Tips for Remote Language Learning

This page will be continuously updated. If you have questions or concerns related to your language course, reach out to your instructor. If you have general questions about language learning at UW-Madison or career advising, please contact the International Directions Advisor through email or Microsoft Teams.

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Design a learning space that works for you.

  • If possible, designate a study space. Be strategic. Working in bed can lead to napping.
  • Limit distractions: (1)
    • Put your phone on silent/do not disturb and keep it out of sight until a break.
    • Close irrelevant internet tabs and apps.
    • Silence any chat functions on computer, phone, and tablet.
    • Clear workspace of any irrelevant materials.
    • For tasks that do not require the internet, turn-off your wi-fi connection.
  • Gather supplies: headphones, pens/pencils, notebook, chargers, water, and snacks.


Build helpful habits right away.

  • Make time for language learning every day!
  • Design a schedule for yourself that includes course times, study time, and free time. (1)
  • Plan to devote shorter, more frequent chunks of time to your language study over longer, less frequent sessions.
  • Prioritize tasks by urgency and importance.
  • Clarify course expectations and inquire about he best method to contact your instructor.
  • Ask lots of questions. If you aren’t sure what to do or where to find something, ask! You will be helping everyone.
  • Try to avoid using an online dictionary for every word (just like in class, practice using circumlocution when you don’t know a word.)


Stay connected.

  • Sign up for a virtual language exchange through one of the many apps to connect language learners and native speakers.
  • Reach out to friends/host family where you can catch up and practice the language you’re learning!
    • Live video chat: Zoom, Skype, Facetime, GoogleDuo/Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp.
    • If the time difference is too great: film a video of yourself to send a message to friends. Apps like Marco Polo are great for this!
    • If all else fails, try an audio message. You can record your voice in your text messages or through chat apps like WhatsApp.
  • Send snail mail by writing a postcard or letter in the language.
  • Meet with friends virtually to study together and squeeze in practice via video chat.
  • Try teaching someone else what you just learned in your language class. Teaching someone else is a great way to solidify what you have learned.

Talk to yourself.

  • Sing your favorite songs in the language in the shower or while you are cleaning/doing chores.
  • Read aloud in the language. It is a great way to practice your pronunciation!
  • Think aloud in the language. Don’t be shy.
  • Narrate your daily activities like choosing clothes to wear, cleaning or preparing food.

Supplement your studies.

  • Try Netflix Hangout extension through Google Chrome. Stream films and shows in the target language while watching with friends.
  • Develop a new hobby that incorporates the language, like calligraphy or cooking.
  • Listen to music in the language you’re studying.
  • Watch shows and movies in the language subtitles in English, or in the language, can really help!
  • Read short stories, magazine articles or newspapers in the language, if you’re an upper-level student. If you’re a beginning or intermediate-level student, ask your instructor for recommendations for reading materials that would be appropriate for you. Look for cognates.
  • Find out how the current COVID-19 emergency is affecting regions where your language is spoken. How are students there adapting?
  • Make flashcards with index cards, or put new vocabulary on sticky notes and post them everywhere.

Check in.

  • Regularly review assignments and deadlines for your language class. Contact your instructor if you have questions or concerns.
  • Reflect on how things are going. Is your schedule working? Are you having difficulty staying on track? Reach out if you’re having problems.

Take breaks to stay motivated.

  • Move your body.
    • Take a walk.
    • Do a (free) workout video online. See if you can find a workout video in the language you’re studying. See how you do!
    • Stretch and breathe with yoga.
  • Relax your mind and meditate.
  • Doodle or color!
  • Journal.

Need more recommendations?

  • Focus on your personal and professional development by scheduling an advising appointment.
  • Connect with your language program advisor for additional tools and resources related to your language program.

Remote Language Learning Resources (Download and share.)