I have always had a fascination about learning languages. This lead me to become a polyglot and to travel the world. I look to connect with language lovers everywhere!
One tool that I use that greatly enhances my language learning is Google Reader. Google Reader? Yes, Google Reader!
The premise is easy enough. You can use an RSS reader to get a steady stream of comprehensible input from the internet and if you have a smart phone and / or computer tablet such as an iPad, you can study languages at any time, anywhere. And this is not only easy but it is also free. You don’t have to spend a dime if you have already a computer and internet connection. But how would you go about it? Where should we start?
Newspapers & Tabloids
If I was a beginner or intermediate level learner of a language I would start with general news outlets and tabloids. Why? Because in most cases the vocabulary would be more familiar because of the subject matter. And if you were up on your news in your mother language you also would be able to make out new words without having to look them up. Another advantage is that news items are almost always shorter reading and written in simpler grammar.
Tabloid stories, or ‘non-news’ as I consider them, tend to be written in more colloquial style and have more of a contemporary form of writing. And it is generally very easy to infer meaning in tabloid articles, which is really good in building up a working knowledge of new words. And tabloids also tend to be loaded with photos so the inference is even more likely to help your to acquire new words. So if tabloids are a guilty pleasure for you, shed the guilt! You aren’t wasting your day on gossip. You are learning your target language using a very efficient source of information.
For absolute beginners you might also look for RSS feeds for images and cartoons if the are available in your target language. These are quite good.
Blogs & Magazine articles
Though I wouldn’t ever tell beginners and early intermediates not to use serious blogs and magazines (you should use whatever interests you) I would just like to point out that the vocabulary tends to be at a higher level than with newspapers and definitely a higher level than with tabloids. So sometimes people who are in the earlier stages in their language learning can find themselves frustrated trying to get through magazine articles and many blog postings. That being said, the upside is that with blogs and magazines you can really target for content that you are interest in or that fits vocabulary that you can use in your daily life. For example, if you love to cook then follow rss feeds from culinary magazines and chefs, restaurant owners. If you happen to be in the medical profession you can do the same for interests in that field. This works with any area you would like to have a specialized vocabulary.
Audio & Video
Whether you realize it or not, it is not just YouTube out there. There are loads of podcasts you can get RSS feeds for as well as video channels, etc. This is all good input. Again, it might be better to start with news items and tabloids, but this is entirely up to you. Go for what will keep your interests stoked.
RSS feeds of searches
Whenever you search for news, blogs, videos, etc., you can get a RSS URL’s for these searches and use them in your reader. There are two reasons that I use RSS feeds of searches:
1) Like blogs and magazines, you can target this to information that you are keenly interested in, but at the same time that you might have missed if it wasn’t covered in the blogs and magazines that you have already subscribed to; and
2) For languages that don’t have many newsources online, for instance, Malagasy, you can take target words and get plenty of feeds out there. This goes for auxiliary languages such as Esperanto as well. The search RSS’s find the content that you cannot easily access. A plethora of new sources will open up to you over time.
Beyond RSS (books)
Though books can be found on RSS, you wouldn’t normally read books on RSS feeds. I’m sure with serials it is possible but this is not why I am listing books here. Books are again another level and are available on the internet. I recommend finding two types of ebooks. First, you will need to find novels which will help you with conversational skills. Secondly, find books that, like the blogs and magazines, fit your interest. Books come in many formats from the Gutenberg Project to Amazon.com.
Again, you can use any kind of reader for this. The important thing is that you find content that suits you, you read often and you enjoy what you are reading. If you do this, the RSS reader will be an absolutely powerful tool for you!