3 Tutor-Approved Ideas For Improving Your Duolingo Experience

Language learning was so boring before a little owl in a tracksuit came along. 

Armed with addictive streak and modern technology, today's smartphone language learning feels more like a computer game than a language lesson. And in many ways, that's a great thing.

Read on to find out my top 3 tips for getting the most out of your Duolingo time.

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Writing: The Magic Skill for Better Memory and Focus in Any Language

Writing in another language is so deep, focused and beneficial. It can be a little difficult to build a writing habit at first, I know. But with a clear focus on fluency and a few simple steps to break down your practice, this is not something you'll want to miss out on. Check out these simple tips - they work for any level.

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What Gets Easier When You Study More Languages?

People often ask me how many languages I speak. But recently, I was asked one question that made me think more deeply about why and how learning more languages works for me:

Does it get easier when you are learning more languages?

The short answer is "yes". It definitely does.

Here are the things that are helpful, relevant, and different when you are learning your 7th language.

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How To Learn A New Language With Smart And Useful Goals

For a long time, I had a difficult relationship with goal-setting. As a fully-fledged questioner, I find it hard to take anything at face value, let alone the idea that I must have a goal to achieve anything.

When I was learning languages in full-time education environments like school and university, the goals weren't on my mind. My school sorted that out for me: turn up to classes, write essays, take exams. But since I've started working with independent language learners (and since I became one), goals have taken an entirely different role.

As an independent language learner, you need to know what to do. It's easy to think that you're already doing the work by stating what you want to achieve. But let me have an honest moment with you here:

Those goals don't help you do things.

smart useful goals

In this article, you'll learn about the two types of goals you need for language learning.

Goal Type 1: Vision Goals

Let's have a look at those language learning goals I see online again and again.

  • "I want to become fluent in Spanish"
  • "I want to have a 15-minute conversation in German" Or here is one that I set for myself last year:
  • "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod festival in August"

I am sure you have often heard about SMART goals. In many areas of life, our goals will only serve us if we make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

In my mind, these fail the SMART list on a bunch of counts:

None of this is a bad thing in itself. If you are motivated and driven by a vision of your future self speaking a foreign language without hesitating, then that is an amazing image to hold on to. It should be one of the many vague and inspiring concepts you hold dear, and in fact I would even advise you start visualizing your success.

But those visions aren't useful goals, because they just won't help you when it gets down to doing the language learning work. You need that vision.

And for times when you've carved out that half hour to get to business and really learn a language, you need goals.

Goal Type 2: Path Goals

In my Welsh studies, I've been completely independent from the start. I don't have that external structure of tutor, group class, exams, and it took a while before I found a way to use my time for language learning. At first, I tried ideas like "I want fluency" and even "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod in August". They worked as a motivator, but failed to give me a clear idea of the steps I wanted to take to learn a language.

My current path goals in Welsh

My current path goals in Welsh

I needed something that would help me know what to do when my study time comes. These goals are what I call path goals. They guide you when you're in study mode and mark the milestones on your path.

Here's what you need for making good path goals:

Structure

Structure is the thing that stops you from starting every study session wondering what you'll work on today. It's absolute gold for independent language learners, because you simply don't have the time to faff every single time. Decision fatigue is real, and it's going to paralyze you if you allow it.

  • Schedule the days when you're going to study your language, so you can treat them like any other appointment.

  • Use your path goals as simple "next steps" so you spend zero time deciding what matters.

  • Get some external structure. Follow an established course, work with a tutor, or use a textbook or online course. Even without that, you can be just as successful. Set your goals up to match the four core skills, and this should provide you with the sense of variety and progress you need.

Core Skills

The four core skills are the essential set of everything that makes language learning a success for you. You will want to focus on some more than others, but ultimately you need to put work into all four for becoming that inspiring future self.

The four core skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Structure your goals around improving in each one, and you're guaranteed to succeed.

Do you want to find your core skills profile and get specific tips for improving each skill? Then I recommend you check out my book Fluency Made Achievable, the official guide to core language skills.

