Twitter For The Language Learner

blue birds

There seem to be two types of people in this world: those who find Twitter worthwhile, and those who vocally declare it as a waste of time. For a language learner, Twitter offers a wide array of benefits.

Twitter updates are short. Since tweets cannot exceed 140 characters, the struggling student is never overwhelmed. Even if you don't know a single word in a message, it isn't too much work to look them all up in a dictionary. If you still experience fatigue or frustration when reading books or long articles, you will find that tweets are always manageable.

Twitter updates are frequent. If you are seeking something new to read, you will always find it on Twitter. If you want to read a lot on a given day, there's an inexhaustible quantity of content you can read.

Twitter is used by natives. You can follow users who have learnt the language since they day they were born. You will see emotive, passionate, excited or frustrated messages written in the language as it is used by natives. There is no substitute for real world usage, and it is available by the bucketload on Twitter.

Users tweet about what they care about. Not only do you find native users, but you can experience the culture firsthand. When a major political event occurs, you can see the reactions of everyday people. You will discover websites frequented by natives, discover what matters to them and learn about current affairs.

You choose the content. Twitter has been much vilified for users who write messages about inane details of their lives. You don't have to follow those people. You can find people who care about a sport, or politics, or music -- whatever interests you. There are over 100 million users, so you will find people with common interests. As you find users who write interesting tweets, you can see which users they follow and expand your circle of interesting Twitter users.

Twitter is used in a huge range of languages. Many people use Twitter in many languages. I have yet to find a language which is not represented on Twitter. A language is part of people's identity, so users proudly tweet in it.

Twitter is free. Enough said.

Twitter clients exist on many devices. Do you use a Mac? You can use Twitter. iPhone? You can use Twitter. Android? That too. Using Twitter on your phone is particularly good because you can be anywhere in the world and read a little in your target language.

You can make new friends. Twitter isn't just about writing update messages on what matters to you. You can reply to tweets written by others and discuss topics. Communities can develop regardless of geographical location. This discussion mechanic also enables you to discuss language issues with others. I sometimes discuss English in my target language and others sometimes help or correct me.

Getting Started

So, head on over to the Twitter website and search for others using Twitter in your language of choice. Just stick to one rule: one account, one language. If you're learning French, follow others using Twitter in French and only write your messages on French. Following other language learners is great if they are also tweeting in French, so keep your Twitter experience immersed. If this means you have more than one Twitter account, so be it. Twitter clients usually support this anyway.

Give it a try. I guarantee you will learn something.

Photo by Bill Gracey, used with permission.