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5 Ways Emojis Help You Learn a Foreign Language

Are you fluent in Emoji? 😎 World Emoji Day is celebrated on 17th July (a date chosen because the calendar emoji looks like this: 📅 ). At last count, we had over 45,000 members of the Tandem community who consider themselves to be “native Emoji speakersâ€đŸ€“. So there’s a good chance you are one of them!


Emoji isn’t usually considered to be a foreign language, but we felt it was an important one to include. Why? Because emojis are INCREDIBLY USEFUL for language learners! We’re not expecting you to be replacing languages fully with emojis, but there is no denying that they can be used in lots of different ways when learning with a partner.

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Here are 5 ways emojis can save your life when learning a language:

1. Avoiding translation

Emojis come into their own during the early stages of learning a language. There is an emoji picture for many simple words and phrases, so it can be a very useful tool indeed for teaching beginners. “Russian, for example, has lots of verbs for movement which you use with different modes of transport. It’s SO difficult to teach! So I like to use all the different transport emojis to help
 the đŸ›« and 🛬 are particularly helpful when talking about flights!” says Igor, 24. See our blog here on some other alternatives to translating!

2. Diffusing tension

Ahh, we’ve all been there. You get a message from your Tandem partner and you think, “Did they really mean to say that?!” It can be really hard to express things in the subtle way you would in your own language. Luckily, emojis are the universal tension diffuser. Tandem member May, 23, explains: “Actually I use emojis to communicate when things get a little awkward - say my partner doesn’t understand what I’m saying, or I made a mistake. A simple 😂 goes a long way to diffuse any tension and help communication. It’s my favourite emoji!”

3. Signalling humour

If you’ve ever spent time abroad, you’ll know that humour is something that differs from country to country. But that is also something that often gets lost in translation! There’s nothing worse than a joke falling flat. That’s why our members often like to use emojis liberally to show exactly when they are making a joke. “I use the 😉 way more often when speaking in my second language,” says Moritz, 18. “I don’t think I’m a funnier guy, but I definitely find them useful to show that I’m trying to be funny at least! I just hope my Tandem partner appreciates my efforts at comedy!”

4. Shortcut with complex scripts

Learning a new script can be really difficult when you first start out. Imagine going from Spanish to Chinese, or from Korean to Georgian, or from Bengali to Russian! If you’re having a video conversation with your Tandem partner and you want to write and explain something quickly, sometimes using emoji is the quickest and most effective way of doing this rather than having to change keyboards and work out how to say something (especially when you’re still relatively new to the written language). This is one of the reasons emojis have taken off to such a huge degree in countries with complex scripts, like China.

5. To share our emotions when words aren’t enough

Even when you are speaking to someone native in your language, most of us often find scenarios where an emoji speaks louder than words. Imagine you just mispronounced a word and said something totally inappropriate by mistake. Or you accidentally ate your least favorite vegetable. Or you saw something you didn’t want to see = 🙈 . Tandem member Victoria tells us, “When it comes to conversation exchange, it is so helpful to be able to express your emotions fast. My favourite emoji is the 🙃 which I use when I am being a bit sarcastic. It’s a good way of showing complex emotions really quickly!”

Could we see emoji replacing written language completely? Unlikely. But surely anything that helps us communicate more easily across languages and cultures is a good thing! đŸ’©

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