Let me start by saying this: I don’t think I’ve got a particular talent of learning languages. Like you, I find learning a new language hard. There’s no shortcut that I know to become a master in a short amount of time. Though it would be nice wouldn’t it?
I currently live in Spain. I’ve been here for a little less than 2 months and yet I can have decent enough conversations with my new Spanish friends. I understand really well. But of course, speaking it is still the biggest challenge. And again, that’s normal. I’m sure you can relate to that.
I’ve known for a while that I wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country for a bit. Or at least travel to one or multiple for an extended period of time. That’s when I came up with my unconventional tricks — to prepare for the time I would need to communicate in Spanish.
Without further ado, here are the tricks:
Tip #1: Change your phone language setting to the language you want to learn
This is one of my favourites.
Have you noticed how a lot of non-native English speakers put their phones in English? And somehow they can communicate with native English speakers after a while?
It’s not by accident.
It’s a great trick. I changed my phone to Spanish 3 years ago and learned an incredible amount of words, without spending any time learning them. I never looked back. My phone is still in Spanish.
You’re so used to knowing how to navigate your phone that when you switch to another language, you still know how to navigate it. You see these new words every day yet know what they mean instantly. And then your subconscious works and assimilates new words while you use your phone.
The tricky part is that it translates content in the apps and games as well. And that takes a while to get used to. If there’s something crucial I needed to fully understand, I would put my phone back in English until I was done.
Try it out. I takes no time and gives increases your vocabulary really quickly.
Tip #2: Label every physical object
I learned that one from a teenager when I visited a small rural village in Vietnam.
He was very eager to practice his English with me, and I was surprised at how good he was. He was by far the best in his village. Then he invited me over to his house for tea. As soon as I got in, I understood how his English was so good:
Every single object in his house was labeled, with the help of post-it notes, with its English name. Everything!
And he placed random things around the house just for the purpose of seeing the label every day.
After he assimilated the words, he would switch it up.
Awesome, awesome trick. Doesn’t take much time, and again, it lets the subconscious do the work.
Tip #3: Passively listen to content you like
Here’s another great time-free trick you can start doing right away: listen to things you like while commuting, washing the dishes or while doing any mundane activity.
Depending on the language you can find audio books online. Try typing https://audible.es in your favourite browser. You’ll see a collection of audio books in Spanish. I haven’t tried it in every language, but just change the domain to the country code of your choice (.de, .it, .fr). Or start here: https://www.audible.com/ep/Non-English-Audiobooks.
There are also tons of podcasts you can find in any language. And it’s all free. Apple’s Podcast app is the most popular. You can use Podcast Addict on Android.
But really, you can get pretty much everything read to you on your phone. Turn on the voice assistant on your phone. It can read you anything: emails, web pages, etc. And you can adjust the speed too.
I hope these tricks were helpful to you.
I learned an incredible amount of words using these methods prior to moving to Spain and it has paid off greatly. People are surprised at how much I understand and can communicate in so little time. And it’s not because I’m immersed in the language, I work from a co-working space where we all speak English after all. It’s because of the preparation I did beforehand thanks to these time-free tricks.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading! :)