5 Fun Language Learning Techniques

Learning another language can be tough, and sometimes it’s not much fun  learning all the grammar, the correct sentence structures and memorizing the new vocabulary.

To the rescue  are 5  fun language learning techniques that actually make it enjoyable.

#1 Play Scrabble in Your New Language
Playing Scrabble is a great way to build your vocabulary.  It will also help you recognize letter patterns and of course help your spelling.  I’ve been learning German for just over 5 months in an intensive German class and I find I need to tweak the rules a bit to have any chance of playing.

I play with a dictionary, which my German friends are not allowed to use.  If that’s still too difficult, you could also negotiate having an extra letter or two.  Playing Scrabble in German is more difficult than I had anticipated, but it is fun and a good challenge.

 #2:  Cook in Your New Language

For an added bonus, cook the local cuisine in the local language

Most of us are motivated by food so if you buy a cookbook (or get an online recipe) in the language you are learning, you will be surprised at how motivated you are to understand the ingredients and ensure that you follow the recipe correctly, since of course, you want to enjoy eating what you cook!

I’ve found cooking from German cookbooks to be surprisingly simple – if you choose the right book.  I have 3 cookbooks in German, and all the recipes are relatively simple and have pictures, but to be fair, I prefer these type of cookbooks even in English.

The other benefit of following a recipe in the new language is that after trying a few recipes, you will see that a lot of the instructions are similar, i.e. chop, heat, slice, bake.

Although I’ve just started cooking from German cookbooks a few weeks ago, my cooking and food vocabulary have already improved considerably, and best of all I’m rewarded with a good meal!  If you were really motivated you could just cook only in the new language you were learning!

#3:  Watch TV with Subtitles in Your New Language Once your language skills are better, you won’t need the subtitles but when you’re just learning subtitles can are very helpful.  I started watching TV in German but got frustrated as I was missing so many words.  But by also having the German subtitles on the screen, I can understand much more than just by listening alone.

Eventually, I plan to turn off the subtitles, but in the meantime, the subtitles are encouraging me to actually watch German TV which is good for improving my listening skills, something I need to work on.

 #4:  Read in Your New Language

Read something fun in your new language

There is likely no shortage of reading materials in your new language, but the key is to find something interesting for you to read, that’s not too difficult.

It can be a comic book, a children’s book or magazine, or if you’re looking for something more adult, find something based on your interests that has a minimal amount of text such as a tabloid, decorating, or travel magazine.  I personally read celebrity magazines.

If there’s a lot of text, this can be overwhelming when you’re just learning a language.  Once you have some basic language skills, books in English and the language you are studying may be available.

I have one of these books where one page is written in German and the same page is written in English so if you don’t understand something, you can refer to the English translation.

I’ve found this to be very helpful and is a good way to make reading longer text achievable.

 #5:  Trvia Game in Your New Language

Children’s quiz games are a fun way to learn a new language

I happen to love board games and find playing trivia games in a  new language to be a lot of fun.  I recently bought one for children (since the language level is more suitable to my current level of German) and played it with an American friend.

We learned a lot of new vocabulary, practiced speaking (reading the question to the other person), listening, and learned some trivia about Germany as well.  It was a lot of fun and I also learned some German slang that I haven’t forgotten.

We did this on a Saturday night, and  I can safely say I’m not motivated to learn German in the traditional boring ways on a Saturday night, but when it was fun, why not?

In a previous post, The Best Way to Learn a Language (Besides Speaking It) I had written that it is important to identify your learning style to make learning a new language easier.

These five language learning techniques are all hands on, as I am a hands-on learner, but more importantly, they’re fun.

After spending 25 hours a week in German class and doing 1-2 hours of German homework every day, I’m often not motivated to learn more German on the weekends.

Partly also because I Choose the Wrong Language School.  But by finding ways to make it fun,  I actually don’t mind learning German. And these activities are making a huge difference to my German skills since I’m learning German in a practical setting.

That was also a large part of the reason Why I Quit German Classes. We did not play games, or do anything interactive or fun.  It was just one grammar worksheet after another, which is NOT the best way to learn a language.

What fun language learning techniques do you have?

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About Author

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel. She's passionate about getting outdoors as often as possible and helping travellers do the same on their vacation in a sustainable way. She's Canadian and grew up in the Canadian Rockies but now lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her skiing or hiking in the mountains most weekends, hanging out with her cat or with her nose in a good book.