-> Click here to learn more about Fluency Made Achievable

There might be other areas you want to focus on too, such as improving your pronunciation and vocabulary. But if you've got the four core skills covered in your goals, I would advise you not to worry too much about any others. They will come naturally as you improve and respond to your needs in every situation.

Variety

Variety is a key component of the path goals you set for yourself. It's realistic to acknowledge that moods, motivation and focus can vary from day to day. So on one day you might be excited to crack open the textbook and work your phrases, but on another day all you want is speaking practice with a tutor.

Having varied goals (I recommend at least 4 to cover each core skill) allows you to pick from a short, focused list of tasks and make progress in every single study session.

Recap: The 2 Goal Types You Need for Learning a Language

So there you have it. Goal setting isn't the holy grail of productivity. But when you do it right and know your goal types, each step can give you the right support you need to progress today.

1. Set Vision Goals

You can call this an intention, a vision, a goal. This is the imagined, vivid image of your future self that will keep you going. Go deep with this, make moodboards (maybe on Pinterest?), be inspired. Blow that SMART stuff out of the water.

2. Set Path Goals

Path goals are not big visions, they are the structured next steps that will help you when it's time to work on studying. Your path goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They should be anchored in what you can do now, and what you want to do next.

How do you work with goals in your study routine?

Do you set yourself goals? Do you review them with a tutor?

Leave a comment here or share in our Facebook group full of fellow language lovers!

My Challenge Results & 17 Tips For Language Learning on Social Media

social media tips

This is 2017: Social media is more powerful than ever. The next US president is tweeting at all hours. The Facebook algorithm has contributed to shaping public opinion. And over 80% of the population (in the USA) are on some kind of social network.

You'd think we're all a bunch of timewasters, scrolling our life away. But in this world of chaos, a small idea came and brought new motivation: "Use social media for good", it stated. Let's all stop wasting time and turn that naughty Facebook habit around.

Today, I'm here to tell you how that idea works out in practice. I've just completed a 28 Day Social Media Challenge, supported by the course Social Media Success. This course by Lindsay Williams is made for language learners and builds up your new study habit over 4 weeks.

Download the Guide

If you want to get more "behind the scenes" insight and find out which social networks are my top recommendations for language learners, be sure to download the new Guide to Social Networks from my Fluent Cool Kids Club by signing up here for free..

My Challenge Results

In my main language, Welsh, I spoke more sentences, discovered more native speakers, and added new vocabulary. In other words: HECK YES. This habit does not replace bigger study sessions, but it didn't take away the time for them either. Instead, I spent an effortless extra 3 hours on language learning.

I also found more time for my secondary languages. Currently these are Malaysian and French, and in the challenge I did things for both of them. Just a little bit, but it was there and lets me build onto them. I'm already working on a schedule.

17 Quick Tips for Language Learning on Social Media

Over the course of the 28 days, I collected short and simple tips that can help anyone get started with language learning on social media. Feel free to try a few of these, or even just to pick one.

Learn when you are busy

We already spend so much time on social media that this isn't a new time demand for most people. In fact, when was the last time you checked Facebook or Twitter? 20 minutes ago? Good! If you can do that, then you will find the language activities very easy. I was able to stick with the plan even on days where I travelled for over 12 hours, or met my whole extended family.

Here are my top tips:

  • Mix language tools (flashcards) and social media together

For example, you can add new words you learn on Snapchat to a list on Memrise, or document your Duolingo tree in a Facebook group.

  • Edit your newsfeed to stay focused

Are you following someone who tweets more nonsense than helpful things? Edit your newsfeed! You can mute some posts and set up focused lists to help you get there and save time. Twitter is my favourite tool for this.

  • Newsfeed a mess still? Make a new profile

I created a language profile on Instagram so that I could stay focused on languages and have a newsfeed that gives me support and motivation. You can do the same on any social network, and most apps now support quick switching.

It pays off in 4 ways

Lanugage learning on social media is not just a way of taking your language skills to the next level. It also keeps you accountable, meaning you will stay motivated and keep going for longer. You will create documentation of how you're doing in languages, allowing you to see and feel progress. And finally, the community of language learners will start connecting to you meaning you make new language loving friends and find more interesting things about your language.

