June 2012. I’m fake posing in the hallway before heading out and Ashley, my partner, is pointing his phone at me. I would regularly poke fun at him for taking a photo with his phone and ask which filter he was going to add to it before posting it to his hipster app account. Little did I know this would actually be the first photo of me shared to Instagram. Fast forward to January 2015 and I’m starting my own regular language challenge on Instagram, a platform I’ve grown to love for its language learning flexibility. How times have changed. You see, things are what you make them. If you take a traditionally visual social media platform and use it for language learning, it suddenly becomes so much more than a place to share your latest meal with a Valencia filter and a couple of hashtags. Here’s the story of how to get the most from Instagram for language learning.
Your Free Quick Start Pack
If you’re ready to get started with the Instagram Language Challenge, I’ve created your Quick Start Pack for Learning Languages on Instagram. You’ve got this blog post to read any time, a huge list of relevant accounts organised by languages, and seven free templates that are super flexible for you to edit so you don’t even have to thing about the image or video, you can focus on the language. Yay!
Click below to download your free Quick Start Pack for Learning Languages on Instagram.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a social media platform where you can share photos and now 60-second video clips. In other words it’s perfect for documenting your language learning and publicly holding yourself accountable.
How do you Use Instagram?
To upload to Instagram, you’ll need the app on your phone. The good news is you can create photos, images or videos elsewhere, email them to yourself and download to your phone and upload that way if you prefer. Alternatively, you can film or take photos directly in the Instagram app when needed.
You can add filters to your photos and also send your photos to other social media platforms such as Twitter as Facebook if you want to.
The Language Learning
So why does Instagram matter when it comes to language learning?
For starters, social media is the most up to date example of language you could possibly ask for. So that’s awesome.
Secondly, we’re living in a more and more visual world and image is pretty powerful. Why does Memrise use mems with their vocabulary, for example? Because we remember stuff better with visuals.
The final big thing I’d say here is that it’s of course worth mentioning that although you probably won’t learn a brand new language with Instagram alone, the new translation feature, which translates comments instantly, will be a great help.
So you’ve downloaded Instagram, you’ve got yourself an account, where do you begin? One of the easiest ways to find relevant content is to search via hashtag.
As you enter the first few letters of what to start with will probably be quite a generic hashtag, others will magically appear below. This can help you find related hashtags and therefore related content.
Get creative with your hashtags. In terms of finding new users who post in different languages to give you some reading practise, this might mean typing your hashtags in the language you want to learn.
If you’re really stuck for hashtag ideas, start simple with ‘language’ or even the name of the language you’re learning, and use Hashtagify to find related hashtags. Simple.
Hashtags may sound like something only used by big brands and desperate teens but seriously, they’re so much more useful than that. They’re basically categorising the Internet, which is a pretty handy skill to have for one symbol.
When it comes to finding content and accounts to help you learn and to find like-minded learners, they’ll be very useful for you. Trust me.
In the downloadable Quick Start Pack, I’ve attached a full list of lots and lots of Instagram accounts that are great for language learning in general as well as specific language accounts.
Following relevant accounts is a great way to fill your feed with language goodness. Hooray!
Another great tip to make sure you see all that good stuff following Instagram’s algorithm changes is to turn on push notifications for the best accounts you follow. This will ensure that you see everything they post rather than it getting lost in your feed.
To do this, just click the three dots in the top right hand corner of someone’s profile and then tap ‘Turn on Post Notifications’ from the options.
If the thought of spreading yourself too thin across various social media platforms drives you crazy, Instagram serves you well in that sense now that you can also upload 60 second video as well as images.
This means that it’s not only great for showing off your writing or fancy language notebook collection, but also for practising your speaking publicly. Eek!
This sound a little scary? There’s a few things you can do to work towards posting your first video speaking in a different language.
Start by recording yourself on your phone speaking. Watch it once, cringe, then delete it.
Next record yourself again but this time save it to your phone. No one has to see it.
