By James Coulson | Read time 10 min |
What is the best way to learn a new language?
More and more, language learners are taking to the internet to learn languages online.
After all, online language courses and resources have never been more widely available.
The development of artificial intelligence (AI) has meant that software developers and app creators have been able to incorporate trialed and tested language learning methods into a visually appealing format.
This caters for audio and visual learners alike; today, language learning is a billion-dollar industry. With all these choices, how can we, as language learners, know what the best way to learn a foreign language actually is?
My native language is English and I am a fluent speaker of Spanish and French. I am also learning German and Japanese.
In this short post, I touch on my experience to try to answer a question posed by language learners around the world – what is the best way to learn a new language?
I have learned both Spanish and French through a number of successful methods, including online language learning, class study, and, most importantly in my opinion, cultural immersion.
The best way to learn a language nowadays depends, in large part, on your receptivity to these methods, what works best for you, and four other key factors.
1. Online Language Courses – How Do You Learn Best?
It is so important to try a range of language resources, no matter which language you are learning. This enables you to find out how you learn best and to which language methods you are most receptive.
I have tried dozens of language resources, some more traditional than others, in order to master fluency in Spanish and take on even the most difficult aspects of French.
This includes standard ‘old-school’ textbooks, common resources like Youtube and Netflix, and plenty of paid language apps.
Undoubtedly, you will be more receptive to some courses than others. This is based in large part on your learning style. Some courses cater best to visual learners, whilst others are more audio-focused.
Two resources I refer to frequently to highlight this point are Memrise and Pimsleur, both of which I am using to learn Japanese.
You can read my comparison of these resources here.
2. Your Native Language
I don’t want to generalize. However, it is no coincidence that speakers of Germanic languages tend to speak English far better than those whose native tongue belongs to Southern European or Asian languages.
Obviously, this is due, in large part, to curriculum, the age at which they start learning English, as well as the programs they watch, and the cultural influence they are exposed to growing up.
However, linguistically, there are plenty of other reasons for this. Spanish speakers, for example, will (generally speaking) find learning Portuguese, Italian, or other Latin languages much easier than learning German or Dutch.
If a language is similar to yours then, naturally, you will probably find it much easier to learn.
If you’re reading this then you probably want to know what the best way to learn a language is. However, you may also be deciding which language you would like to learn.
To iterate, I am generalizing here, but if you are yet to decide and you are new to language learning then it may be worth choosing a language similar to your own.
3. Your patience
Becoming bilingual, trilingual, or multilingual is as much about patience as it is about practice.
The best way to learn a new language quickly is to remember that the step from zero to fluency does not take place overnight.
So, be patient, find which methods work best for you, and stick with it. By doing this, you’ll notice progression much quicker.
Whichever learning style works best for you, start with 30 minutes of study per day, when possible.
This worked for me during my French and Spanish journeys but has also worked for dozens of other language learners that I have met along the way.
Remember, Overkill can zap the fun out of language learning, and that’s the last thing you want to happen!
4. Your ability to travel or work abroad
As I mentioned, online language courses and resources have never been as accessible as they are today.
Furthermore, I am a firm believer that the basics of any language can be obtained online.
Listening and reading skills too can be improved through online learning.
However, the ability to actually speak another language, which is usually what we deem most important, comes through real-life scenarios and face-to-face conversation.
Plenty of companies, such as italki and Preply now provide learners with the ability to converse with native teachers via Zoom, Skype, or in-house platforms.
Whilst this is effective and valuable, I don’t believe it comes close to physical contact.
Thinking about my own personal experience, I found actually being in France was the best way to learn French.
I immersed myself in French culture throughout my time living in Paris and Lyon, making friends with locals, and forcing work colleagues to speak to me only in French to practice my conversational skills.
If you are given the opportunity to live or work abroad then I cannot recommend this method enough.
Cultural immersion is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn a language today, despite the plethora of excellent online resources available.
The Best Ways to Learn a Language
If you are looking for a tutor rather than a language learning app then consider Preply. Preply is a marketplace where students from all over the world can find one-on-one online tutors for personalized learning programs.
It is very similar to italki, with the same common goals and the same main features. Preply also contains an in-built classroom which enhances the quality and efficiency of lessons for both tutors and students.
Rocket Languages is a software-focused language learning app that uses audio lessons, interactive exercises, and readings to get you to a conversational level in a foreign language.
Through its structured and proven successful process, you will begin to understand more about the language you are learning quite quickly. Sign up for a trial with Rocket Languages.
Be sure to check out my Rocket Languages Review.
Babbel is a subscription-based language learning app that helps you learn a new language. It currently offers 14 languages on its unique, user-friendly platform. You can use Babbel on desktop and mobile.
Babbel’s desktop and app format is curriculum-based with pre-recorded content including games, quizzes, tests, games, and grammar exercises.
It is a great resource if you are looking to learn a language on your own. Babbel’s latest feature, Babbel Live, enables you to connect with tutors without leaving the platform.
Be sure to check out my Babbel Review.
With its trialled and tested method, Pimsleur is one of the most effective and slickest language learning resources of its type.
It’s a great way to learn a language by yourself, placing a strong emphasis on aural and pronunciation skills, with less detail around grammar, reading, or writing than many other language courses.
Whilst you will not have face-to-face interaction with a tutor like on italki, the Pimsleur app and desktop versions are smart, user-friendly, and packed with a variety of content that balances vocabulary, daily scenarios, and culture in a way that is digestible even for complete beginners.
Pimsleur offers all users a Free 7 Day Trial.
Be sure to check out my Pimsleur Review.
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