Hobbies to begin during isolation: Learning a new language

PUBLISHED: 12:17 10 June 2020

Darren often uses Duolingo to help him master a foreign language.

Darren often uses Duolingo to help him master a foreign language.


Are you looking for a way to keep your brain active during these trying times? Why not try your hand at studying another tongue, suggests English tutor and language coach Darren Cameron, of Kewstoke, in Weston,

There are many books which can help you progress.There are many books which can help you progress.

There are many free resources available online so if you want to practise Spanish, French, Russian or even Klingon, here are my top tips to beginning a foreign language during isolation.

Firstly, what is your motivation? Having a reason to learn is a good way to stay motivated when taking up the challenge of learning a foreign tongue. Do you have grandparents from another country? A partner? Or maybe you just have a longing to visit a distant land when lockdown has been lifted? It’s important to stay focused. My personal reason for studying is to make new friends. Many times I’ve surprised people by greeting them in their native language, which has led to conversations, friendship, party invitations, even offers of holidays.

Once you’ve chosen your language, it’s time to find resources. There are many free courses available online but if you want something you can carry around I would suggest finding an app for your phone. My personal favourite is Duolingo. This free platform has all the languages you would expect to find, such as German and Italian, but also some lesser-known examples including Navajo, Hawaiian, and Swahili. Or perhaps you’d like to study a conlang (constructed language)? Both Esperanto and High Valerian are available, as well as Klingon. The app is easy to use and covers everything from basic words up to intermediate-level sentences. It will also send you a daily reminder to continue, which is great if you have a tendency to forget those kinds of things.

Languages can be a fun and rewarding hobby.Languages can be a fun and rewarding hobby.

Once you’ve taken your first steps towards linguistic fluency, why not look for a language partner? You could place an advert on social media asking for language exchanges, where you offer to help someone with your native tongue in exchange for help learning theirs. Not only is this a great way to improve your listening and speaking skills but you can also learn about the culture of your exchange buddy and make new friends.

If you have a problem remembering new words, try to make them practical for you. Learn vocabulary related to your work, hobbies, pastimes. This will help you to associate the words with things you care about or see every day. The most important thing to remember is practise, practise, practise. Just 10 minutes a day can help you build a very impressive vocabulary in whichever language you choose, over a very short time. I studied Italian using just Duolingo for 30 minutes a day and when I found an exchange partner three months later she said I was at quite an advanced level. Here are some little things you can do to increase your exposure to the language you want to learn:

Change the language on your phone. Most people know the functions on their smartphones by heart and don’t read the text under icons. Changing the language means you get exposed to new words many times a day. You can also do this with your sat-nav system. Set it when you travel to somewhere you know well, so you don’t get lost or frustrated, and just listen to the terms used.

There is a vast array of books to help anyone from the complete novice to advanced level.There is a vast array of books to help anyone from the complete novice to advanced level.

Write shopping lists in your target language. It’s quite rewarding when you can go shopping and return with the correct items. As a backup, write them in your native language on the back.

Stick Post-it notes around the house. Label all your kitchen furniture, for example.

Whichever approach you decide to take, enjoy your journey. In bocca al lupo!

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