Friends Who Are Native Speakers
If you’re learning a new language and you have a friend or family member who’s fluent in or a native speaker of that language, consider yourself lucky; you basically get access to a living linguistic resource and source of entertainment rolled into one!
Okay, so maybe your friend doesn’t want to be your walking, talking personal dictionary, but you get the idea; with a native speaker of your target language close by, you’ll have a surefire way to put into practice what you’re learning — and have your errors corrected along the way. Native speakers don’t have to be master grammarians or language teachers to know when you’re making a mistake. Plus, you’ll get an inside look at all the best slang and secret expressions you won’t find in any old language textbook.
Sure, it’s bold to assume that you’ll have a fluent speaker of the language you’re learning in your close circle of friends or even in your list of phone contacts. But there are plenty of ways to meet and get close with speakers of other languages in your community, like neighborhood language meetups or even Facebook groups dedicated to cultural and language exchange. And if you’re a fan of low commitment, you can even connect with people on online forums and exclusively chat or call them, never having to meet them face to face. So if you don’t already have a friend who speaks another mother tongue, it’s a great excuse to make a new one!
With Friends Who Are Learning At The Same Pace
It’s often said that there’s strength in numbers; it’s part of the reason why we have the buddy system, relationships with significant others, and even the bandwagon effect. If you can do more when you do it together, why would learning a new language be any different? Having friends who are learning at the same time and pace as you is an awesome way to lock in what you’re picking up and accelerate your learning process.
It might be difficult to do, but once you’ve convinced your friends to learn a foreign language with you (and there are plenty of ways you can make your case), you’ll have a perfect learning partner. For one, you’ll be able to hold each other accountable. Challenge each other to complete one Babbel lesson or review one list of vocabulary every day, and if one of you fails or falls behind, that friend owes the other a drink or a coffee, for example.
Second, it’s often said that the best teachers are those who have just learned the material themselves, and if something is confusing or tricky for one friend, the fresh perspective of the other friend who just recently worked through the same sticking point will likely help learning be more multi-dimensional.
If you can avoid falling into fits of laughter with your friends or heading to the bar with your bestie when you should be studying Spanish, learning a language with friends who are just as far along in their journey is an excellent way to improve your skills.
With Friends Who Don’t Speak The Language At All
If your friends are people who have no experience with or desire to engage with learning the language you’re trying to pick up, have no fear! There are several significant ways you can rope them into your language-learning process.
Integrating friends into the traditional study process is a great way to start. Just like some kids sit at the dinner table and practice multiplication tables and spelling lists with their parents or siblings, your study partner doesn’t have to actually know the information by heart to help you retain it. Put the vocabulary you’re learning into a set of flashcards and have your friend show you the front while he or she checks your guessed answer on the back.
If your friend needs a favor, suggest help with your language learning as a tradeoff. While you’re driving your friend to a Friday night date, make him or her quiz you on a list of adjectives you’ve written up and what each one means.
For an extra challenge, bring your novice- or no-proficiency friend along next time you watch a foreign-language TV show or movie. Don’t turn on the subtitles, and be prepared to answer a lot of questions about what’s going on in the plot. You might get frustrated having to hit pause every five seconds, but it’s a great way to train your ear and get your translation gears spinning.
There are plenty of creative ways to incorporate friends into your learning; you’ve just got to be willing to make the effort to get out there and be social, which can be a struggle in and of itself.