How To Use The News To Learn A New Language

Keeping up with current events can be educational in more ways than one.
A woman reading the newspaper, perhaps using the news to learn a language

Once you’ve got the basics of grammar and vocabulary down, you’re ready to start tackling more advanced material in your new language. And while reading and listening to dialogues that are specifically designed for learning is good, you might want to find something that is more general. But where can you find a near-endless supply of media in the language you’re learning? And not just any media, but perhaps media that can help you learn more about the speakers of the language you’re learning? It’s time to start using the news to learn a language.

There are a few advantages to using the news. For one, the news is always written in standard dialects of a language, which can make it easier for you at the beginning. Plus, reading the news in other languages can give you a perspective that English-language media might not. If you’re not sure where to get started, or how to get the most out of it, we have a few tips. Using the news to learn a language can be a little tricky at first, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.

How To Find News In Other Languages

The first challenge to consuming news in other languages — and really the biggest hurdle — is knowing where to look. There is a a lot of media out there, and you want to make sure that you’re getting information from a reputable source. You have a few options.

First, you can find a website you already know that publishes in multiple languages. BuzzFeed and the BBC, for example, both have many editions that aren’t too hard to navigate to. These can be fascinating, because you can see how the “voice” of each publication is translated around the world.

Another good option is PressReader, which is a huge database of magazines and newspapers from around the world. You can search through the publications by language and topic, so you can discover the news that fits your niche. If you want to read the news on PressReader, you’ll have to get a premium subscription, but you can also just use it to do some digging and find out what you’re interested in.

Lastly, there’s always the temptation to search something like “news in Spanish.” If you’re looking for real news in the language, though, that search will probably not work too well because it’s in English. To get better results, it’s always good to use search terms in the language you’re looking for. Once you’re confident in your language skills, this shouldn’t be too hard.

How To Learn A New Language With The News

  • Take it slow. Reading the news is just like any other kind of reading, and you can set the speed you want.
  • Keep a dictionary nearby. Don’t just gloss over the words you don’t know, look them up. This might feel exhausting in the beginning, but as your vocabulary grows, you’ll be getting through articles faster and faster. That feeling of knowing more and more of the vocabulary in an article is great motivation to keep going. You might even want to keep a journal of all the new words you run into, so you can refer back to them later.
  • Read news articles aloud. Advancing your skills is all about engaging your senses. Reading the news aloud is great pronunciation practice, and you might even notice it will make what you’re reading easier to understand.
  • Find news in translation. Sometimes, you can find English articles that were translated into your learning language or vice versa. Having an English version is basically like training wheels if you’re having trouble starting out.
  • Or, find similar articles in your native and learning languages. One of the downsides of using the news to learn is that it can be difficult to both practice your language skills and also learn the intricacies of, say, the French government. Reading about a topic in English first and then switching to your learning language can be a good way to reassure yourself that you really know what’s going on. While it’s best to do as much as you can in your target language, don’t feel bad about using your native language once in a while to confirm your understanding of everything.
  • Listen to the news. We’ve mostly focused on news articles so far, but there’s no reason not to consume the news in all its forms. The proliferation of podcasts in the world has made finding listening material pretty easy. You can look for news in your target language either on the websites of reliable news organizations, or by searching in the podcast app of your choice.
  • Try the News In Slow series, or something similar. The concept of these podcasts is pretty straightforward: it’s the news, read slowly. It can be a great first step if you’re still having trouble understanding native speakers.
  • Or, make any podcast slow down with your phone settings. You can take any podcast and slow it down to half or three-quarters speed. It’ll make the voices sound a little deeper (and maybe even a little drunk), but it’s a good tool to keep in mind.
  • Look up the transcripts. Many shows, especially those produced by professional news organizations, will have a transcript. You can use it to follow along and develop your reading and listening skills at the same time.
  • Watch the news. Yes, there’s one more news medium out there! Watching the news isn’t too different from reading or listening, but it may be a little more overwhelming because the combination of audio and video means there’s more stuff going on. You can find news in your target language either on the websites of larger news organizations, or by going to YouTube and using the right search terms.
  • If you can, look for subtitles. Using either English subtitles or subtitles in the language you’re learning can be helpful! Just be wary of the “automatic subtitles” on certain YouTube videos, because they might not be exactly accurate.
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