The Internet and foreign languages

Blogging can be a great way to practice a language. More than taking a course and dutifully applying oneself to a grammar exercise book, languages are best acquired – or maintained – by frequent use. When I’m learning a language I like to expose myself to it as much as I possibly can. I took two months of Spanish classes before I went to Barcelona and another month when I first got there but unfortunately, I couldn’t just take classes since I was there to do research all day and I simply had not time. But I was also determined to acquire a fluent – or as close to fluent as I could – command of the language during the year I was there. The answer was to use it as much as I could. I chatted with everybody I could find, I watched a lot of television and above all else, I read a lot of fiction. I adopted a rule that I would only read non-work related material (e.g. newspapers, fiction books, magazines) in Spanish or Catalan while I was there. By the end of the year most people believed I had lived there for years.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve found myself with few occasions to express myself in Spanish. At the same time, I’ve become more interested in expanding my ability to communicate in Catalan, which I can read and understand well, having taken a course, but have not practiced speaking or writing. The solution? I’ve started looking for blogs written in those languages. Blogs are good because not only I can read some really interesting texts but I can choose to participate in discussions leaving comments in that particular language. In terms of language and content my favourite Spanish-language blog is Und komisch spricht das Mulmertier… los años de la marmota en las tierras del frühschoppen, written by a Catalan who lives in Austria and who writes in a very thoughtful, poetic way. More recently I started looking for blogs in Catalan and came across La Llumenera de Nova York, a very interesting, prolific, and creative blog by a Catalan living in NYC. I should probably download some podcasts in those languages to also train the ear.

But if you have time and want to really get into a language, another option is actually writing a blog in that language. The best example of this is my friend Christian’s blog, which is written entirely in Latin!

What about you? Do you use internet resources to practice a language?


I tried to teach myself Hebrew last year and although I was able to teach myself the alphabet (alef-bet), I found it very hard to learn without the structure of a course. I’ve been looking for a course ever since. I couldn’t take the course offered by the university since it conflicted with my teaching duties and I tried searching for other courses in Toronto to no avail. Either the courses were too expensive, too far, or simply didn’t exist. So I registered today for an online Hebrew class. It looks pretty good and they called me from Israel right after I hit submit on my request for information. Classes begin only in November – I just missed the beginning of the current set of classes, which began this week! – and a course lasts nine months. It’s two hours/week – one with a class and one private class with the teacher. Can’t wait!