Here's how to get the most out of this:

  • Follow teachers, bands and businesses

Social Media for Language Learning is about getting your newsfeed right, so make sure you follow as many useful accounts as you can. Find them by searching for your languages or seeing what's related to people you follow.

  • Find existing communities

Every social network has a bunch of great groups that are already talking about your language. Check out Instagram challenges, Twitter chats, subreddits and Facebook groups.

  • Avoid hiding your mistakes

When there is something wrong, people like to comment and correct it. This is how you find the best language community online, so forget about looking flawed and start putting your mistakes out there - they're like community bait!

  • Make and share a goal

If your followers know what you are working on, they will be more invested in your success and you'll get lovely support messages. This also works for your own motivation, as stating the public goal keeps you more accountable.

Not every social network is great for language learning

In my experience of working through the social media jungle, some apps and websites emerged as stars and others felt like a waste of time. You can read more about my experiences in the special guide to social networks I created for the Fluent Cool Kids Club, which is free to join.

  • Organise everyone you follow

On Facebook it's groups, on Pinterest it's boards, on Twitter it's lists. The better your organization, the faster you can find the right people.

  • Organise early, but not too often

Invest half an hour at the start to get your lists or groups set up, and then don't worry about it anymore and enjoy the journey!

  • Be ok with not being everywhere

Over time, you will realize that some apps or networks feel more like an obligation than a pleasure. The best way for you to find out what works for you is to try the challenges in Lindsay's course. After 28 days, look back and ask what worked best for you - then ditch the duds and stick with your daily practice where it matters!

Oh, by the way: This is fun!

Maybe this all sounds like a lot of hard work, but let me tell you: I had lots of fun with my languages. This way of learning is creative and lets you try out anything such as practice with kids, singing new songs, sharing pets or photos of your books.

Some tips to get more out of this:

  • Use apps to go with your apps

The app store is full of great ways to take your photos and words to the next level! You can create images with apps like Wordswag, discover Snapchatters on Ghostcodes, and much more. Simply search your app store for the name of any social network and you'll find new ideas instantly.

  • Explore more social networks

No one said you have to stick to Facebook and Twitter! Try language learning networks or look around on the boards of Fluent in 3 Months or Italki for example, or investigate the extra social networks in my new Cool Kids Club guide.

  • Use algorithms to find more and more

Once you follow a language learner, the social network will learn what kind of people and topics you're interested in. Wait a few minutes, and watch your newsfeed transform into a language class like no other!

At the end of every week, you should spend 30 minutes on a review for new words and lessons. Here's what I did:

  • Review your liked/saved posts

On most social networks, you can access a list of everything you've "Liked" so that you can use this as a bookmark system and work through it once a week as you review the best of the week.

  • Learn social media vocab

The easiest way to find out vocabulary for "post", "comment", "tweet" etc is to switch the user language in your social network.

  • Add your new words to a separate vocab list

Every week, it pays to invest a little bit of time to take all those new posts and words out of the internet and put them into your notebook, flashcards, and, ultimately, brain.

  • Stay organised

Building habits is not the same as doing an intensive challenge, but this investment of your time in "little and often" will pay off. Use a diary, a tracker or follow the Social Media Success schedules so that you don't give up halfway through. The goal here is to start a daily language practice, not to become fluent in a short time!

So here's the conclusion: Social Media for Languages is something you should try - immediately! It won't take a lot of time, and it will pay off for sure.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here and tell me what worked for you and which social network you use all the time.

And don't forget that my free guide to ALL social networks is waiting for you in the Cool Kids Club!

Social Media for Language Learning: Tips for Twitter, Pinterest and Hashtags

Millions of people use apps to learn languages. Duolingo, Memrise, HelloTalk, Skype...all of these apps are made to help you learn languages. But what about the ones you use with your friends?

Can you use a fun social network like Facebook for language learning?

