Hi guys! So the idea for this post came to me last week, when I took part in a languages-related Twitter chat for the very first time. The chat was hosted by Lindsay (from Lindsay Does Languages) and we were talking about self study vs. classes. You can read the round up here.
Basically, one of the points that someone (not me) made was that self study can get very lonely – and that’s true. But I think that, especially with the Internet, there’s plenty of ways to connect with other people and beat that loneliness, so I thought I’d share my five favourite ways to do that with you today.
So, here five places I go to or things I do if I’m starting to feel lonely and isolated when I’m studying. Most of the time this is a very superficial feeling; it’s just I want someone to share in my struggles or to talk to about my achievements. Of course, if you think what you’re feeling is deeper than that, make sure you take time out to look after yourself and see if you can find a friend or family member to talk to. Don’t push yourself so hard that you stop enjoying what you’re doing.
But anyway, on with the list:
1. Go to a language meet-up or get a tandem partner.
Okay, so this may not always work out well – but a tandem partner or a language meet-up is a great way to get you out of a rut and socialising, while also practising your language. There are several apps and websites you can use for finding a tandem partner (HelloTalk, Tandem, iTalki…), but another good method, especially if you live in a large town or city, is to go out to a language meet-up. I’ve done this a few times in Vienna and the reason it works quite well for making me feel motivated is that most of the other people there are learning German/another language too! Plus, if you don’t really have anyone in your life who’s into languages or language learning, it can be a great way to make new friends who share in your hobby.
2. Join the Language Learner’s Forum.
When I say ‘Language Learner’s Forum’, the first thing is that I want you to know I specifically mean this place here. This forum grew relatively recently out of an older one that you may have heard of – How to Learn Any Language (HTLAL) – that had been around for a while, but started experiencing a lot of outages and maintenance issues that caused the new site to be set up (it still looks vaguely active though, so you could probably join that one too). I’d been a member of HTLAL for a long time, though not an active one, but I rejoined the new forum this January and I forgot just how great it is.
The forum is very active, with different language learners from all over the world who really just want to talk about their hobby. If you join (and I would recommend it – or at least just have a hunt through both forums for some of the advice people have left), then you can set up a log to document your progress, or take part in challenges, or just chat to others. It’s a pretty low-maintenance way to feel social every so often, if that’s what you want, or it can be a great community that you can dive head-first into.
3. Get a Tumblr (or another language blog).
I think people definitely have varying opinions on Tumblr and certainly I am either incredibly active on it or not at all there, depending on how I feel at the time – but it definitely has a great language learning community, especially if you’re in your teens or twenties. If you’re looking for language blogs, try searching for the #langblr tag (or just for your target language) and if you want to connect with people, just write a short post introducing yourself. As long as you tag it appropriately, you’ll get a bunch of followers pretty quickly – then you can get to know each other better.
If Tumblr isn’t your thing, then you could always try starting a language blog on another platform. I use WordPress (obviously), but Blogger is a good place too. If you don’t want to start a blog because you’re just starting out or don’t think you have a lot to say – then try it anyway. The reason I started mine – and the reason I now have a log on the forum – is mostly because I wanted to keep track (albeit patchily) of what I was learning. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m always interested in the small parts of what other people are learning, what grammar points they’ve had difficulty with, what vocabulary they like, etc. Plus, it’s kind of fun! 😉
4. Take part in Twitter chats.
Well, I told you this post was inspired by an exchange in a Twitter chat we had last week – and that, the first Twitter chat I’d ever taken part in, was so much fun! It’s a little bit hectic (liking tweets and retweeting and replying and keeping an eye out for questions), but it gives you a chance to talk to new people and exchange ideas and recommendations. That chat was on Tuesday and then last Friday (and today!) I also took part in the Eurotalk #uTalkChallenge Twitter chat, which has been awesome too.
Lindsay’s running her chats every Tuesday (with different themes) at 15:00 U.K. time – which is kind of a bummer for me, as I’m teaching for the first half hour of it :'( – for about an hour; and the Eurotalk chats have taken place the last two Fridays at 15:00 U.K time too.
If you’re not interested in the chats (or if they’re at weird times for you), then it can be a good idea to get a Twitter account anyway. I follow a lot of other language learners on Twitter that I don’t always know on other platforms and because you can only send short messages, it’s really easy to just have a little chat. If you do have Twitter, let me know. I’m always happy to follow new people!
5. Take part in language challenges.
Yes, I know, I really like language challenges and I should stop harping on about them, but the problem is I really like language challenges, you guys. And I think they’re good both for motivation and for encouraging a sense of togetherness with other learners. Lots of challenges, of course, can be done in a very solitary manner, but one of my favourites (though I still do poorly at it) is usually not – the TAC.
If you go on the Language Learner’s Forum, you’ll find plenty of information about TAC, but what it stands for is Total Annihilation Challenge. What it is, is that you sign up for different teams based on your target language(s) (you can join more than one team), and sometimes your level – and then you create a log. The aim is just to study all year and keep up with your teammates (which, there can be a lot of them, but sometimes it just means leaving an encouraging comment here and there) – and they keep up with you. It’s a great challenge for your progress, for getting help, and for making new friends. I’m taking part in it this year and having such a good time – as well as receiving fantastic advice!
Of course, I do have one last piece of advice: don’t use these suggestions to procrastinate too much – make sure you spend some time still studying! 😉
So what about you? What do you do when you feel lonely? It doesn’t have to be related to language learning, either; I know that there are plenty of other solitary hobbies that people do!
Oh, I didn’t know that HTLAL had moved! I haven’t been there for a while.
When I feel lonely, I open up the postcrossing.com website and search the users who wish to do a direct swap and who are from the country where the language I’m currently obsessed with is spoken. I suggest a postcard swap, some of them reply back rather quickly and then I entertain myself reading their profiles and signing cards for them in their native language 🙂
Hey! Yeah, they moved a while ago but I think it was really more a temporary measure at first, though it now seems pretty permanent. It looks like HTLAL is still relatively active in and of itself, though a lot of the old names are on the new forum a lot too.
Oh postcrossing! That’s such a great idea! I visited that site a few times aaaaaaages ago but I haven’t even thought about it in a long time – but yeah, that would be perfect for this kind of exercise. And so fun, too. 🙂 (You’ve got me thinking about going on it now!)
Thanks for stopping by – and for that idea!