Learning a language: Don’t just listen, interact!

While listening to audiobooks and podcasts, watching movies or playing games will definitely help you learn a language faster, it’s still slower than if you are using it to communicate with people. I’m not saying these things aren’t worthwhile, just that we need to interact with people to cement the language in our heads.

But not all of us can go to a conversation class – they are often held while we are at school, or working. And unfortunately, many of us have been burned by language exchange groups or partners – it’s not fun when you don’t get a turn to speak in your target language, or when your partner doesn’t help you improve.

Communication is the best way to improve fluency

When I first started learning a language at school, penpals were the only way. Once the internet took off, email lists and forums  helped lots of people write more in their target language. Then along came Skype and video calls to talk to native speakers from your own country. But with such exchanges, and even conversation classes, you couldn’t be guaranteed that you would have the same interests as your language partners, and conversations would often fizzle out.

Social media language isn’t always ‘real’

Social media provides a more natural window into languages, you can look for and interact with people who share your interests. But the language used on social media is not necessarily how people speak in real life. Not many people speak in #hashtags!

So, how can we interact with native speakers who share our interests in a more natural way, both in writing and speaking?

If you are a parent, please do monitor your child’s use of these tools – as with most technology, it can be used for good, but there can also be some not so nice people there.

Use Discord to chat with friends

Discord is an app that runs on mobile and desktop computers. It allows anyone (yup, anyone) to set up their own chatroom, customize it, text chat and share photos, and even chat over voice channels. If you are a gamer in a multi-player online game, the people you play with are most likely using it to chat to group or guild members.

Interact with streamers on Twitch

Twitch is a platform or tool that lets people stream (on video/audio) whatever they are doing, as they are doing it. Originally, only computer games were streamed, but Twitch has branched out into many different categories including art, crafts, music, and even just chat streams!

Tip: Game development companies often have their own Twitch stream and offer occasional ‘drops’ – bonus items to use in game – when you link your (free!) Twitch account to your gaming accounts.

Streamers use language conversationally

Viewers can interact with streamers in real-time by writing chat messages, or joining them on a voice channel in the streamer’s own Discord server. It’s easy (and free!) to choose a category you are interested in, listen in on a live stream or watch a recorded stream to see if you like how they are interacting with viewers, and give them a follow (click on the heart).

Streamers are people, they have kids and jobs and pets, and they all need to sleep, so they aren’t online all the time. They may host other streamers when offline. Some may earn a little through optional paid subscriptions from their supporters and ads displayed in their streams (ads are selected by Twitch).

But, streams on Twitch are free to watch, free to follow, and free to interact with – who can say no to free language learning ‘lessons’.

Almost all of the streamers listed below have private Discord channels for their followers and supporters, where you can chat and get feedback on your own crafty creations while they are not streaming. Many are also very active on social media.

Recommended Twitch streamers

Here are some clearly spoken streamers (English) with various interests to get you started.

I don’t receive compensation from the streamers mentioned below – they are simply the streams I enjoy and think would be great if you are learning English!

MilkViper – Streaming mostly Elder Scrolls Online (an online multiplayer RPG that I love). He is really good at imitating the accents of famous actors.

And if you like MilkViper, you’ll like DarkBladeNemo who occasionally streams games like Portal, Borderlands and ESO. NarraNarra is a German voice artists who streams in English and in character as a cat – a beautiful voice with an unusual accent.

ChewieMelodies – Playing and composing fantastic music (keyboard) and gaming, some of his streams are very long. He often adds a long chat session after playing and answers your questions about music, equipment, learning to play and more.

SarahBurnsStudio – Painting, often watercolor or oils. Sarah is a self-taught artist and runs monthly paint-alongs for watercolors and gouache. Her community is very supportive and active in her Discord channel, even when she isn’t streaming.

Some more artists on Twitch:

  • bell4trixx also runs regular sketch-alongs for her viewers.
  • TheKatIsALie like crochet, bead painting (!) and gaming. I’m amazed at how quickly she can crochet with her work positioned perfectly on camera! She also has a very active community of followers on her Discord channel.
  • vindahlia is into gaming, crafting and art. She is a very calm streamer who plays longer games and loves to chat and answer questions from viewers.
  • CarsonDrewIt creates stunningly complex drawings with fantastic animals, and has a wonderful interactive group of followers.

Your favorites?

Of course, it’s not only English speakers who stream on Twitch – you can find all languages there! Streamers will generally indicate in their tags what language they (mostly) use, and limit their chat channels to that too.

You may find a streamer using your target language that plays a game that you are familiar with or an art style you are experienced with – this is ideal as you’ll already know the context! For example, Tokumacode is a Japanese streamer who plays ESO – it’s brilliant hearing the characters I already know speak in Japanese.

What are you waiting for, sign up for Twitch, find a category you like (ESO and crafts!), a voice and personality you like, join their stream, and have fun chatting with friends who share your interests!

If you are already using Twitch to improve your English, let me know who your favorite streamers are on Twitter or Facebook.