Frugal Language Learning: Save those instructions!

As someone interested in language, I’m always on the lookout for frugal ways to expose myself to the languages that interest me. Here’s a quick, inexpensive tip.

When you purchase an item that has documentation (such as instructions) in multiple languages, check the material for any languages that interest you. If you find a target language, you’ve just obtained a free, “real-world” lesson in that language.

Follow these steps to turn that material into a language lesson:

  1. Read the material in your native language.
  2. Read the material in your target language.
  3. Copy the material into a notebook. Use neat printing to reinforce your appreciation for the spelling and beauty of the language. Look up and underline the words and phrases you do not know.
  4. Put the material aside for at least a day.
  5. Review all underlined words and phrases to reinforce your learning.
  6. Put the material aside for at least another day.
  7. Copy the material into the notebook a second time, looking up and underlining any words or phrases you did not retain from the previous steps.
  8. Read the material out loud as a pronunciation exercise.

Remember that such material often contains grammatical and typographical errors. Use this to your advantage. As a learning exercise, try to spot and correct these errors. In the “real world” language isn’t pristine like that found in language textbooks. You can benefit by being exposed to suboptimal forms of a language.