The lack of real progress.
The constant agony of “Ugh, I knew that word!”
If all these sound familiar to you, you must have likely, at some point in your life, tried learning a foreign language without a private tutor.
But you know what? There’s a simpler, better way to learn a new language.
And it involves a VPN, out of all things.
Read on to see if this is what could turn into a polyglot.
The two styles of learning
If you’re after picking up a new skill, you have two options:
- The classic, formal way
- The fun, non-formal way
Now, when I say classic, think of sitting in a classroom with a book full of grammar exercises in front of you.
This is called formal leaning, and it’s what most schools use as the standard learning technique.
However, non-formal learning is a more modern concept. The idea of an unsystematic learning method has been around since the ‘60s. You might know it as “learning in the community” or “learning through experience.”
In the case of new languages, non-formal learning is learning through immersion.
It’s like how some people say they learned English by playing online video games or by catching movies without subtitles. (Thanks, Hollywood!)
Now, of course there are pros and cons to both sides. But we’re not here to debate this.
Your building blocks for learning
The foundation of the language learning process has two components:
But, before you can talk, you need a first contact with the language. This helps you get familiarized with the pronunciations and tonalities of words.
Or, you know, at least grasp where a word starts, and another begins.
Then comes the fun part. Grammar, vocabulary, and endless hours repeating words and phrases. It’s very fun, right? Right??
That would be the traditional way.
And it makes sense. Our brains are wired to forget, lest we go insane.
“Use it or lose it” is particularly true when it comes to your foreign language vocabulary.
Studies have shown that there is no innate aptitude for language learning, but rather it heavily relies on your exposure to the foreign language.
So, you need to stay in touch with a language as frequently as possible if you don’t want it slipping away from you.
Entering the realm of VPNs
A VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It works as a private point-to-point tunnel that is protected by encryption, and that’s why it became known as a tool for security and privacy.
For the past decade, millions of people worldwide have resorted to using VPNs to protect their digital life and keep their internet traffic away from prying eyes.
The internet was meant to be borderless. The dream was for digital information to be accessible to anyone. But governments, authorities, internet service providers, and copyright holders often stood in the way of such noble goals.
A VPN (well, a good one, at least) is built to bypass censorship and restrictions. As a result, you can access anything, anytime, anywhere.
And this is why a VPN is of great help when learning a foreign language. With it, you can immerse yourself and:
- Unblock streaming channels
- Download movies
- Read books
- Listen to the radio
- Use language-learning apps
Let’s take a closer look at this matter.
Unblock streaming channels in your desired language
Applying the same principle should work wonders for foreign languages, as well.
One way of making sure you are consistently reminded of words and phrases is watching TV?
But let’s be clear on this one.
And while it may not be the most interactive way to gain knowledge, it’s certainly more relaxing than just keeping to grammar books. And combining entertainment and learning has been shown to improve motivation and engagement, especially in adults.
Now, there are plenty of streaming channels available. You can search for a channel broadcasted from a country where the language you’re trying to learn is spoken.
Then you can watch movies and TV shows, listening to native speakers, and enjoying dubbed versions.
However, some streaming services require a subscription.
Netflix & learn
If you have access to a Netflix account, you might have already noticed that their originals are starting to get more diverse. From a linguistic perspective, at least.
Here are some examples:
- Osmosis: French TV series
- Dark: German TV series
- 3%: Brazilian Portuguese series
- Jinn: Jordanian Arabic series
- The Rain: Danish TV series
- Immortals: Turkish TV series
- On Children: Taiwanese TV series
- Persona: Korean TV series
- My husband won’t fit: Japanese TV series
- If I hadn’t met you: Spanish TV series
- Tabula Rasa: Dutch TV series
- Bordertown: Finnish TV series
- Amo: Tagalog TV series
- Baby: Italian TV series
To search for different audio versions on Netflix, use the search engine and filter by audio. Or follow this link: http://www.netflix.com/browse/audio/
You can even add a country code after the last slash. For example:
You can also enable the subtitles to get a better grasp of the written language. Just be aware that they are often subjective and might not be entirely on par with what’s being said.
If you don’t have a Netflix subscription, don’t sweat it. There are plenty of streaming sites out there. Like PopcornFlix, which features a category for foreign movies. 😉
If subscription-based services aren’t your thing, that’s fine. There are still good movies and series available for download.
You can start by watching dubbed content you’ve already seen in your mother tongue. Since you’re already familiar with the plotline, it will be easier to focus on the vocabulary and make some progress.
For starters, all the characters speak slower and more articulate. And typically use a common vocabulary. This makes it easier to learn common idioms, general nouns, or verbs.
As a bonus, kids’ shows are often short. You’ll have no problem staying focused and even taking some notes.
If this sounds interesting to you, turn to Disney. Because they’re so famous, most of their titles have already been dubbed. Just try not to get the songs stuck in your head for days at a time.
