Recently, I shared five simple ways that you can get more language learning immersion without ever leaving the country—or even your house!
Today, I've got five more tools to help you, all of which require only a computer or smartphone, along with a high-speed internet connection.
Let's dive right in!
6. Buy and Download Ebooks
Reading target language books is a fantastic way to get massive amounts of target language input for relatively cheap.
The problem with foreign books, however, is that they are costly to obtain in large quantities. They're easy to find and purchase if you're traveling, but they're difficult to transport; they can be similarly easy to buy online, but shipping or import fees are often prohibitively expensive.
The best way to get at-home immersion from target language books then, is through an alternative method: downloadable digital ebooks!
Ebooks are essentially glorified text files. That means that if you can find them online, it's easy to download and store large amounts of them for way less than the cost of the equivalent physical books.
Here's how you can find target language ebooks online, so you can get large amounts of at-home immersion through reading.
Amazon Kindle Store
We'll first start with Amazon Kindle, since that is the most popular ebook platform globally. Reading Kindle books requires either an Amazon Kindle e-reader or an Amazon Kindle smartphone or desktop PC application.
To find Kindle books in your target language, you should first visit the "Language" section of the Kindle Store:
Following Amazon's on-site product categories, you should look for ebooks listed under:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Foreign Languages
There are 11 languages listed under the above category. Furthermore, there is an additional "Other Languages" category, under which can be found 32 more languages. (43 languages in total)
Alternatively, with the "Kindle Store" selected in the search bar, enter "[Target Language] Edition" in quotation marks. This will reveal ebooks in languages that don't have their own category on Amazon (even ones that are missing from the "Other Languages" mentioned above.
Google Play Books
Google's Google Play Books store offers an alternative to the Amazon Kindle store that is similarly full-featured. It's a particularly good option for language learners who do not have a Kindle e-reader, and must instead rely on a Barnes and Noble Nook or Sony eReader device. A Google Play Books smartphone app is also available for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Though the platform itself does offer a large selection of ebooks in a wide variety of languages, the website itself does not make it easy to find these titles. Unless you have a specific title in mind and can type that title into the search bar, you will have little luck locating books that meet your immersion needs.
To get around this issue, I recommend first searching around on other websites for names of books in your target language. You can follow the steps I've recommended for Amazon above, or you can search on Google for "popular books in [your target language]" (or the equivalent translation in your target language).
Make a list from any interesting titles you find on these sites, then return to the Google Play Books website and search for the titles directly.
Once you've found a book you like, click on it to visit its store page. From there, you may find related titles in your target language by looking through the books listed in the "Similar ebooks" column on the right-hand side.
7. Download International Radio Apps on Your Smartphone
There once was a time that the only way you could reliably listen to foreign language radio was if you lived in the country where the broadcast was made.
Not so anymore, especially with the growth of digital radio and online streaming.
Now, if you want to listen to target language radio just as natives do, all you need is the right desktop or smartphone application.
I specifically recommend two different apps: TuneInRadio and SBS Radio:
TuneInRadio is quite possibly the best all-around international radio app. As of this writing, their app indexes radio streams, sports broadcasts, and podcasts from 197 countries, and over 100 languages.
To find broadcasts in your target language, follow these steps:
- 1Visit https://tunein.com/radio/home/ or download the "TuneIn" app on your smartphone.
- 2Click "By Language" (in the left sidebar on browser or the Browse > By Language tabs) on Mobile
- 3Select your target language from the list
- 4After clicking on your target language, other categories will appear, depending on the language you have selected. Click through the various categories until you find a single radio broadcast or podcast that interests you.
Another high-quality international radio app is SBS Radio, direct from Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).
SBS Radio's offerings are meant specifically for Australia's diverse immigrant community, so it provides high-quality news broadcasts in 68 different languages.
While SBS's broadcast quality is excellent in all languages it offers, it's predominantly Australian perspective may be off-putting to learners who do not care to listen to Australia-related news.
That being said, many of SBS's broadcasts do follow major global headlines, so the app has some value for every language learner—especially those who are learning less common languages.
Here are the steps you'll need to follow to find SBS's non-English broadcasts:
8. Download a Target Language Podcast App
Podcasts are a medium that offers all of the immersion benefits of digital radio, but with none of the time or content restraints. There are podcasts available for any topic and episode length. The only challenge for language learners is finding an interesting podcast to listen to in your target language.
To do that, I recommend using a podcast aggregator, which is a program that allows you to find and download podcast audio files to your computer or smartphone.