This is the question at the heart of my quest "28 Days of Social Media for Language Learning". I am using materials from the course Social Media Success from Lindsay Dow - a great strategic course to help you learn languages.

Now I'm in Week 3

More than halfway through now!

Obviously I'm developing favourites but I'm also enjoying the ones I started with and I am valuing the accountability.

One of the best results is that I feel like my progress is more visible. On many days when I can't find the time for a study session, the social media tasks from Lindsay's course are helping me add a little more time.

This week, it's been impossible to find concentrated time to learn my main language. But social media came through again.

Mistake Goals

In Social Media Success, Lindsay talks about the idea of making mistakes. She has cool recommendations for the best social networks and also for the easiest ways of doing this.

Her course talks about making mistakes as a part of documenting progress. In other words, you need to do this - you can't avoid it. Lindsay's mistake goals are a way to celebrate your language learning progress by showing the work you do behind the scenes. I found that the best social network for me to do these was Instagram, not Snapchat, as it was more likely that I would get corrections and encouragement.

Key Lesson: Make mistakes in your learning and share them proudly. It's a great way to get helpful feedback from native speakers.

Pinterest

The cool thing about this week was that the algorithms of Pinterest learn very quickly. I have added no more than 10 new pins about the Welsh language, but the homepage is reacting very quickly and showing me more relevant pins. I haven't been able to find a lot of variety for Welsh, and I think the best languages on Pinterest are "school languages".

It's also great for how-to and for goal setting and motivating systems. I am a bullet journal user, and the visual social networks like I Pinterest and Instagram are great for finding new ideas for organising things.

And finally, if you want to meet other teachers who really care about making cool language lessons, then this is your place to be.

Key Lesson: The best language materials on Pinterest are available in the big school languages: French, German, Spanish, English.

Have you found a board you love? You can share it in the comments or in our Facebook Group.

Twitter

Twitter is one of my favourite social networks. It's full of smart and opinionated people, it moves quickly and it has its own sense of humour. This week I tweeted in Welsh and I made a Twitter list (Lindsay teaches how to do this in her course, too). The list is awesome, very very useful for getting that shot of Welsh when I only have a few minutes.

Twitter has another advantage: This is where native speakers really write how they talk. You can see what slang and natural Welsh looks like, and I liked it lots. For example, this tweet from a singer Osian Roberts shows how "Dw I eisiau" becomes "Dwisio":

Key Lesson of the Week: Twitter is not just for tweeting - you can easily build a natural language resource in bitesize using lists.

Hashtagify

The site hashtagify is like a search engine for Twitter hashtags that are relevant to whatever you are interested in. So for example, you want to type in "learn German" in the search. The site will then show you popular tweets, as well as the other hashtags that people use when they talk about learning German. Very useful!

So here we are at the end of week 3. I am not sure how much new language I got to study using the social networks, but I definitely have been consuming and practicing more because of it!

Join the challenge for the last few days, here's where to go:

1) Visit our Facebook Group to connect with other language learners and download Lindsay's prompts

2) Join the course Social Media Success by Lindsay Does Languages

3) Connect with me on your favourite app!

4) You will also need the 28 Day Planner, which you candownload here.

Comment over here to tell me how it's going!

fluent online

Public Language Success: Week 2 of 28 Day of Social Media for Language Learning

It's time for my check-in at the end of the second week using social media for language learning, and it was a good one!

The Challenge: Do something for my languages every day using social media.

More precisely, I'm following my friend Lindsay's(does Languages)  28 Day Planner from the course "Social Media Success". If you want to join in with the challenge, check out the full details here or catch up with week 1 here.  

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Learning a Language When Life is Busy

Looking at a calendar, I always knew that this week was going to be a busy one. It's Christmas at the weekend and there was much to be done, including a full day of train travel from the UK to Germany. When I'm not in my usual environment, it's easy for good habits or routines to fall by the wayside. But this week, I was positively surprised: Lindsay's theories about social media seem to hold up. Facebook, Twitter, all those little apps, really do sneak into my life even when there's a lot going on. So it was possible to keep up with my language tasks in under 10 minutes every day.

