Technology Tips for Non-English Speakers

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

English: One of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Whether it be in Europe, Australia or North America, English is a basic necessity to go through daily life. Although the language has the power to bring people together, it also has the power to exclude those who lack effective language skills. Moving to a different environment, in general, is a mentally, emotionally and physically draining activity. Moving to a nation where a language difference exists can be even more draining. Language barriers deter people from conversing with one another as well as affect their ability to go through everyday life and to complete basic tasks such as asking for directions. But, thanks to newer technologies, people are able to access online tools they couldn’t before.

Below you’ll find a few simple ways to cope with the difficulties having a language barrier brings as well as the and unique solutions that can prevent confusing and awkward situations

Changing your device’s language

On any smart device, like the one you probably are using now, languages are changeable. All you would need to do is access settings and select your desired language.

Depending on the brand of the phone, the steps will be found on the specified website as to how to change the language. Looking up “how to change language on (your phone brand)” will help to do so.

Websites with changeable language

Many websites allow you to change the site’s language. Here is an example of a changeable language website:

If the desired website does not have a pre-set option to change the language, browsers such as Chrome can automatically change the language. You would need to the following to do so:

  1. Go to Chrome’s Advanced Settings

  2. Click on language and choose “Language and Input Setting”

  3. Add the desired language and hit done

This way, you can change your browsing language based on personal preference to easily access websites and to read content.

Speech to Text Apps

While all of the above might help and allow you to surf the web easily, day-to-day life and conversations might still be difficult. A non-English speaking person can be prevented from participating in a conversation leading to the inability to complete such basic tasks such as booking a doctor's appointment, asking their local grocer for items, or even talking to a neighbor.

Thankfully, we can use speech to text translation apps where you can speak directly into the device and it will write your words into your desired language. Here are a list of helpful apps:

  1. Talk and Translate Translation

  2. Translate – Translate AI

  3. Voice Translator app

and of course, many more!

English Learning Apps

Lastly, if you want to learn English for basic everyday encounters, there are interactive apps to help you with that as well. For example, the most commonly known language learning app, Duolingo, presents everyday small words to help learners begin simply.

Similarly, other apps such as Speaking English Practice, English Listening and Speaking, HelloTalk or Apps4Speaking English Teach are also great options. The key to learning successfully through an app is to find what learning method works for you and choose the appropriate application. Make sure that the app emphasizes all four aspects of language learning: speaking, listening comprehension, reading and writing. If an app does not focus on all four aspects, students should take care to supplement it with outside practice. For example, if Duolingo does not ask you to say the word multiple times you should be saying it yourself each time you see a vocabulary word.

Here are a few tools for learning a new language should you not want to use your phone or laptop the entire time:

  1. Flashcards

  2. Practice conversation with native English speakers

  3. Writing notes

  4. Watching English movies

  5. Read English books out loud

Last but not least, try not to give up hope when learning a new language. Sure it might be very time consuming and frustrating; but taking the time to actually learn a language will be worth the trouble in the end. Set aside time – at least 10 minutes per day – to focus on studying and to keep consistent. Getting into a schedule will not only assist you in learning a language but can help you organize your day.

As shown above, technology can be a great help for navigating not only the innerwebs, but also our own interpersonal relationships and lives. The digital tools available today can be a wonderful way to supplement, and to support, our own language knowledge and skills if applied correctly.

Written by Cecilia Gerard, a Collierville High School student.

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