Most podcast aggregators nowadays all have access to the same body of content. Chances are, if you can find a podcast on iTunes (now known as Apple Podcasts), you can find it on any other podcasting app.
While this does give you a certain amount of freedom in which apps you choose to download target language podcasts from, the act of finding good and popular podcasts to listen to in your target language may be harder with some apps than others.
For this purpose, I specifically recommend Pocket Casts, which is a free application available on both iOS and Android devices.
The strength of Pocket Casts is in its "Discover" feature, which allows you to view podcasts lists and categories according to "content regions", which are, generally speaking, just countries.
As of this writing, there are 28 different countries featured in the "Select Content Region" list, available by selecting the "Discover" tab of the app, scrolling all the way down to the bottom, and clicking on the country flag and name listed just below "Select Content Region".
Once you have selected a region, all you need to do is hit the back arrow on the top left until you return to the "Discover" menu. There, you'll find a list titled "Popular in [Content Region]". That (expandable) list will show you the top 100 podcasts for your selected region, many of which should be in your target language.
9. Listen to Target Language Music Using an Audio Streaming Platform
In my opinion, there are few types of authentic content that are more motivating than music.
Listening to music is inherently pleasurable in any language. If you can find lots of music in your target language, you'll find yourself more naturally drawn to the language and its culture as a result.
While finding good target language music used to be as difficult as finding and obtaining good target language books, the process has gotten much easier thanks to audio streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, both of which make it extremely easy to find and play music from all over the world.
Both Apple Music and Spotify have free and paid service tiers, though their paid subscriptions offer much more freedom and flexibility when listening to their music catalogs.
For those of you who wish to do lots of immersion through music streaming, I recommend trying out each platform using their free trial services, and then deciding which paid service will be best for your needs.
If you don't know any musical artists in your target language, the best place to start on Apple Music is their Daily Top 100 Lists.
Here's how to find them:
Beyond the Daily Top 100 lists, Apple Music also has several "genre" categories which contain music that is predominantly non-English.
These genres include:
Lastly, Apple Music offers a few digital radio stations which broadcast music in languages that don't have their own listed genre.
You can find these stations by clicking the "Radio" tab, and locating the "Radio by Genre" tab on the subsequent screen.
For example, clicking through to the "Pop" radio genre will reveal streaming music radio stations for Brazilian, German, French, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, and Turkish, in addition to the languages listed above (with their own genres).
Spotify categorizes its music in a similar way to Apple Music.
First, you should start by looking for target language music on the "Top 50" charts, which are available for 62 countries, plus one "Global" category.
Next, take a look at the "Viral 50" charts, which are available for 66 countries in total, plus one "Global" category.
Both the "Top 50" and "Viral 50" sections can be found by going to "Browse" > "Charts" and locating the "Top 50 by country" and "Viral 50 by country" lists.
Spotify also has its own genres, several of which are devoted to non-English music, including:
Once you've found groups, bands, and soloists who you enjoy listening to on the above lists, the next place to turn to is the Browse > Discover tab.
Here, Spotify will give you recommendations of artists and playlists based upon the music you already like.
With a little luck, you can also find user-curated playlists of music in your target language by prepending your search query with "playlist:" (e.g. "playlist: french" or "playlist français") and clicking "See All" under the Playlist section in the results.
10. Sign up for Online Tutoring or a Language Exchange
So far, all of the immersion tools and methods I've suggested so far are meant to develop listening and/or reading, which are the so-called "passive language skills”. Harder to develop from home are the active skills, particularly speaking which, of course, requires you to speak with an actual person.
The best way to do this well is through use of the language learning website italki.
On italki's website, you can pay money to book lessons with language tutors from all around the world, without ever having to leave your house.
If you want something similar but a bit more casual (and free), try Conversation Exchange, which is a platform for connecting language learners who want to converse and share languages with one another.
Through language exchange, you can set up instant messaging, face-to-face Skype sessions, and even penpal relationships with native speakers of your target language.
How Else Can You Get Foreign Language Immersion from Home?
In this two-part article series, I've shared ten different ways by which you can immerse directly in your target language without needing to travel.
These aren't the only methods available, however. Technology is ever-expanding, and more ways to surround yourself with your target language are becoming available by the day.
Are there any methods you use that I've missed? Do you use any of the methods I've suggested in a totally different way then suggested above?
Let me know in the comments!
Written by Kevin Morehouse
Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.