10 best places to study a language

Best place to learn a language

I am not talking about countries to learn a language, you can learn a language anywhere.  I am talking about where to study a language, literally. Where is are the soles of your feet when you are studying.

Living in Poland I am amazed how well Polish people speak languages. Maybe it is because their language is so complex, but more likely they believe in the hard way. They believe in studying for years and hours a day. Americans and Brits just want the easy way. To speak the a language without work. I know I am an American. These are the places I see people here doing translations and having their nose in the dictionary and cramming vocabulary lists. If you see language learning not something you do in class or school but rather everyday anywhere than this might help your experience.

Where to study a language

  1. Study your lessons on a train – I was on the Train back to Kraków last night and all around me where people, not just students studying English. Really, the woman across from me had her son and she was studying English while he was running around the train. There was a girl next to me doing exercises. Trains are a great relaxing way to travel. No need to drive, just sit and learn vocabulary. If you can strike up a conversation with a foreigner even better. I have taken some long Russian Ukrainian trains before and by the end of the 20 something hour ride you are talking politics etc with your car mates. I do not drink, I just like to talk.
  2. Study a language on a subway – We have trams in Krakow and I see people all the time cramming lists and just not students.
  3. Learn a language in the bath – One of my favorite places to review dialogues. I take an MP3 player in and just sit back and relax. I though in some magnesium salt or even listen to some foreign language songs. The acoustics are great in the bathroom because it is a small room with water so I do not wear earbugs rather a radio MP3 player.
  4. While napping study a language with hypnopedia – Laying on the coach I often simple listen to a repeating loop of language words and phrases. Eventually I fall asleep and some how I think the vocabulary sinks in my brain. I think brainwaves are at a deeper cycle and more receptive to music.
  5. Walking and talking a language – I often walk down the street talking to myself in a foreign language, my language I study is Polish, now. People think it is strange to see someone talking to themselves, but do you really care?
  6. On a bench or in a park is a peaceful place to learn – Not a library? Well is not a nice park bench more enjoyable in the summer. Besides maybe some pretty girl will come sit next to you and help you.
  7. Driving and listening on your way to work to language audio lessons – I have not had a car for years but many people like this approach. I think your brain is in an alpha state and this is a good place to be when trying to absorb new information.
  8. On vacation or any restful place or environment – The main resistance to studying a language is stress, doubt and lack of confidence. Why not lay on the beach and read some foreign language romance book. By the end of the short novel you will have learned a lot.
  9. Bed is a good place to learn a language – Do not think of this in the wrong way, or you can if you like.
  10. Church – Go to foreign language service. I live in Kraków and you can attend mass in about a dozen different languages and read the Bible in any. The service and text are all the same in any language, therefore go to mass in your target language and see how it feels different and let it absorb into your conciousness. Although this should not be your purpose of going.

What are your favorite places to study a language even if you are not in a foreign country? Let me know and the more intresting a place the better.

8 Replies to “10 best places to study a language”

  1. Mark, this is a great list of ways to fill out what would otherwise be dead time!

    A few other times and places I’d add:
    – Riding in an elevator
    – Walking around
    – When on hold on a phone
    – When waiting for something
    – When on a run

    Other than the run (audio only), I’ll use these times to sneak a few SRS reps in and listen to audio when possible.

    The bath/shower is another great place. Our iPod shower speakers broke not too long ago, and losing that time is a real pain!

    I’d love to have audio constantly going while I’m sleeping as well, but I don’t think my wife’d be thrilled about it.

  2. I guess the whole idea here is to study whenever you can. It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you have the determination, then you will learn. =)

  3. Concerning #5:
    I do care.

    This is why I turn off my phone (or put it on silent), and hold it to my ear as I practice.

    Try it, no one will suspect anything.

    P.S: Having a phone earpiece is even better (it frees up your hands, and it also maintains the ‘sane’ look).

  4. Trams and buses are a great place. Time spent on the bus doesn’t have to be wasted, and I love the fact that when I read something I can avoid looking at other people, as sometimes it’s uncomfortable. And if someone is looking at me, I won’t know or get paranoid. Some people even carry newspapers with them for this purpose.

    Hypnopedia sounds very interesting, I will definitely give it a try.

    1. I do not care if people look at me on a bus. If they do it is out of curiosity. It goes with the idea that it is only when people stop looking at you then you have to worry, that is you want to be attractive, interesting and relevant for society.
      Public transport or time during your communte in the USA in your car is nothing but an opportunity to learn a language.

  5. I had a terrible time learning languages while I was in high school and the university, but it wasn’t due to lack of desire. It wasn’t until I moved to Brazil and I found the books written by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) that are free on the eric.ed.gov US website. This is what got me started.

    The majority of methodologies I have seen tend to be “English, French, Spanish – only.” If a grammatical structure doesn’t exist in one’s primary language, then what is the frame of reference? There isn’t, so the majority of people never really learn well. Try understanding an explanation of the “imperfect tense” in Portuguese or Spanish, in Spanish! It’s hard to understand because it’s not in English. But if you see lots of examples and cases for its use, things are easier because you just “plug in” your particular situation to be like the examples. This is how the FSI books helped me.

    So really, for adults, my recommendation is always the same – look for books that show you structures with the English equivalents (if your native language is English). Once you have a good “handle” on the main structures in the target language, practice, practice, practice.

  6. The most effective way is to have a lover, a native speaker of the language you are attempting to learn.

  7. In the US the books they use at many schools are latinized versions. The kana and Kanji are not used.
    This leads to a lot of problems. After two quarters I tried to switch to a book the used Kana but to my surprise the book did not use Kanji. Without Kanji you can’t read japanese. A string of Kana is not easy to read. Recently i found a computer and youtube combo which uses kana and kanji. The learning process now is on track. Before the above in a high school course (I sat in on) I was introduced to kanji as that was required for national exams. However, my time was needed for my job and I did a poor job as a student.

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