With new apps and online communities sprouting up every day, there are an endless number of resources to choose from to learn almost any language. You can also connect more easily than ever with native speakers around the world. It’s often easier to feel overwhelmed by the different resources out there than it is to struggle to find them.
Even so, if you’re looking for a way (or an additional way) to make language learning a part of your day, here’s a list of 100+ ways to do just that.
They’re organized by the skills they help you build to help make choosing the right tools easy!
100+ Ways to Learn a New Language
There are essentially four different aspects of language learning – reading, comprehension, speaking, and writing. There are resources that cover all four of these skills, but there are also those that focus on one or two of the aforementioned.
- Use a to-do app to keep your language tasks organized and keep track of your “path goals”. // Path goals are the steps you take to ultimately achieve your “vision goals” (your big, long-term goals). You can read more about goal setting in this post.
- Join #CleartheList to keep accountable with a fun group of learners. // We share our goals each month and encourage one another.
- Set specific times for various study tasks. // For example, use your commutes to listen to audio. Do a round of flashcards while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for your lunch to heat up in the microwave. Use your lunch break for an online lesson or some coursebook study.
- Commit to just five minutes per day. // It adds up quicker than you might think!
- Download an app to your mobile device so that you always have something with you. // You can check out the recommendations below, but I personally love Duolingo, Memrise, and LingQ.
- Attend a language webinar or live Q&A. // These are fantastic, free online classes that are offered by language bloggers. One of my favorite live Q&A vloggers is Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months.
- Take an online language course. // There are tons of great courses online both free and paid. Some of my favourites are Language Routine Mastery, Language Habit Toolkit, and of course, the Courage to Speak, as well as my new free 7-day email course The Busy Language Learner.
A Few Quick & Easy Tasks
Sometimes it’s just about getting your systems into place, preparing for your actual study and building some momentum. When this is the case, here are a few quick tasks you can complete when you only have a moment but need or want to do something.
- Create a “things to check out list” // That way you can focus on whatever you’re using now, but don’t forget about the other resources that look interesting to you when you decide you’re ready for them.
- Open your coursebook to the next lesson // And if you’re feeling ambitious, read the first page. There’s a good chance you won’t stop there. 😉
- Look up a word you’ve been wanting to know // This can be a word in your native language that you want to translate into your target language or a word you heard/read in your target language that you want to look up in your native language.
- Make a list of words to look up later // Same rules apply as above.
- Create an account on a language learning platform you’ve been meaning to use. // It can be iTalki, HelloTalk, LingQ, Lang-8, the Innovative Languages courses, Lingoda, Baselang, Rhinospike, you name it…
- Send a message to a potential language exchange partner
- Distill a page of an old language notebook // This is where you go through an old notebook and copy the words you still don’t know (but find useful) into your new notebook.
- Find an article that explains something you’re currently struggling with in your target language. // For me, this was this post on the in subjunctive Spanish.
- Read an article from a language blogger on how to learn languages. // Some suggestions are: Fluent in 3 Months, I Will Teach You a Language, Lindsay Does Languages, Fluent Language, etc. And of course, the blog you’re already reading, Eurolinguiste.
- Join a Facebook group // There are tons of lovely Facebook groups that are either language specific or just general groups of fellow language learners. I personally recommend the Language Learning Reading Challenge.
- Do Some Math // Numbers can be tricky in a foreign language. They’re not easy to pull up or understand right away and we sometimes end up doing more translating and mental counting than needed. It can really slow you down. Practice some basic maths in your target language to get more comfortable with numbers.
- Sign up for a language mailing list to get tips sent right to your inbox // This can be language specific or not.
- Grab one of my 100+ Conversational Words & Phrases Worksheets // So far I have them for Korean, Chinese, French, Italian, and Croatian.
- Learn super helpful phrases in your target language // Like: “How do you say ___ in ___ language?” or “Can you repeat that?” or “Can you say that differently?” or “What is ___ in English?” or “Please say it again slowly”.
A Little Bit of Everything
- Duolingo // This is a fun and popular language learning app that is available for a variety of languages. You can complete a lesson in just a few minutes, whether at home or on the go.
