How to encourage language learning outside the classroom during Covid-19

“With our interconnected world, there is no reason we can’t learn—and teach—a language right here in our living rooms”

Learning a language can be rewarding in all kinds of ways, writes Language Trainers’ Kelly Wang. Whether your students are doing it to give their resumes a boost, or they want to have some vocabulary for when they are travelling, a second language is a great thing to have.

While classes may continue online despite the pandemic, opportunities for practising languages outside the classroom are more limited, with many local language exchange events cancelled and travel restricted.

But with our interconnected world, there is no reason we can’t learn—and teach—a language right here in our living rooms, without students feeling like they are missing out on anything. Here are some ways to help your students learn a language online.

Social media

Social media is a great way to help your students get a little language learning without putting in too much effort, though of course the option is there to make it more challenging if they want to. Recommend they start by changing account settings to their target language, or by changing Twitter Trending to a country that speaks that language. Instantly, they will have bite size language practice; from Tweets, to links, to short videos, and probably even memes!

Social media can also put your students in contact with thousands of other learners, and of course native language speakers. Suggest that they search for Instagrammers, for example, who speak their target language. Instagram and Twitter learn by algorithms, and those algorithms will lead to suggestions for even more accounts to follow.

Encourage your students to comment on the threads they read, or even Tweet out into the world when they are looking for additional language help. Social media is many things, including one of the most versatile tools for language learning. Why not work using social media into your lessons so your students can help themselves?


The internet gives us access to so many things that we take for granted, or even that we don’t realise are ours for the taking. This means a lot of realia to share with our students. You could build a lesson around discovering new music sung in their target language, and give the best homework ever, of binge-watching a show with subtitles. You could search for Ted Talks for listening comprehension activities, and find Youtubers who will help with any struggles students might be having with pronunciation.

Encourage your students to find podcasts to listen to, read interviews with their favourite celebrities, discover books, graphic novels, web comics, and anything else you can think of. Whatever your students are interested in, you can use to create the perfect programme of study to help them effectively learn.

Online speaking practice

Online language classes have become the norm for all of us of late, but that doesn’t mean learning has to stop the moment our lessons are over. The world is open 24/7 thanks to the internet, so if students want to practice a language with a native speaker at any hour, they can!

There are many ways to encourage your students to get some impromptu language practice. The most obvious is to find a language exchange partner; suggest looking on Meetup, Facebook, and so on for groups and pages connecting language students. If your students are gamers they can get some language practice in playing a MMORPG.

Encourage them to befriend fans of their favourite TV shows who speak their target language. Whether students start an exchange in Twitter DMs, or join a Discord server, there are more opportunities out there for language practice than you might think. Find the ones that work for your student, and get them to talk about their experiences in your lessons. You might discover a thing or two yourself!

Keeping up to date

One of the most important things we can do in this world today is keep up to date with what is happening internationally. Learning a language means you are opening your eyes to new perspectives; what better way to do that than by reading or watching the news?

Choose an international subject to discuss in class, and find news programmes broadcast in the language you are teaching. Another way to approach the news is to find popular newspapers in countries that speak the target language; there are lots of free newspapers and news services available online from around the world.

You can build lessons that start with students just translating the headlines, make discussion points out of the latest news, and even ask students to talk about articles they have found themselves and are interested in. The possibilities of teaching a language with the news are endless!

What ways do you like to teach languages online?

About the author: Kelly Wang is a a freelance writer and CELTA qualified ESL teacher, as well as a regular contributor to the Language Trainers blog