February 14, 2011
What? No comments? Nobody else learning languages here? I do, I actually like the challenge. As soon as I have a basic knolwledge I go shopping, market etc and fight my way through. That's fun and you learn fast and numbers too. Boardgames is a pretty cool idea. Ausgezeichnet meine Liebe, Dein Deutsch ist sicher perfekt.
February 14, 2011
These are all great tips! I used these myself and recommend them to students. I love cooking in Spanish. I have learned so many food words that I never would have any other way.
February 14, 2011
We cook in Turkish because, as you said, you get a good meal out of it - if you follow everything correctly that is! :) We find the films with subtitles funny. All the Hollywood actors are swearing...and the subtitles are not! We really like Turkish music too and the good thing here is, if you buy a CD (they're really cheap so worth it for language learning), all the song lyrics are included. A good way of integrating - sing along with everyone. It's a winner. :) Julia
February 15, 2011
I like these tips - you need as much help as you can get. Language Learning Tip #6: Date a Local!
February 15, 2011
This is all good stuff and very helpful. You've inspired me! I admit I've been a bit lazy since I've finished my last spanish class, but things that I like to do includes visiting http://www.freerice.com/. The site presents you multiple choice questions in four languages. The best part about it is that the site donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program for each right answer. I also like to troll youtube there is some great videos to discover for language building there.
February 15, 2011
I think these are great ideas - still struggling with the Spanish but I'll get there...
February 16, 2011
@Inka - Great idea, putting language to practical use is a great way to reinforce it. @Rease - Thanks, cooking in Spanish sounds like fun! @Turkeys for Life - Thanks for sharing your tips. Listening to music and reading all the lyrics is another excellent suggestion! @John - Thanks and dating a local is a fantastic idea! @Scott - Thanks, and thanks for sharing that website, I haven't heard of it but will be sure to check it out. @Robin - Thanks, I find learning German a struggle as well so am trying to find ways to make it fun so that I stay motivated.
February 16, 2011
I used to listen to French radio, when I was trying to learn french. I had already heard the english news so I could then try and pick out what they were saying. Last time I was in France I got peach pie for dinner (unintentionally) so I'm not sure that was so effective!
February 16, 2011
@Tracy - I like your idea of listening to the news in English first, then French. I thought my German was coming along, until today @ lunch when I ended up having ostrich for lunch which I had mistaken for beef. Guess I haven't learned the word for "ostrich" yet :). I think learning a language is definitely a long process.
February 17, 2011
Even though I've never done this, it seems like playing is a really nice way to learn a new language. You are entertained and having fun while learning..plus it makes the game more challenging.
February 17, 2011
@Norbert - Exactly. I think learning another language is important but I struggle with it so by making it fun you're more motivated to do it and I don't give up as easy when playing a game as I would if I was doing a grammar exercise.
February 18, 2011
These are fantastic tips, Laurel. I'm way too competitive at Scrabble to try and play it in German but I do cook from German recipe books, which I really enjoy - they are written in such a straightforward way! And now if anything comes up in class to do with food and cooking, I'm totally in charge of the exercise :) Out of interest, which books do you have? I recently bought Küchenschätz, which I totally love. ps Ostrich?!!
February 19, 2011
Lady! I can barely play Scrabble in my first language! :) I love watching movies and TV with the subtitles on in the language I'm trying to learn. It helped me so much in Mexico. Unfortunately all they played was Law and Order so I could totally read someone their rights in Spanish but little else. When I get okay at a language but want to master it, I also like to read books and newspapers in the language with a dictionary close at hand.
February 21, 2011
@Frau Dietz - Glad to hear that you cook in German as well, I haven't tried Küchenschätz but thanks for the recommendation. I have one on appetizers, Italian food (not German, but written in German) any my German cookbook is Schwäbische Küche. It's not bad, but I substitute the rabbit that a lot of the recipes call for with pork instead @Amy - LOL! I think watching movies and TV is a great way to learn a language, plus it's motivating, since it's fun. Too funny about Law and Order! When I lived in S. Korea, all they had was Kate and Allie, from years ago.
February 22, 2011
Great tips! I myself love to play scrabble in Spanish.
March 5, 2011
Listening to the news, reading the newspaer are things I've done to improve my French. Socialising is very important, over a game of scrabble or just coffee (how I've done it) but just get out there and get some local friends. Another way, I've house-shared with French people which has been good as well. I'm not sure dating a local is necessarily a good idea. Why ? All of the people I've met who are married to locals have really bad French accents or vocab which I guess is their attraction. So if you date a local, make sure they like you for WHO you are and not how you sound in you new language !!
Laurie V
April 11, 2011
Great ideas. My husband always beats me in Scrabble, so one night I suggest playing it in German (he doesn't know any) so that I could win! I've been cutting out recipes from newspapers- the Kaufland and Edeka sales flyers usually have one or two each week. I made Rouladen once from them, so far so good! Great idea on the trivia game. Also, another good game I think to practice German would be Pictionary. I have yet to find a kid's version at the stores or online though. I thought about buying a children's learning DVD in German. Has anyone here found a good one?
Tim C
April 30, 2011
Awesome tips; especially Scrabble and Cooking! Food is definitely a motivator. Thanks for sharing.
October 16, 2011
When I was learning Spanish while living in Florida one of my favorite things to do was to watch the movie with the Spanish track and the English subtitles. I was surprised how much I actually picked up doing that. After a few movies there were parts I didn't have to read because I knew what they were saying. I haven't really been able to do that yet with German (although I do remember in high school our teacher putting on Home Alone in German every year lol) but I hope to once I get to Germany.
December 26, 2011
I love learning language. I'm studying English now. Hopefully, I can be an excellent English teacher. Thanks for the article. :-)
June 10, 2012
Watching movies with subtitles is good, but watching them without is much, much better. I usually watch a movie once with the subtitles so that I know what's going on, then watch it a few more times without. It's amazing how much more you find yourself concentrating on the language when the option to just read a translation is removed. Of course the concentration needed is exhausting and I never make it more than 30 minutes or so, but for those 30 minutes, it's one of the best things you can do to improve your listening.
November 18, 2012
John #4. My son learnt Spanish in Mexico by your method, and he has never forgotten it. In Norway he went one better, when he found himself with two young children. So anxious was he to be a loving father that he only ever spoke Norwegian to them, even while he and their mother (not together any more) spoke English to each other. Now aged 12 and 9, the girls speak English only when they're with their grandmother and me. Regrettably, I'm not in a good position to follow John's advice. My wife's a bit old-fashioned, that way...
November 20, 2012
@Gordon - Now that's dedication! My German is OK, but still not where I want it to be so I keep trying to find ways to make it fun. Thanks for sharing your story.
Common Culture - Making Language Learning Fun
December 11, 2012
[...] ask what is the best way to learn or continue learning a language. The author of this article: 5 Fun Language Learning Techniques gives a few ways to practice outside the [...]
December 18, 2012
Thank you for the great tips, I put it on our FB page Cheers, Monika
December 28, 2012
@Monika - Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

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