- Assimil // Assimil is my favorite coursebook series. They have a much wider selection of material available for French speakers, but what they have for English speakers is pretty great as well (if more limited).
- Attend a Gathering or Conference // Even if you are not a polyglot (or don’t consider yourself one), I’ve heard good things about each of the language events around the globe. I spoke at Montréal LangFest and it was an incredible experience.
- Start a Challenge // Like Lindsay Does Languages’ IGLC. Or Benny Lewis’s Speak in a Week.
- Visit a Museum or Monument // Whenever M and I travel, I try to pick up the brochures in my target languages and opt for the tours offered in other languages (if available). On our most recent trip to the Getty Museum I had fun reading about the history of the museum in every language but English.
- Watch Language Lessons on Youtube // There are a ton of great educational channels available on Youtube. Some of my favorites for Mandarin include Yoyo Chinese and MandarinHQ. Just do a bit of searching to find videos in your language!
- Use a Language Program // There are both free and paid programs to help you with your language learning including Busuu, Rosetta Stone, Babbel, Rocket Languages et al.
- Teach Someone Else // One of the best ways to ingrain a skill (or just better understand it) is through the act of teaching someone else. I began to understand German grammar better when I had to explain it to my father and my tones improved as I started to teach M words in Mandarin.
- Start Using FluentU // I was contacted by FluentU a while back to test out their platform and I was impressed. It is a tool I really wish I used more. They also have an incredible blog for each of the languages they feature.
- Play Games // If you’re at a beginning level, card games are a great place to start as are word games. Board games can be fun (if you have friends to play with), as can video games (whether online community based or just foreign language versions of games). I play my favorite Nintendo games in Mandarin and I know other language learners who play online games like WOW in their target languages.
- Take an In-Person Class // But don’t allow yourself to become one of those students who does the bare minimum to succeed. Take an active interest in learning the language and use the class as a launching point.
- Bust Out Your Phrasebook // And learn phrases rather than individual vocab words. My personal favorite phrasebooks are this one from Tuttle, this one from Assimil and the Lonely Planet Series.
- For Advanced Learners: Take a Free Online Language-Specific Class in Your Target Language // Instead of taking a class on your language, take a class in your language. MIT and Coursera offer several courses in other languages for free online.
- Try out Glossika // This is another course that offers elements of reading and listening.
- Use Forvo to hear how things sound // This is a great online dictionary for tons of languages with audio.
- Submit something to Rhinospike // And get it recorded by a native speaker so you can hear how it sounds. Be sure to reciprocate for someone else!
- Travel to the Country // Not for everyone – it can be pretty expensive. But it is an option if you have the means.
Reading & Writing
- Graded Readers // McGraw-Hill puts out a great series of easy readers. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “graded reader”, read this.
- Native Language Books // What better way to improve your French reading comprehension than by reading classic French texts like Le Petit Prince or L’Etranger? The same can be said for any great literature in any language.
- Use LingQ // LingQ is honestly my favourite app for language learning right now because it combines one of my favorite things (reading) with vocabulary study. You can use the content they already have available or you can important your own reading material.
- If your language has a different writing system, learn it.
- Translations of Your Favorite Books // Like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Why don’t you read it in your target language rather than in your native language? If that’s too hard, there are tons of children’s books available to choose from! Dr. Seuss and even some Disney stories are available in a wide selection of languages.
- Memrise // Memrise is an incredible online resource and my favourite way to learn new vocabulary.
- Flashcards // You can either make your own or use pre-made cards like those made by Flashsticks. Or you can go with digital Flashcards like Antosch & Lin or Anki.
- Label Objects in Your House // Make up sticky notes (or use Flashsticks) to label objects in your house to help you build up your day-to-day vocabulary. If you don’t want to overwhelm your loved ones, do it one room at a time.
- Textbooks // I particularly like the material that Tuttle puts out. Assimil is another of my favorites.
- Keep a Language Journal // It’s a great way to hang on to all the awesome things you’ve learned, review them, and look back at where you were at a few months back.
- Free write in your target language // Just because or to submit for corrections.
