Language Beyond Books and Classes

Language Beyond Books and Classes

Adam McGarityby Adam McGarity

Let’s get real…if you’re an eager, hardworking language student, perhaps you know this feeling: “I’ve done the exercises in the textbook, I’ve studied the grammar charts, and I’ve looked up a LOT of words…but I can’t seem to get the hang of natural conversations with native speakers.”  If this sounds familiar, you may need to increase your daily dose of real language, as used by native speakers.  Fortunately, there are many tools and resources out there to help language students become more comfortable with native pace and styles of speech.

One route is to watch more videos in the language.  For example, at Washington Academy of Languages this semester, we’ve been trying out Yabla, an online video service (fee-based) with authentic videos, target-language captions, English subtitles, embedded dictionaries, and player-control features such as slow-motion playback and segment looping.  Yabla videos are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Italian and English.

If you prefer the free video route (but with fewer bells and whistles), another great site is Viki.  This site has a large variety of international TV shows and movies, which have been captioned and subtitled by volunteers from all over the world.  On Viki, you can become more familiar with both the language and the culture you are studying.  And if you’re getting confident with your language skills, you could even pitch in and help with the subtitling!  Languages include Korean, Japanese, Chinese, French, and German (among many others).

Still, we all know that real life doesn’t always mirror the movies.  And you can’t talk with the characters on screen.  So how do you get more practice speaking? Language exchange!  A great mobile app to help you is called HelloTalk.  With this app, you can find people who are learning your native language, and those who speak the language that you’re studying.  The app has a number of features, but one of the best is recorded interactions in a text-message format.  It allows users to slow down the pace of conversation, get pronunciation right, and save conversations for further review and later practice.

Still not satisfied?  Fine, let’s get old-school and talk to real people in the languages we’re learning.  But how can you find them?  One way is through  On Meetup, you can find people who share all kinds of interests, including language and culture.  It’s a great way to make friends, participate in events, and use that language you’re learning!

So, if you choose just one, or all of these resources to assist in your pursuit of fluency, keeping it real will help you continue learning and growing in natural, authentic ways.

Published February 25, 2016



* Indicates a required field.

By clicking SUBMIT, I understand and agree to CityU's privacy policy.