Next up? Yup. This time, show the next video to someone you trust.
Here’s what you probably think will happen:
“Oh my God! Why are you even trying? That’s hilarious! Really bad! Hahaha!”
Here’s what’s much more likely to happen:
“Wait…what? Is that you speaking that language you’ve been learning? Woah! That’s awesome! I’m so jealous! Say something in [insertlanguagehere] for me now.”
Normally, when we’re scared of stuff, it rarely turns out as badly as we expected.
And of course, once you’ve passed that hurdle, the final step is to film something and share it on Instagram.
If you’re still not too happy about putting it out to the world, you can have a private Instagram account.
The main reason why I recommend this is because it’s a really quick and easy way to document your language learning and keep it in one place that’s easy to check back on when you feel like your progress is slow.
Watch a couple of old videos a few months down the line and you’ll soon realise that you’ve improved. Woop!
I stand by the fact that the Instagram community is generally friendlier than other online spaces. I’m looking at you YouTube comments.
Don’t be afraid to invite people to correct you if you’re unsure about something you’ve written or pronounced or said.
All it takes is a little “Hey! Did I say this right? All corrections welcome! :)” in the description of your post.
Pop on some relevant hashtags and chances are people who can help you will find it.
If you’re ready to jump in and use Instagram to practise and document your language learning, you might want a little help. Here are a few awesome apps that can add text and other fancy stuff to your photos.
If you’re looking to add text to your images for the Instagram Language Challenge, Phonto is a great starting point.
You’ve got filters to play with, a great selection of fonts, and a choice of styling options too.
Designed in part for Fat Mum Slim’s Photo A Day Challenge, Little Moments has some really cute options for text and graphics on top of your standard filters and tools.
If you’ve missed a few days, Frame Magic lets you to pop multiple images together in one photo to share. Woohoo!
There’s also plenty of options for text and cute stickers too to keep things fun.
Snapseed is a pretty thorough photo editing app. If your image needs a little more of a touch up than just a fancy filter, Snapseed will sort you out before you move on to another app to add text if you want to.
The Instagram Language Challenge
My favourite way to use Instagram for language learning is the Instagram Language Challenge.
What the heck am I talking about? And why is this my favourite thing?
Well, the Instagram Language Challenge is incredibly flexible. There are 28 prompts per month and there’s two key things to talk about there already.
28 = a few days off per month. It’s going to happen that there’s at least one day a month you miss it. Hey, don’t worry. The IGLC isn’t about putting pressure on your language learning, more so about giving you a daily chance to learn when you can.
Prompts = it’s not a “word”. You don’t have to learn the exact word each day in the language but instead you use the prompt for inspiration for something that challenges you where you’re currently at with the language you’re learning.
What does this mean exactly? Let’s say the prompt is ‘red’ and you’re pretty advanced in your language. Soooo…you know your colours!
Maybe you don’t know how to say ‘red tape’, or talk about someone being caught ‘red-handed’?
My point here is there’s always something to learn. Yay!
The Instagram Language Challenge gives you the chance to be creative with that. Let’s say you go with ‘red-handed’. How do you use your new-found lingo and join the Instagram Language Challenge?
Take a photo of something to remind you of ‘red-handed’, create an image with text using one of the apps we mentioned earlier, or even film a short video using the language.
Once you’ve done that, add #IGLC in the description so I can see it and you can join the community and then you’re done! That’s it. You’ve just done your first Instagram Language Challenge post!
Woohoo! Next up? Keep going all month and you’ve just created a habit and added a little language to your routine each day. Awesome.
Your Free Quick Start Pack
If you didn’t grab it already up top, I’ve got 7 simple templates to make it super easy for you to join in as well as a Quick Start Guide including a list of relevant Instagram accounts to follow for different languages.
You in? Click below to download your free Quick Start Pack for Learning Languages on Instagram.
How do you use Instagram for language learning? Share your ideas in the comments!