Quick recap: I used 5 social networks this week:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Periscope

In addition to those up there, I also downloaded the Tumblr app and connected it to my Instagram account, but I didn't find the time to study Tumblr in more detail.

Instagram Language Challenge

The concept of the #iglc (Instagram Language Challenge) continues to be a lot of fun: Every day I've got to take a photo or upload a little image featuring a word or video. It was a lot of fun to make my video of the week this time as I had a guest star, Mr Simon Ager from Omniglot. Maybe you remember him from our podcast episode about the secret languages of Britain?

Simon was in town this weekend and allowed me to practice my Welsh with him. We spoke for 10-15 minutes before I had to concede that my head was buzzing. Great progress - I've not felt like I can have a conversation in Welsh before!

Here's our little Insta video:

On several occasions I may have known the word for the prompt, but in the photo caption I still got to practice something new, like Welsh mutations with the word for dog.

Instagram is a great social media start for language learners because it's so fun to use the caption space and post emoji, thoughts, or just a string of hashtags. I also enjoy the sense of community that comes from sharing hashtags like #iglc, #kerstinsocial, or #languagelover. Several people have commented on my photos with help or replies in Welsh, which is both great practice and great encouragement. What more do we language learners need?

And with the little Instagram Now feature, I was even able to post a few of my errors or attempts at the secondary language in this challenge, which is Malaysian. 

Key Lesson from Instagram this week: Bring in your friends and find that language learning community - both online and offline!

Facebook

I read a statistic this week saying that over 80% of the American population are now on Facebook - that's nuts! We really do love our Facebook, and it's only right that we bring language learning into this.

Using last week's prompts, I remembered to check out a favourite band's Welsh language page, and I hit the "Like" button on a few of their posts. That's now the "Hoffi" button of course, since my Facebook user language is switched to Welsh.

I also posted every day in my group, Fluent Language Learners.  Even when no one replies, the accountability of posting in a group is helpful.

And here is the thing:

Facebook uses this powerful algorithm to decide which posts it wants to show me first, and it picked up on my Welsh activity very quickly. Now I see more posts from language learning groups and automatically get more articles about the language. 

Key Lesson: Tell Facebook you like language learning by liking and clicking on articles from groups & fan pages that you like, and it will respond to you in kind.

Creepy but useful, right? 

By the way: Lindsay talks about accountability in Social Media Success, explaining three big keys to accountability: goals, challenges and going public. I was pleased to find out that this current project hits all three of the goals. The information in this course makes it easy to go from time-wasting to effective action, so I would highly recommend it!

Twitter

Yay for Twitter! This is one of my favourite social networks and once again I had great fun on Twitter. I wrote several tweets in Welsh and almost every one of them got a response - incredible! Great to know that my language skills are picking up speed. Before going public and actually tweeting in Welsh, I didn't even know that my current skills were good enough for an online chat.

I haven't found the courage to post in Malaysian yet - saving that one for Snapchat.

Key Lesson: Go Public!! Even if you're not perfect, people will respond. 

Snapchat

Oof, last social network to report on. Snapchat was a great one this week. The challenge plan slowly ramps up and asked me to document five mistakes in one day this week. Luckily, I didn't have to go too far to find those mistakes to make. I simply took some grammar tests - hah!

On my busiest days, Snapchat was the easiest social network to keep up with. It can be demanding to write a tweet in a foreign language, but to quickly shoot 10 seconds of video with a new vocabulary word seems more manageable.

I also find Snapchat more forgiving because the videos disappear after 24 hours, so that I'm feeling more confident with Malaysian practice (that's the language I don't really know). And it's fun to share what I'm up to as well and to see glimpses of fellow language learners' lives.

Key Lesson: Don't get too serious about Snapchat and use it as your language playground! 

Are you Taking the Challenge?

If you're also following some prompts from my 28 Days of Social Media for Language learning, how's it going? What did you enjoy this week? Leave a comment below!

You can join in on Facebook or by using the #kerstinsocial hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.

And now, I wish you an AWESOME holiday week and hope you get great presents!!