Learning a Language All By Yourself

Marc Bilodeau/ Bucket List, Subjectivity

Saluton kaj Bonvenon! For those that do not know, that means Hi and Welcome in Esperanto. Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. It was created by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof in the late 19th century. I discovered it a couple of years ago, and after doing some research decided I wanted to speak it.

The total number of speakers varies depending on the source. However, it’s estimated that there are less than 10,000 native speakers and anywhere from two million to ten million speakers with various degrees of competence as their second language. It is not the official language of any country.

Although there are clubs and organizations around the world, I personally do not know anyone who speaks it. This poses some challenges due to the uncommonness of Esperanto in my area. Thankfully, I found that teaching myself a foreign language is easy.

Regardless of which language one chooses to learn, there are specific challenges for those who go it alone. However with a little digging and determination, there are plenty of sources available.

Over the past two years, I follow a routine that works well. My secret is to do a little everyday to continuously practice. I do this by integrating Esperanto throughout my day using some of these tips and tricks.

Online Language Courses

The Internet is the best place to start if a course isn’t available in the local community center, school or university. Furthermore, online courses are perfect to try before investing significantly more time. It may require some digging to find the right course that works best. For example, Duolingo has courses for over 30 languages, even fictional languages like High Valyrian and Klingon.

Learning a Language with Duolingo
The Duolingo App from my smartphone

Duolingo isn’t the only online resource out there. There are websites, apps, and online courses available for many languages. In the case of Esperanto, there is also Lernu!

Every day, I start my day by doing some practice in Duolingo from my smartphone. I find the best time to use Duolingo is first thing in the morning, before I get ready to tackle the day. Duolingo is great for learning common words, the foundation of a language, and general purpose sentences used in everyday conversation.

Social Media

Online courses like Duolingo are fantastic and provide a good foundation of vocabulary and useful sentences. However, they miss the element of randomness that comes from casual conversation. Other than speaking to someone in another language, a great place to find speakers is on social media.

Platforms such as Facebook have more groups then one could ever discover in a lifetime. Therefore, it is likely there are many groups of people who are like-minded in their quest to learn the same language. Furthermore, there are platforms specific to language learning such as Amikumu. The mission of Amikumu is to create and maintain a social network that provides people of all the world’s languages with a means to communicate and share.

My Twitter Profile
Follow people who speak a language is a great way to learn.

However, I believe that starting small will get one’s toes wet before jumping into the river and trying to swim. Thus, Twitter is great for this purpose. I follow several people who speak Esperanto. Due to the nature of Twitter, it easy to digest and translate short messages regardless of the topic. Secondly, it exposes one to words that could be considered slang or expressions of a specific language.

Write in the Language

Online courses and social media are great sources. Although there is plenty of activity on social media, it doesn’t mean someone is always willing to chat with you. Therefore, try writing everyday. It could be in a journal, a weekly grocery list, or random notations.

I write all my notes in Esperanto, such as my daily highlights and TO-DOs list. Not only am I practicing to read and write, I am reading and writing in my own personal style.

practice writing in the language everyday
Mi skribas Esperanton ĉiutage.

Unfortunately, many words and expressions are not part of the standard courseware. Therefore, it’s important to have a dictionary available to help while writing. I use Google Translate and Praktika Vortaro whenever I run into a word I can’t translate. At first, I was using these apps frequently. However, the more time that passes, the less I use them.

Talk to Yourself

In any other situation, people may think you’re crazy if you talk to yourself. Even worse, talking to yourself in another language, which may sound like gibberish to others. Thankfully, there is a purpose to this self babble.

I find that talking to yourself works well when practicing conversation. Become Captain Obvious and say the obvious. The sky is blue; That is a cat; Where is my shirt; You are a woman. However, say it in the language you’re learning.

Ĝi estas pomo!
Ĉi tio estas verda kaj ruĝa pomo, ĉu ne?

Also, translate internal thoughts in the shower, car, or anywhere. Say them out loud, in your head, or to someone who knows that you’re practicing. Pro Tip: Make sure to let them know that you’re practicing, or they may think you’re crazy.

Articles and Blogs

As you progress, reading blogs and articles in the language helps reading and comprehension. Although the subject matter may not be the most exciting content for your personal interests, the point is to become a more proficient reader. Furthermore, reading helps improve one’s range of vocabulary.

Conclusion

Many people speak multiple languages, and many people desire to speak a second or third language. Regardless, it’s not hard to learn a language if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Even if the language is uncommon such as Esperanto, or common such as Spanish.

Resources exists so someone can learn a language on their own. Those that do choose to learn a language by themselves, may have to work a little harder than those who take formal courses. However, reinforcing and practicing are possible with routine and self-discipline. Bonŝancon (Good Luck)!