Right now, I don’t have a job. So I fill up my days learning ASL, more Spanish, useful phrases for countries I’ll be visiting and exercising. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything!
I’ve found a couple resources that might help you if you are trying to pick up a language.
So I’ve taken Spanish in high school and college but really didn’t grasp it. Then I studied abroad in Spain and it clicked. But when I had moved back to Spain, I had gone two years not speaking Spanish so I was lost. Now I’m trying review and learn as much as I can so I’m not a deer lost in the headlights.
Language Zen: This website is amazing. Right now, it is just for Spanish but they intend on expanding. This site uses repetition and music to slowly introduce vocabulary and grammar. It introduces two or three new concepts each unit which avoids feeling overwhelmed. Each unit takes about 3 minutes to finish so you can fit it in anytime.
Duolingo: This is a popular website and phone app. As of now, it mostly consists of European languages. It’s great for learning vocabulary but slower with grammar than Language Zen. Each unit is about 3 minutes. It’s accessible and quick. I use this and Language Zen together for a balance of vocabulary and grammar.
*I still only study about 15-30 minutes a day between both websites. And yes, I’ve made progress.
Songza: I love songza because the playlists cater to different activities and moods. Another cool part is if you go to “GENRE” and scroll to “WORLD” there are playlists organized by countries and languages. While you may not understand any of it at first, constant exposure to language will help you pick up vocabulary and pronunciation. I personally like “Alternative Latin” and “Mami Chula,” for Spanish playlists. I also listen to “French Hip Hop,” and “K-Pop” every once in awhile.
Netflix: Netflix is now all over the world and in different languages. How can you harness the vast amount of media Netflix makes available? Download Chrome to your computer. Then click the upper right hand icon with the three horizontal lines. Scroll to “MORE TOOLS” scroll to the bottom to “GET MORE EXTENSIONS” search for the extension Hola. Make sure it is enabled on the “MORE TOOLS” section. A smiley face flame will appear in the upper right hand corner. If you click on it flags will appear. So I choose the Mexican flag and I can watch what I want in Spanish.
SpanishDict: This is a website that is used as a free translator but also has a free Spanish course. It’s about even between vocabulary and grammar. However, it is geared towards academic understanding versus travelers. Another nice feature is the word of the day, if you sign up you can request a Spanish word sent to your email.
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
I’m not good friends with any deaf people. I’ve met a few and one in particular was inspiring. So when I was faced with all this free time I figured, why not? Why not learn a language for a population of people in my own country, I haven’t been able to communicate with? And when I finally meet a deaf person I want to befriend, I’ll be able to sign to them. I’ll bet it’ll mean the world to them.
Learn ASL in 31 Days: This is a fantastic YouTube course that can take 3-6 minutes a day. It’s easy and fun. I love that is doesn’t just give you vocabulary but slowly gives you a basic foundation for grammar. (Yes, ASL has different grammar) It’s a great jumping off point if you are interested in learning ASL.
Anissa ASL: This is a YouTube Channel. While she is not a professional translator these videos are some of the only ASL not PSE videos you can find online. (PSE means directly translated from English to Sign but is NOT grammatically correct) She does tutorials that breakdown popular songs into grammatically correct ASL. Her regular song covers include the lyrics as well as the ASL translations. This makes it easier to follow what each sign means and it shows you in context how the grammar differs from ASL to English.
Amber Galloway Gallego: Her YouTube Channel has the best ASL song covers online. She is probably one of the most famous ASL interpreters. Her job is specifically to translate concerts like Iggy Azalea or Rihanna. She actually goes on tour with some artists. The videos go very fast however by the end of the 31 day course (I noted above) you can somewhat follow what she is signing.
*It helps to watch one song like “Shake It Off” or “Take Me to Church” from several different YouTube channels. You can see the differences in translations.
Sign Savvy: This is a website. It is basically a dictionary of signs. What’s nice is the graphics make it easy to see how the signs work and shows if there are most than one sign for a word. It’s important to keep in mind ASL is regional, just like English. There will be signs used in one place and not another. Also, some signs will be the same but differ because of context.
When I was in Israel, I realized quickly I needed to learn some basic phrases to make me blend in better.
101 Languages: This is a website and a YouTube channel. This website has tons of languages. I used the YouTube channel to learn basic phrases in Hebrew. What is nice, is this channel gives you basic phrases and cultural facts. It’s perfect for travelers. If you want to add more depth to your knowledge the website is free to use and has a comprehensive course.
Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in the United States and ASL is the fourth most “spoken” language in the United States. By simply learning these two languages, you open your world up to ~40 million more people in JUST the United States. But learning any language is a great idea even if it’s not widely spoken.
Learning any language makes it easier traveling, opens you up to more people, increases your brain plasticity and you can add it to your resume. It also doesn’t hurt that it can be quite impressive at parties. Now I show my friends some of the silly signs I know. Like the sign in the gif is for dinosaur. Isn’t it cute?
Let me know if these resources are helpful and let me know what languages you decide to learn!