Debunking Language Learning Hacks from TikTok

Article in partnership with Day Translations.

TikTok has a huge variety of topics and hashtags, so much so that your “For You Page” (FYP) gets clouded by too much content that may not be even relevant to your interests.

If you speak multiple languages or are in the process of learning a new language, you may have come across the hashtag #languagetok, aggregating content relating to language learning.

If you search on TikTok for “foreign language learning hacks”, you will get an astonishing compound figure of 212.6M views of all the videos that have been posted on this topic.

Among the top results from the hashtag are videos about which languages to learn if you are an English speaker, but also a number of hacks to speed up the process of learning.

Language Learning Hacks: Do They Work?

Here is a small selection of popular language learning hacks, mostly created by English speakers.

In no particular order they include:

  • avoid reading books and instead listen to podcasts or watch films in a foreign language
  • watching YouTube videos by language teachers
  • listening to music in a foreign language
  • write down a list of foreign words to memorise every day, for example 50 words a day
  • find someone to have conversations with in a foreign language
  • change the language in your phone settings to the language you want to learn so that you use it every day (this tip is from Yourstudentsupporter, 147,000 followers).

The common thread among creators who share their language learning hacks is that they have a course to sell and their promise is that you will speed up the process of familiarising yourself with a new language by buying their course.

Some creators also use the #languagetok hashtag to simply flex and show off their skills by saying a couple of sentences in various languages as a way to demonstrate their expertise, but what would happen if a native speaker started talking to them in one of those languages about a topic they hadn’t prepared before?

Language Learning Hacks Debunked

So, shall we all throw the language learning hacks out of the window? Before we answer this question, we must ask ourselves another question: do you want to learn a new language just for fun (or to show off to your friends, or before going on holiday), or are you serious about becoming fluent in a foreign language with a view to use your newly acquired language skills professionally?

There are many TikTok creators who share their genuine love for languages and make their tips accessible to everyone. For example, in a video Hina (1.7 million followers) summarises her practical advice on how to start learning a new language.

Most of the hacks include:

  • immersing yourself in the new language from first thing in the morning, for example listening to a foreign language podcast while having breakfast, and repeating what you have learned at the end of your day;
  • writing down lists of new words you come across and words you think would be useful in your everyday life;
  • building simple sentences that incorporate the new words you have just learned.

When it comes to learning in general, each individual has their own learning style, so what works for one person may not work for another person. Learning a new language from scratch will require time and effort. No hack in the world will completely speed up the learning process because we need to memorise and retain the information we learn, while also be exposed to a new language on a daily basis to really integrate it into our lives.