- Translation from Your Target Language // Bust out a target language document and your dictionary and get to work with this old school way to learn a language. In addition to translating the document, I like to keep a second notebook on hand to make notes on the information that is new to me and that I’d like to retain.
- Translation into Your Target Language // This is a bit harder than translating from your target language into your native language. So if you want to up your translation skills, this is definitely a good activity.
- Change the Language Settings on Your Devices // You can set the language of your phone or computer in your target language, and there are tons of other ways to get inventive with this option. Heck, even my car is set in one of the languages I’m learning (I changed the radio/control panel language in the settings) as is my gaming system.
- Change the Language Settings on Your Social Media Accounts // This sometimes needs to be done separately from the device itself.
- Check Out the Ethnic Foods Section of Your Local Grocery Store // Learn the ingredients of the foods you eat!
- The Instructions and Ingredients on the Backs of Products You Buy // I’ve done this forever with my shampoo bottles. Now that I’m learning Mandarin, I’ve even started doing it with the tags on my clothes and the instructions for everything I buy. Since I do most of my shopping at the local Chinese market, I end up with tons of material to learn from.
- Go to the Library // No need to spend money you might be able to save by checking out the language section at your local library.
- Write a script // Scripts are great exercises because they really offer you the chance to focus in on a specific subject and learn the vocabulary and grammar you need just for that topic.
- Newspapers and/or Magazines // Whenever I travel, I try to pickup newspapers in my target language. Even if I don’t use them then, I can save them for when I have time.
- Make Friends with Your Dictionary // Open up to a random page and learn a new word. Make a list of words you’d like to know, look them up, and create a new flashcard set or vocab list like this. I also like Language Surfer‘s advice on this technique.
- Use Readlang // I only just discovered this tool and I’m going to have to add it to my arsenal of study tools.
- Use Lang-8 or iTalki‘s Journal Tool to Write // These sites offer your the opportunity to write in your target language and have it corrected by a native speaker. It doesn’t cost anything, but be kind and reciprocate. Correct another language learner in your native language too.
- Find a Website Available in Multiple Languages // Open your target language and your native language in two different windows and do a comparison. Take notes. Wikipedia is a great starting point.
- Install your Language’s Keyboard on your Phone or Computer // I use my Chinese keyboard to type emojis – it forces me to remember the words for different moods and objects.
- Read a Comic // Who says you need to read text-only books anyway?
- Focus on Grammar // If your grammar needs some brushing up, spend some time reviewing or learning. Most older language learning texts are great for this as are the Teach Yourself series.
- Participate in the Language Reading Challenge!
- Grab a guide // My favorites are the Why X is Easy series for French, German, Italian, Spanish, English, and Chinese. Or the Master Japanese and Master Chinese books.
Speaking & Comprehension
- Pimsleur // Try a free lesson.
- Skype Lessons // If you’re not sure where to find a tutor, iTalki is my favorite platform for connecting with excellent teachers. I’ve also enjoyed Baselang (for Spanish) and Lingoda (for Spanish, German, and French).
- Language Exchanges with Native Speakers
- Language Exchanges with Others Learning the Same Language // Don’t just rely on native speakers to help you practice your target language. Partner up with others who are learning the same language as you! Lindsay and I did this for Korean and it was a great way to keep accountable.
- Converse with Friends
- Read Aloud // You know those books I mentioned above? Use those to work on both your reading comprehension and speaking abilities by reading aloud.
- Podcasts // There are so many incredible and FREE podcasts available in a wide range of languages. The Innovative language series like RussianPod101, SpanishPod101, JapanesePod101, ChineseClass101, etc.
- Listen to the radio // If you’re ready for it, you can dive into native language radio programs, or you can try out something like News in Slow French/Spanish or Slow Chinese.
- Conversations with Yourself // It can be intimidating trying to converse with a native speaker for the first time, so why not get some practice in on your own first?
- Audiobooks // This is great for those of you that spend a good amount of time in the car. Why listen to “The Three Musketeers” when you can enjoy “Les Trois Mousquetaires</eM”? The great thing about most players too is that you can slow them down!
- Find a Restaurant in Your Area // Get some practice in ordering and conversing in your target language.
