Learning a foreign language can prove to be one of the most valuable and useful skills you can possess. Surely it helps with travel, but seeing as that learning pathway is restricted (plus some people never want to go abroad), there is something to be said for learning a language at home. Not only is it a useful way to learn about your heritage or to boost your résumé (since nearly every occupation can benefit from language awareness), but it is also an exciting way to widen your horizons within literature, religion, art, politics, and even your own neighborhood. In 2018, over 67 million people in the United States were speaking a language other than English at home, and that number has been continuously rising for decades. Even though many states consider English as their official language, learning a second language (or more) gives you a sense of appreciation for and connection to different cultures within those states and beyond. 

In addition to fostering communication, learning a language makes you smarter. Research shows that second-language learners are able to think divergently, to better achieve in their first language, and to attract and maintain parent involvement. Additionally, it improves reading, reasoning, problem-solving, creativity, and hypothesizing skills. In other words, you don’t have to pursue a career in an international field to benefit from learning another language.

Seeing as learning via immersion is not always accessible, here are five convenient and local resources to get you started in learning a language:

Find a language-learning app or website

There is a reason you’ve probably seen or heard an advertisement for Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or Babbel before… they work. Millions of people use language apps because they are handy on-the-go and they enable daily practice. Plus they are constructed in a way that sets benchmarks, gives feedback, and rewards you for success. Since they are all available right on your phone or computer, I suggest that you research their reviews, price ranges, and philosophies, and then try a few to see which actually engages and motivates you.

Explore podcasts, songs, movies, and more

Utilizing media is a great way to conduct pseudo-immersion. The more you surround yourself with a foreign language, the more likely you are to “think” in that language, to find it relatable, and to have fun exploring the culture. While I totally recommend finding a language-learning podcast that is constructed to teach almost like a language course, don’t limit yourself to the conventionally educational tools. Daily exposure is the key to language learning, and that exposure can be upbeat and fun! Try listening to foreign music, watching your favorite movies and shows with subtitles, and following accounts on social media that exhibit different cultures and countries. Start by looking up common words and phrases you hear/see, begin to recognize patterns and accents, but have fun all the while.

Make a friend or find a tutor

More people speak diverse languages near you than you probably realize! This gives you an opportune language-learning pathway. If you have a friend you’re comfortable asking, see if you can slowly transition conversations to another language. Especially on college campuses, finding a peer-tutor is extremely accessible, so ask your language department if this opportunity is available. Reach out to language-learning centers or even cultural centers in your area, and ask what they suggest to connect with others in your community. Nowadays, there are also many online tutors who will meet with you via Zoom, so look those up, too.

Follow a language-learning blog or social media account

A quick Google search will introduce you to thousands of these blogs and accounts. Not only is this a free option, it also feels very relatable and dependable to hear from another human who has accomplished what you are seeking to accomplish. The sense of community that comes from this option is extremely motivating and collaborative, because authors and followers are able to suggest endless tips and tricks. Once you find a blog that seems to cater to your learning style and capabilities, it can be fun to get continuous updates and resource suggestions from a dependable source.

Utilize your local library

Many people hesitate to teach themselves an additional language because the resources are too pricey. Don’t let this hold you back, and check your local library for language-learning tools. Always remember that libraries are not just for books, so you should ask your librarian if the library has any other language-learning resources or study groups. If you are in college, your library can be the source that connects you to the four previous resources I mentioned, as well as student discounts and events, so don’t underestimate this resource.

Don’t limit yourself to just one of these resources; learning a language is a dynamic process, and the more you incorporate it into your life, the more likely you are to truly master that language. Happy learning!

Lucy H
CABINET MEMBER
Lucy Hutchinson is a proud Pennsylvanian and daughter of Christ. She is a senior at Washington & Jefferson College and she aspires to attend medical school through the military to eventually become a dermatologist. She is also heavily involved with 4-H and serves on the National 4-H YAAC. When she’s not advocating for Israel, sun protection, agriculture, or GMOs, she’s probably studying or re-reading Jane Austen novels for the umpteenth time.