Have fun learning a new language
As the nations of the world become increasingly interconnected, it is more important than ever for a country’s citizens to learn foreign languages. Acquiring a new language enriches your mind and allows you to truly interact without barriers in different cultures. Of course, to learn Spanish, Chinese, Swahili, whatever, means years of hard work translating paragraphs of text and memorizing stacks of flashcards. Wait a minute, NO, that’s exactly what you should not do! While translating articles and making flashcards are a necessary part of the learning process, they should take up very little of your time.
Think of it this way: you are USING a new language, not studying it. Most of your practice must be crafting your own words into a new tongue. Above all, becoming fluent in a foreign language should be fun; it’s hard enough to do without making it into drudgery. I have here some activities to spice up your learning:
Find new friends to practice with
This site’s name is pretty self-explanatory: it’s a one-stop-shop for creating groups and meeting up! Every major city has tons of clubs for learning a new language. Visit a meetup and practice your skills with other like-minded individuals. In the process you’ll make friends with people who have the same goals and interests as you, which can keep you on the path to success.
Watch something that actually keeps you riveted to the screen
Men and women learners both need a break from watching straight-laced news programs in a foreign language. Add some drama to the equation and you might find you’re paying more attention to what everyone is saying. Love and passion are universal, so you can find soap operas on youtube in many different languages.
Share links with others in another language
It’s time to offer your meager language skills to the animalistic hordes of the Internet….well maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Reddit is a popular link-sharing site with literally thousands of subforums (or subreddits) on different topics, including countries. Sign up for an account, find a subreddit that uses your language of choice, and get to commenting. Here you will learn boatloads of slang words and how native speakers truly interact with each other.
Become more invested in the language
Every other day, pick five verbs and five nouns you want to learn. Write a story that incorporates all of your selected words; embellish it all you want. Creating stories helps you practice words that might not normally be found in regular conversation. There's a deeper connection to sentences that you produce, so you will better remember the words that you created.
Swap stories with world travelers
More than just a site to find a couch to crash on while traveling, Couchsurfing allows you to meet a huge variety of people, many of whom speak the language you want to learn. And you don't even have to leave your town! The majority of couchsurfers love people (that’s a big reason why they’re on their journey!) and would be happy to meet you and chat in their native tongue. You can use Couchsurfing. org in a similar way to meetup.com, where you grab some coffee with a new friend visiting your town and chit chat. Couchsurfing, especially when just meeting up with travelers in a public place, is especially safe because they have a review system for their users. Members who have met other members leave impressions of their interactions with that member. This way you can see what other people think of the person you're considering meeting.
Get Your Friends In On It
It's time to talk, and don't stop!
With the sites I’ve mentioned above, you can make many friends with people who speak as a first language the one you wish to learn. Hang out with them one-on-one: get lunch, drinks, something where your main activity is talking, and speak with them only in the language you’re learning. This sounds easier than it actually is, because you’ll be tempted to revert back to your own language when you find you’re having trouble expressing yourself. Stick to your guns and you’ll get more efficient speaking practice and BONUS: fun hanging out time with your friends.
Use grooveshark.com to find nearly any song in nearly any language
Every day you have the opportunity to listen to music: your morning workout, commute to work, relaxing at home, etc. During that time spend at least 30 minutes enjoying music in your target language. Your listening comprehension will improve dramatically from this exercise, as it is generally harder to understand words that are sung as opposed to normal speech. I find that grooveshark.com is the most effective tool for building playlists for free in any foreign language.
Go ahead and read that trashy magazine in a foreign language. You're still learning!
I’m old school. I’d rather pick up a real, tangible newspaper or magazine in a foreign language so I can make notes in the margins and enjoy time away from a glowing screen. But there is something to be said for the dizzying array of news options on the Internet. The best place to find online news in a foreign language is Google News, for its ease-of-use, personalization, and the sheer amount of articles presented. Visit news.google.com and choose your language from the dropdown menu at the top-leftish. On the sidebar to the right you can choose the frequency that you receive articles on certain subjects. Perfect for keeping your brain engaged on topics you actually care about.
Get out of the flashcards and notebooks mindset, and learning a new language suddenly becomes exciting instead of a bore. The tips I have given you will help you meet new friends, exponentially improve your speaking skills, and teach you more slang and vocabulary than you can shake a stick at. Just relax, practice every day, and soon you'll start seeing improvement. So back away from the notebook and get out there!