Twitter recently announced the release of the social networking site in 5 new languages bringing the total number of available languages to 17. As a student of French and an avid social media user, this news made me stop and think about the many ways in which social media (Twitter specifically) has shaped my language learning.

Since I first created a Twitter account, I began following French speakers who were influential in topics that interested me. In my case, that means I follow graphic design and marketing professionals from France and French-speaking Canada.

I was able to “eavesdrop” on their topical conversations to learn industry-specific vocabulary. Learning real-word vocabulary, grammar, and slang specific to my interests is something I could have never experienced reading out of one of my college textbooks.

Sorry to any of my dear professeurs reading this but here’s why I think social media is better than traditional advanced language-learning methods:

1. It’s more fun.

Let’s be honest: hanging out on Twitter is more fun than making conjugation charts or writing a literary analysis of a French poem. While learning the basics first is necessary to understanding and interacting in a new language online, once you build a foundation, you’re more likely to stay engaged with something fun that doesn’t feel like homework.

Bottom line: textbooks are expensive and they’re horrible conversationalists.

2. It’s real.

The language you read on Twitter from native speakers is unstructured and natural. People express themselves on social media the same way they do in real life.

If your end goal is to be able to communicate effectively with native speakers of the language you’re learning, the best way to do it is talk with them! If a luxury séjour in the south of France isn’t 100% doable for you right now, logging on to your social networking accounts might be a cheaper alternative (albeit minus the tan).

My advice on how to use the [excessive, in my case] time you spend on social networking sites to accelerate your language learning? Follow, respond to and make your way into the online social circles of native speakers of your target language.

In my experience doing exactly this, I’ve learned cultural nuances, new vocabulary, met fascinating people from around the globe and have even attended tweet-ups in other countries.

Not ready to start chatting-up foreign strangers? Understandable.
A great place to start is by changing the default language on your accounts to the language you want to learn. It’s a simple way to learn new vocabulary words and have them really sink in!

Do you have a success story or suggestion for ways to utilize social media to learn a language?

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2 Responses to Twitter > Textbooks: why social media is tres/muy/molto useful for language learning.

  1. This is so true! And another reason why it’s worth every effort to start reading and writing in the new language you are trying to learn. Even for beginners. I’ve started doing this with Italian and Spanish, both languages I’m learning. It’s hard to keep them separate, because the vocabulary is often very similar. But by following both on Twitter (I follow news media), the differences become imprinted in my mind. For example the very different way articles are used (with possessives, prepositions, etc.) in each language.
    Social media are definitely an exciting way to add learning to a fun course.
    Cheers, Ulrike

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