When I first started studying language I was not old enough to have permission to use a computer on my own and even then, the Internet wasn’t what it is today. I learned my third language with a textbook, a teacher, and a whole lot of motivation.
During my teen years, I looked around AOL groups and forums for communities in my target language and jumped into the conversation at every opportunity. Even when they were way over my head. I would also use my allowance (my argent de poche) or my parents’ generosity to invest in books from our local bookstore whenever I had the chance.
Now, with new apps and online communities sprouting up everyday, I have an endless number of resources to choose from to learn almost any language. I also have the ability to connect more easily with native speakers around the world. It’s almost more an issue of avoiding feeling overwhelmed by the resources available than it is a struggle to find them.
Even so, if you’re looking for a way (or an additional way) to learn a new language, here’s a list of 60+ ways to do just that.
60+ 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 one one or two of the aforementioned. I’ve broken up the resources below by skill, joining reading and writing as well as speaking and comprehension. Although each needs to be developed in its own right, they tend to go hand in hand.
A Little Bit of Everything
- Attend a Gathering or Conference // Even if you are not a polyglot (or don’t consider yourself one), I’ve heard good things about the Polyglot gathering.
- Start a Challenge // Like Lindsay Does Languages’ IGLC. Or Benny Lewis’ 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 Chinese with Mike. 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, the Pod101 Series, Rosetta Stone, 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 a 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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 use apps like Twitter and Facebook in other languages, 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).
- Join an Online Group or Forum // A quick search can help get you started. You can check out Facebook and Google+ too.
- 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.
- 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 you 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.
Speaking & Comprehension
- Pimsleur // Try a free lesson.
- Skype Lessons
- 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!
- Conversing 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.
- 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”?
- 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 language. One of the best ways to improve your pronunciation and speaking abilities are 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-size 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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 Holiday’s Unique to the Country Where Your Language is Spoken // Double bonus if you can find a celebration in your area and attend!
- Participate in the Language Reading Challenge!
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!