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July 2016

How to Use the News to Learn a Language

Using Newspapers and Podcasts to Effectively Learn a New Language

For most language learners, the newspaper is a scary place populated by big words and complex ideas. However, with the right preparation and mindset, newspapers can be extremely useful even for the beginning learner, especially when paired with podcasts. Today we’ll examine a strategy for utilizing newspapers and podcasts to effectively learn a new language, a useful practice for beginners and advanced learners alike.

Choose the right paper

Be sure to choose a newspaper you’ll enjoy reading. If you’re unsure which to select, do some light research on the big papers of your target language’s country and pick one that interests you. It may be that the paper you prefer is a regional one pertaining to a particular city. The idea is to select a source of info that is relevant to your interests. For example, if you’re in love with Paris, you may want to select a newspaper published in the city for Parisians.

For those living abroad, specialty newspaper stands and some big chain bookstores often offer foreign newspapers for sale. While they may cost more, they’ll still likely be cheaper than small books, making them a cost-effective language resource anyway.

Start reading while the news is relevant

Don’t let fear of non-comprehension hinder your momentum. Start reading right away, focusing on the rhythm of the language. Get a feel of the words and a sense of what they are saying, even if you can’t understand the specifics. The goal is to become familiar with the text, while identifying how much you do or don’t know. Depending on your level, you may choose to analyze only one article, the whole front page, or multiple columns. Do what feels comfortable to you.

Make a list of all the words you don’t know

Focus on the nouns, adjectives, and verbs you don’t know. Make a quick list of these words on a separate sheet of paper or on your computer. The key is expediency; make this list as quickly as possible. When you’re done, look these words up in the dictionary and go over them a few times.

Re-read the paper and analyze the sentence structures

Go over the passage you just analyzed. Does the article make more sense now that you’ve familiarised yourself with the words you previously did not know? Are there grammatical constructs confusing you? Take a deeper look at the sentence structures that hold you up. Make a mental note of them. As you continue reading, you’re likely to run into similar constructions again, keeping in mind that it will all get easier over time.

Listen to news podcasts

Find a good podcast that discusses the same set of news that you just analysed. World news, for example, is a good subject to sort through as these topics are discussed across multiple news mediums around the world. As you’re listening, do you hear the same vocabulary repeated? Chances are, if the podcast is covering the same story, you’ll encounter many of the same words you just learned.

Do it again and again

As you learn more words and phrases from analysing the newspaper, listening to podcasts should get easier. Even if they speak too quickly, there ought to be moments of clarity during your listening sessions. This exercise is particularly useful because it pairs reading with listening. Not all of us can live in the country of our target language, so it behooves us to seek out ways to immerse ourselves in the language. If you can, it’s even useful to see if you can find television news programs in your target language, though, for most people, this will be much harder.

Do you read or listen to the news to learn a new language? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more language learning articles!

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