For those who had to postpone vacations abroad because of COVID-19, or who want to become more worldly after months stuck at home, the pandemic could provide an opportunity to start learning a new language.

Marzia Caporale, Ph.D., a French and Italian professor in the University of Scranton’s Department of World Languages and Cultures who also speaks English and Spanish fluently, offered several tips to people who hope to learn a foreign language.

They include:

Download language-learning applications: There are several available smartphone applications perfect for people beginning the process of learning a new language, Caporale said, noting apps allow users to learn at their own pace and repeat basic instructions.

Caporale specifically recommended two apps — Doulingo and Babbel — that offer free lessons and premium courses that users can buy as they continue to learn. The apps are a good self-study tool, especially for beginners, she said.

Practice vocabulary and common phrases first: Caporale recommended beginner language learners practice basic words, numbers, expressions and common phrases first. This is an effective way to learn simple but practical language skills, such as how to express likes and dislikes, ask directions or order food in a different language, she said.

“When we teach beginners, that’s how the new teaching methods are structured,” Caporale said. “Most people that want to learn a language … are looking for something practical that they can maybe use.”

Watch foreign-language television: Netflix and other streaming services offer a range of foreign-language programs with English subtitles that can be both entertaining and instructive. It’s unlikely you’ll learn a language strictly by watching TV, but Caporale said listening to actors speak another language is a good way to train your ear and identify words and phrases in context.

“If you have even just a real basic knowledge of the language, by hearing it … with the English subtitles underneath you can start finding correspondence,” she said.

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