8 COVID-Era Online Language Practice Sites
This post is a reblog, originally published on Carlie Sitzman’s blog. It is republished with permission of the author.
As they venture off into unknown realms of the internet, some language learners may become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of offerings out there. What works? What doesn’t? Where am I likely to run into personages with dubious motives? This week, I will take you on a tour of my top eight websites for practicing a language in the COVID era.
- Netflix: Netflix offers up a seemingly endless universe of documentaries, films, and television shows from every corner of the globe. Just pull up the “Search” bar and type in the language of your choice to get started. The sheer magnitude of media available is truly impressive. Merely typing in the word “German” yields a plethora of choices ranging from documentaries on German history to films created by the German film industry. I could spend hours binge watching historic documentaries, German television shows, and German movies on Netflix.
- Hulu: Although Hulu’s selection is smaller than that of Netflix, they also have intriguing offerings that Netflix does not. The TV series Deutschland 83 and Deutschland 86 are my current favorites here, but I look forward to discovering more.
- sendungverpasst.de: Remember that time you yearned to watch German television? With this website, you truly can! Speakers of German can venture onto this website to view reruns of shows and movies that have already appeared on German television. Viewers in the United States and countries outside of Germany may be blocked from watching some of the shows here, but just as many of them are freely viewable. Notably, shows with air dates further in the past are more likely to be available than brand new ones.
- YouTube: YouTube is a great place to get lost in the world of your foreign language. You can discover pop singers from the language you are practicing or view videos of people doing everything under the sun. Using the language associated with a hobby you are passionate about is a great way to get a language to stick and YouTube makes it all possible. One of my favorite channels is Elektrotechnik in 5 Minuten by Alexander Stöger. I use it when I am translating, because it is so easy to glean German vocabulary from his short and simple explanations of electrical engineering concepts. Sometimes I watch it purely for the technical content as well!
- Meetup.com: Before the pandemic, I never would have used Meetup.com to socialize abroad. It has always been a place to find fun local events. A few weeks into the pandemic, however, I stumbled upon a very intriguing online French book reading event. It was at just the right time and the activity looked enjoyable, so I signed up. To my surprise, it turned out that the host and most of the attendees were living in Paris! I have not discovered a systematic way to find other online foreign events on Meetup.com, but now I know it is possible.
- Mylanguageexchange.com: Although the interface of this website is somewhat rudimentary by 21st century standards, it is a wonderful place to find people to practice language with! Most people I came in contact with through My Language Exchange genuinely wanted to practice language and were telling the truth about their identities. It can sometimes take a while to find someone, since not everyone will reply to your requests. It is also worth bearing in mind that this is a public internet forum and definitely harbors its share of creepers. If you are cautious and persistent, however, you are sure to find an excellent buddy to practice with!
- Amazon.de: Amazon is well-known for its wide selection of absolutely everything, so it comes as no surprise that they purvey books, movies, and other media from around the world. You can of course search the English-language site and find some foreign media up for grabs. For optimal success, however, you will want to order from the Amazon website set up for the country where your language is spoken. In my case, this is amazon.de. They will mail your order just about anywhere, whether it’s a snowy mountaintop in Peru or a busy city sidewalk in Manhattan. The first time I ordered from Amazon.de, it took a whopping five months for the package to arrive. Why did this happen? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m thinking either my first order from a foreign country was considered highly suspicious or the mail inspection agents in New York City (who all speak German of course) get a kick out of watching German DVDs. My packages have arrived much faster ever since. No doubt there is a group of border agents shaking their heads as they run my packages through the x-ray machine. “There she goes again, ordering a bunch of German books. How does she read this stuff?”
- Hugendubel.de: If you’re not into Amazon or just looking to branch out a little, Hugendubel is a great option for German media. Hugendubel is a major German bookstore chain that has thus far survived the ravages of online shopping. With its large, glossy bookstores and chill coffee shops, it is very much reminiscent of Barnes and Noble in the United States. I missed it when I returned to the United States, so you can imagine my delight when I learned they ship internationally. As far as German media is concerned, its selection rivals that of Amazon.de.
What are your favorite websites for language practice? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author
Carlie Sitzman graduated from Weber State University with a BA in German and an AAS in Technical Drafting in 2009, at which time it was clear that the best way to make her passion for language and fascination with technology into a career was to become a translator. In 2011 she moved to Germany where she simultaneously freelanced and earned her MA in Intercultural German Studies from the Universität Bayreuth. She is an ATA-certified German->English translator with over ten years of experience in the industry. For more information, visit https://www.sitzmanaetranslations.com/.
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