Alternatively, you can download subtitles for the movies you already own.
Movies and shows might be fun, but sooner or later, grammar also comes into play. And while binge-watching can do wonders for your vocabulary, it might not be as effective for grammar knowledge.
Cue in: books!
An excellent way to begin would be a foreign book you already read in your mother tongue.
This way, you can compare sentence structures and word order and get more familiar with the syntax.
Bilingual editions are also great for understanding the language and comparing colloquialisms.
Now, depending on where you live, books in foreign languages might not be so readily available in bookstores.
For example, finding a book in Slovak in Hong Kong could be quite a tedious task.
Luckily, loads of books are now available as ebooks, and a continuous large-scale digitization is planned.
Here’s where you can find ebooks:
Alternatively, you can check out audiobooks in different languages:
Here’s the catch, though. These sites are available worldwide, but you’re not guaranteed to see there the same content as people in your neighboring countries. That’s because of copyright restrictions.
The good part is that a VPN can help by changing your IP address. For iTunes, Play Store, and Audible, you need to modify both your IP and the country from your account.
No excuse not to be a book worm now!
Listen to the radio
There’s no escaping the fact that listening is an integral part of learning a language.
And radios are convenient and available on the go. Wherever you are, you can tune in and take in a foreign language.
Here are some examples:
Listening to music also improves your memory. If you put some effort into memorizing and translating, you’ll be rewarded with recognizing phrases faster in the future.
These radios feature music, news, shows, and podcasts to help you get more accustomed to the language and with the culture.
Music can be helpful when learning a foreign language, And it’s not just the listening part.
When we sing songs, we subconsciously try to reproduce the sounds and tones. It’s a good way to try to hide your native accent. Unless you’re all about black metal.
Even your social life might benefit from the radio since weather or sports reports are considered a perfect way to begin small talk in countries all over the globe.
However, just like streaming services, radio stations might also be geo-restricted. But all you need to do is change your IP address with a VPN. Then you’re ready to enjoy all the benefits of passive exposure!
Use language-learning apps
Apps designed for learning foreign languages are somewhat of a new thing. But they’re pretty much straight forward, and not as time-consuming as regular, academic lessons.
Apps have also shown to be effective by reducing performance anxiety among learners. That’s because people feel more comfortable with their mistakes when there is no one else to hear them or read them out loud.
And there are good apps out there. You just need to choose the one most suited to your learning pace and schedule.
While there are very few governments that enact nationwide bans on language learning apps, access might be restricted on local networks. There are several reasons for this:
- On school and university networks to prevent cheating.
- On office networks to prevents distractions and increase productivity.
- On office networks where access to anything except work-related software is restricted.
- On library networks to prevent using too much bandwidth.
- On office networks that restrict usage of paid apps (even if they offer a freemium plan).
No worries, VPNs to the rescue!
Don’t get lost in translation
It’s unlikely you’ll have a hard time finding foreign content online. But there are some roadblocks you need to watch out for:
Many streaming services and websites are geo-restricted
Copyright holders have the last say when it comes to where the content can be distributed and on which services.
The most famous example is, by far, Netflix. They impose restrictions on certain shows, which is why their catalog is so different from country to country.
Also, streams from national broadcasters, like Finland’s YLE, are meant to be viewed only within the borders of the home country.
Some websites upload content illegally
There are free streaming websites, functioning solely on ad revenue. And while free streaming might sound great, it’s not the same for copyright holders.
So, in some countries, like in the UK, they have pressured government authorities to clamp down on websites, citing copyright infringement. As a result, Internet Service Providers have begun blocking the domains, or subjected infringers to fines.
Streaming copyrighted content is a gray area
In many countries, using IP cloaking software to stream copyrighted content has yet to be regulated. So, no one is sure where bypassing geo-blocks falls on the spectrum of civil or criminal liability.
Case in point: Germany. Here, people are more vigilant since copyright infringement penalties are harsh, but streaming is still widely unregulated.
It’s time for CyberGhost VPN
To bypass geo-restrictions, stay protected from copyright trolls, and ISPs’ traffic sniffing, the best solution is VPN software.
A good VPN will make sure that your connection is always encrypted, so that no one can snoop on your digital life.
This is why you need a VPN service with servers optimized for streaming, that can effectively keep you flying under the radar.
If you’re looking for a VPN who can do it all in your quest to learn a new language, CyberGhost VPN is for you.
There are many things you can do to learn a new language and immerse yourself in a new culture. And some of them might require the help of a VPN to help you cross digital borders.
Whether you live in an area where exposure to your target language is scarcely available, or you prefer learning by yourself, a VPN can open doors for you.
You can now enjoy geo-blocked content and practice your language skills at the same time at your own pace!
What worked for you when trying to become fluent in a foreign language? Let me know and share your tips in the comments below.