How to Learn a New Language at Home: 

5 Fun and Practical Activities

Learning a new language at home isn’t always easy. It can quickly grow tiresome, become a chore, or, worse yet, become something you don’t want to do. Yet, with some forethought and planning, language learning can become fun and practical. Here are five (5) activities to help you out. 

Fun & Practical at Home Learning Activity #1: 

Learn Curse Words

Learning light curse words is an easy-to-do activity. The point of doing so is that people curse in real life, and you can use the “F” word without using it. Be careful, however. Things can go from lighthearted to truly insulting if you’re not careful. For instance, the Spanish word pendejo, meaning at a colloquial level “asshole” or “idiot in one sense, literally means pubic hair. You don’t want to say impolite things in polite company, so you must be keenly aware of social context.  

Fun & Practical at Home Learning Activity #2: Use Games

  • ‘Guess Who?’ is a classic children’s game where the players attempt to describe someone. Instead of using English words, substitute the language of your choice. For instance, for a person who has ‘blond(e)’ hair, in Spanish, you’d use the word ‘rubio,’ and the confirmation would be sí or no. Maybe change the pictures out, and substitute professions such as police officers, doctors, lawyers, construction workers, etc.     
  • Hangman is another children’s game that you can play with just paper and pencil. Because the possibilities are endless, it may be a good idea to use categories; that way, it’s much easier to guess – for instance, (proper) nouns, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, verbs, or adverbs. Because articles in other languages affect the word, it should be clearly shown if there is a space in the word to be guessed. Another modification would be to ignore diacritical marks or add them in afterward. 
  • 20 Questions is another game you can play on the computer in other languages. The computer tries to guess what you’re thinking on the topics of ‘Animal,’ ‘Vegetable,’ ‘Mineral,’ ‘Concept,’ or ‘Unknown.’ The only problem is that you may need translation software to change it to a language you understand. 
  • You can also try Scrabble in other languages. Online stores sell foreign-language versions; however, if you’re studying a Latin-based language, use a standard Scrabble board. If you’re particularly interested in accuracy, develop your own version by looking at how often letters occur in various languages. To be accurate, you may have to buy several boards and shift around the letter distribution. To give yourself an additional challenge, see if you know not only the fact that X is a word in whatever language you’re studying but also its definition.
  • Scattergories is another game that can be played in multiple languages. The idea is to come up with as many words as possible that start with a given letter. These words need to fit within one of a dozen categories (such as “fruit” or “animal”). Buy the game or make your own version that matches the language you’re trying to learn better. All you need is a sheet of paper, a list of categories – and these may be vocab categories – and a letter randomizer. Maybe use an alternate rule that gives more points for using the right word and defining it properly.  
  • Word games aren’t the only types of games you can play in foreign languages. 
    • Video games. Many modern video games allow you to change the language shown. 
    • Name that show. But the trick is to name the show in another language.  
    • Product game. Instead of asking for an onion, you might ask for a cebolla 

Fun & Practical at Home Learning Activity #3: 

Watch Foreign Language TV Shows with Captions

If you’re a fan of foreign TV shows or movies and the program you’re watching has captioning options in other languages, read the captions as they speak. Conversely, watch the movie or TV show in another language and set the captions to English. This is an excellent way to learn other subjects such as world affairs and politics, cooking, sports, cartoons, etc. Either way, you get to connect the words with another language, which will help you learn faster.  

Fun & Practical at Home Learning Activity #4: 

Learn Foreign Language Lyrics  

If you’re a fan of music, what better way to learn a language than to learn the lyrics of your favorite songs and know the exact lyrics in another language? Mind you, because singing differs from speech, the lyrics’ order may be changed to make it coherent in the other language. Similarly, if you don’t want to learn the entire lyrics to a song, maybe you may just want to know the song titles in a foreign language instead.  

Fun & Practical at Home Learning Activity #5: 

Buy & Cook with Foreign Foods 

Cooking is one of the few activities that use all your senses. You see the food’s shape and color and know its type. Maybe as you’re cooking, you use a cookbook in another language. You have to handle it, feel its weight, its heft, and prepare it – cutting, slicing, dicing, cooking. Even the knives and cookware have names in other languages. As it’s cooked, you smell the food before finally sitting down to eat it. 

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