- Record Yourself Speaking // This is a learning technique that I’ve used often in music and that can certainly carry over into a language. One of the best ways to improve your pronunciation and speaking abilities is to record yourself and listen back. You’ll definitely hear mistakes you didn’t even know you were making!
- Go to a Cultural Event in Your Area // About a year ago I went to an Italian heritage festival hosted by a neighboring city with my parents. It was a great opportunity for me to brush up on my Italian, enjoy delicious food, make new friends, and hear a variety of Italian music (everything from opera to pop).
- Start a Vlog // Record yourself speaking in your target language and share it on Instagram (like I do) or on Youtube.
- Watch Commercials on Youtube // They are short and some even have captions. They’re a great way to get bite-sized language exposure.
- Watch a Movies or TV Show with Subtitles // If you’re looking for something a little more involved try graduating up to television shows or movies.
- Watch a Movie or TV Show without Subtitles // Even if you don’t understand everything, this can be a great way to push your comprehension or get a better feel for what level you’re at.
- Watch an Overdubbed Version of Your Favorite Movie // Try watching it with and without subtitles. You already know the plot and can probably remember a good chunk of the dialog.
- Watch a movie or tv show that is more than one language // This is a little less intense than watching an entire series or movie in a foreign language. One of my favorites for Russian is The Americans. You can really have fun with this and even use it to learn a conlang like Dothraki by watching Game of Thrones. Hey, it’s all in the name of learning a language!
- Listen to Music in Your Target Language // Spotify has a great collection of music to choose from although some artists have blocked certain countries. I also use Kougu which is the Chinese equivalent of Pandora (and oddly enough, they have a French language channel). I have also started playlists for the languages I’m learning that you can check out on my YouTube channel.
- Work on Pronunciation // Focus on properly pronouncing your language’s alphabet or combinations of sounds (for example tones in Mandarin). Really break it down so that you can work on just creating the right sounds. This is especially crucial if the language you are learning has sounds that don’t exist in your native language.
- Record yourself // You can record one of your lessons or exchanges, or even your monologue. Be sure to listen back!
- Learn different interjections and onomatopoetic expressions. // These are fun ways to sound more “native”.
- Focus on learning conversation connectors. // These are great tools to give yourself the chance to think and segue into new topics. Anthony Lauder has a fantastic list for Czech. You can use it as a basis to translate into your target language.
I like to think that learning about the cultures associated with the languages you’re learning as a bonus to developing your ability and attachment to what you’re studying. Consider the following:
- Read a Book About the History of Your Language // Or about the group of languages to which yours belongs (i.e. Slavic languages rather than Croatian).
- Read a Book About the History of One of the Countries Where Your Language is Spoken // It can be a general history, one on a specific time period or specific movement. Whatever interests you.
- Read a Book About the Experience Someone Had Moving to or Traveling Through a Country Where Your Target Language is Spoken // This is a great way to get an outside perspective.
- Learn to Cook a Local Dish // Double bonus if you can cook it using the recipe in your target language rather than a translated recipe!
- Take a Look at a Map and Learn About the Major Cities // Use a map to pinpoint the larger cities and look them up. Don’t cheat and Google “large cities in XYZ country.” Get familiar with your country’s geography and where the major cities are located.
- Learn About Some of the Holidays Unique to the Country Where Your Language is Spoken // Double bonus if you can find a celebration in your area and attend!
- Don’t go looking for something if you don’t have a problem. // I don’t know what it is about language learning that leads to us hoarding resources, but there is definitely something. Perhaps it’s in thinking that we’ll be more thorough or that a new resource will solve a problem for us, or who knows. I’ve recently adopted a more minimalist approach to language learning, so I only bring a new resource in when I have a problem my current resources don’t solve.
- Learn some of the common hand gestures or body language used by those who speak your target language. // There are some infographics like this, but watching movies or tv shows is another great way to do this.
- Take a course that teaches you how to be a better learner overall // Like the Learning How to Learn course on Coursera or Scott Young’s Rapid Learner course.
I hope to continue building out this list, so if you think there are any techniques I’ve missed, please feel free to share in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!
30 Aug 2018 - Language Resources