9 ways to use the internet to speak a language out of the classroom

Learning a language can feel so much different than learning other types of subject matter. Language can’t be easily picked up through memorization or solitary confinement in a library. Sure, that may be useful for cramming for an exam, but hardly for when you need it most.

Perhaps you have finished all the required classes you need for your language minor, you’ve finished your degree and are thinking “now what do I do with this?”, or you don’t want to lose the skills over the summer.

Here are some things that can be incredibly useful for keeping up your language skills outside of the classroom. Most of these can be applied for any target language. Because I’m a francophile, I’ll reference some specific French-culture related items.

1. Spotify allows you to look at the top songs in any country of choice. Chances are you will find the same top 40 songs that are popular in the states, or foreign artists like David Guetta and Phoenix that sing in English, (yay, globalization!) but you can still find things in the target language that you may not have been exposed to before – even if it’s awkwardly cheesy pop or hip hop (that’s sometimes the best, anyways). Also, you can expose yourself to native language structures and the ways that people actually speak.

2. Subscribe to Foreign news sites on Facebook or via an RSS reader like Feedly.




Le Point

Le Nouvel Observateur

France Amérique

Le Monde

Le Figaro


Le Devoir (Canada)

Le Matin  (Canada)



France Inter

France Info

Radio France Internationale

3. Hit up a conversation group every now and then. Depending on what language you speak, there are various conversation groups in the Twin Cities, such as the French conversation group at the downtown Espresso Royale on Saturday mornings form 10-2. There is also a list of other convo groups in the area.

4. Use Couchsurfing to meet up with travelers and foreigners in the area. Exercise and caution and internet safety when meeting up with people from the internet you don’t know, but there are a lot people who use it to build networks with other expats, and international students/residents in the area.

6. Meetup.com is another good way to meet up with people who want to speak French.

5. Netflix: This one is the most obvious, but it can be really useful for watching foreign films. Sometimes you have to do a lot of trial and error to find one that isn’t a dud, but it’s worth it for the language exposure.

6. Watch a quirky youtube channel, where there are a lot of young, French humorists who make videos  about day-to-day things in the typical life of a 20-something. They even all decided to get together to do a live tour called “Le Zapping Amazing“. They’re pretty funny.

7. Live Mocha is a great social site that depends upon its members to teach each other their own native languages, which means you could also gain experience teaching English to other people – which is always good experience. You can complete assignments if you wish and then have them graded by other members, or video chat with complete strangers (a little weird, but there is a high demand for it if you feel comfortable). The more you help others out, the more credibility and Live Mocha “currency” you accumulate, which isn’t really good for anything except popularity points. This is great website for learning even the most uncommon of languages and it can be pretty fun. There’s an phone app for it as well.

8. Duolingo is another new social language learning site. It doesn’t offer chatting with native speakers, but the layout is much prettier and more straightforward. It allows you to move through a flow chart of lessons, allowing you to easily see your progress. There aren’t that many languages available yet, but they are looking to further develop it and really get a hold on the grammatical concepts.

9. Memrise is less of a social language learning site, but it allows you to memorize highly specific vocabulary and phrases for a wide variety of languages. They even have lists for things like history, math, science, and any other random facts you would like to memorize. They can be made public or private. It’s great if you want to be that person that people pick for their team at Trivia Night.


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