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A few weeks ago I wrote about how Cardinal Mezzofanti began to learn his first two foreign languages by incidental acquisition and how you can place yourself to learn the same way.
Thorin Klosowski has just written a helpful post over at the LifeHacker blog on the same point.
He outlines a few simple yet highly effective measures you can take to increase passive learning by changing the settings on your gadgets and surrounding yourself with your target language at home.
Setting your PC and Mobile operating systems, software and games to your target language
He goes into quite a bit of detail about how to change the language settings on your browser, OS and software.
I’ve been using my phone and Facebook in my target language for a while so I can testify that doing this does help you slowly acquire new words. Changing the language settings on your gadgets and applications is another helpful way to learn new vocabulary incidentally.
If all your gadgets are in a foreign language it forces you to adapt to it, just as you would if you were living in another country.
I’d also like to add that it’s really advantageous if you take the time to learn how to type in your target language. It can be challenging at first, especially for non-Latin alphabets. You can practice this by chatting online to people from your target language community and typing up short narratives to practice vocab.
Use an on-screen keyboard to help you learn where the keys are.
A good point the author makes is that because you’re already familiar with your operating system you won’t find it difficult to navigate menus even if you don’t understand the foreign language vocabulary. For example, you know that a lot of application menus are usually in the order File, Edit, View so if it was in a foreign language you could make fairly accurate predictions of its meaning.
Target language around the home
I mentioned before that you should watch target language films and listen to music leisurely in order to place yourself to learn incidentally.
Klosowski mentions these and also adds a few more suggestions: cooking, shopping, learning before bed and most importantly, sticky notes.
Activities like cooking and shopping might be helpful for some people but it really depends on what you’re interested in. I’ve shopped in Middle Eastern grocery stores before but I can’t really agree with Klosowski that it leads to any significant improvement in my second language (unless I’m trying to read dietary warnings or nutritional information on the side of a hummus can or something). Shopping in foreign grocery stores does give you the opportunity to meet new people however.
The well-known sticky note suggestion is highly effective for learning new vocabulary incidentally and it really ties in with helping you think in your target language. A few years ago I had sticky notes all over my bedroom labeling all my furniture and other objects with target language vocabulary. It helps.
Read the LifeHacker post here.
This was written by Donovan Nagel.
If you liked this post then there’s a good chance you’ll also like this one: A Quick Tip For Mastering Foreign Vocabulary.
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