This post is a free bonus chapter to go with my book “Brave Language Learning.” You can get the full book here.
If you are serious about learning a foreign language, at some point you will need to move beyond just learning single words. This is when authentic language becomes important. How can you get more authentic language practice? This short post is a list of my favourite ways. The good news is that none of this is likely to cost you much!
1. Project Gutenberg – read more books
You must know about Project Gutenberg by now. This is a great initiative whose goal is to make public domain books available online, for free, to everyone. The great writers you’ve always admired are all there, and you can read all you want.
Who says you must limit yourself to English, though? Follow the link here to access the site’s search engine and catalogue. This also lets you choose books in other languages. Not every foreign language is there, but the main ones are well represented.
The best thing about this method is that you can really get into serious language work that way. With a good dictionary and some focus, reading in a foreign language is a huge boost to your vocabulary and confidence.
2. Librivox – listen to free audiobooks
The expensive audio recordings aren’t the only game in town. Many books (especially the public domain ones) are being recorded by volunteers and published for free at the Librivox website. You don’t get the professional quality or the famous actors like on paid websites, but hey – it’s free… and you are likely to hear foreign language books there, too. Just follow the link.
This is super important for those who find it useful to learn by listening. Long passages in an audiobook will let you become familiar with the rhythm and melody of a language. And frequently, you can combine Gutenberg and Librivox – reading and listening to the same classic title!
3. Multilingual online newspapers
One of the most empowering memories of learning Portuguese, for me, was being able to pick up a newspaper and understand its main stories. This meant that I was now more connected with what was going on around me, and that the language used in reality was also mine. Good news – you can do that, too. And you don’t have to rely on travel or paper, since this website stores the links to multilingual newspapers for you.
Do this often if you’re keen on really learning the culture and language of a place you’re planning to go to. It can be harder than reading a book, but also more relevant!
4. Online radio in all languages
Podcasts are great, but radio stations beat them in my opinion. Listening to a foreign language radio station means that you get lots of things at once: language in everyday context, authentic use, lots of practice in realistic listening, and plenty of clues about how the accents work. It’s hard, but rewarding in the end. Possibly the hardest part is giving up on the need to understand everything, and just going with the flow of the spoken word!
Follow this link for a good catalogue of multilingual radio stations. You can start listening straight away.
Have you got another cheapskate way to more authentic language practice? Let the Twitter and Facebook know about it.
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