There are a few free apps that I have found to be very helpful and I use them almost on a daily basis.
- Duolingo – This is designed to help you learn a language but it is best used as a practice alongside your studies. The notes they give are very short and are almost just reminders. It gives you a lot of vocab to learn which is separated into sections. Just be aware that their notes/lessons only show on a laptop or computer, not on Ipad/mobile phone. If you are using it as a practice app, the notes won’t matter as much seeing that you would have already covered the topic before.
- Cram – This is a virtual app for flashcards. Instead of having to buy numerous flashcards, you can type your words in the app and you can have separate sets of cards. If you’re not fussy about the presentation and just want the use of flashcards, this is good for you. Bear in mind that you will have to type every word and its translation out, but take that as more practice.
- Google Translate – This is very useful, it has a wide range of languages and the translations are being constantly improved. However as with all translation apps, sometimes it comes up with a literal translation rather than something that would be more commonly used/said.
- Babbel – This is another app like Duolingo where it hopes to teach you a language through itself alone. Personally I don’t use this as much, but if you’re studying a language that needs a lot of work phonetically, this has a lot of phrases that can be practiced orally.
- Memrise – I find that this has better pronunciations than Duolingo but it is just a side app to help you learn some phrases. It also helps with repetition and memorizing new words.
Just a little note: when looking for source of study for your new language, keep in mind that there will be different accents in that language. It’s best if you pick a particular accent you want to imitate and stick with it.
Also there will be specific apps for your chosen language so do a little research and find what suits you.
This is the end of the Languages series, I hope you enjoyed it and found something useful. Although it is very language centric, you can also use some of these tips for learning other skills or just to apply it to your everyday life.
Till our next meeting,
These are just suggestions of different tools and mediums to help you learn and hopefully keep things interesting. Variation is key because doing the same thing repeatedly can be demotivating and may have a diminishing effect.
- Music – This is an enjoyable way not to necessarily learn a lot but to get used to the way it sounds and see if you can pick anything up. If you manage to understand some words, you’d probably be able to pick them up in conversations. Whilst listening to music hopefully it’ll do something subconsciously.
- Interviews – Find an actor or celebrity, someone you’re interested who’s a native in that language and find some interviews. These are a good way to observe a normal or sometimes slightly formal conversation and get used to the flow. It will also be very interesting to you and may motivate you to study some more! Keep in mind that whatever they’re talking about, it’s likely to be on one topic so be sure to study others.
- Short Stories – Depending on your level of study, these may be children or adult short stories. Nevertheless they help you with reading, grammar and are short enough to keep your attention because doing things in another language takes more effort. If these are on audio, you can also do some dictation practice with them.
- Youtubers – Youtube is an unlimited world for language practice. You can probably find people from any country and they are the best examples in daily conversational language. You’ll also find a lot of different people who speak that language, so you can get used to the difference in the way they talk.
- Documentaries – This is probably for more advanced learners as the pace is often quite fast and the vocab quite advanced. They are really good for practicing your listening skills and learning something new. They will be more official and formal than a conversation so when you’re speaking you probably don’t want to imitate them too much, you might come off as stand offish.
- Movies – Movies are again a good way to learn about the culture, way of life and how normal conversations are conducted. You can learn a lot about their slang and how it may differ from the textbooks. Try to watch without any subtitles then with subtitles in that language and study it through the movie. Your aim is to learn but maybe you could watch it first in your native language before studying it, which makes it easier. Watching with your native subtitles will do little to help so don’t bother with that.
- Exams – Past papers are a good way to practice your reading, listening and writing. They have different levels of difficulty and answers are often given so you can follow along easily. They usually cover a general range of topics that can get you up to a conversational level.
- Cartoons – This may be tedious and boring to a lot of learners but at the end of the day, if your language is at the level of a child, you’ll have to learn at that stage. It isn’t as boring as you think because you’ll be too busy trying to understand everything that’s being said regardless of the story. This will also encourage you to move on to a higher level quicker!
- Books – This again depends on your level in the language. If you’re a beginner, you will be looking for books catered towards young children. They help a lot with vocab, grammar and are often quite short. If you are at a more advance level, obviously there is a wider choice.
Till our next meeting,
Vocab is often separated under different topics so it is easy to work through and you’re able to associate the different words together. There are many ways of learning vocab depending on your preferred method but the key is repetition. This can be done through the use of flash cards or simply writing them repeatedly. I find that using them in sentences helps a lot. This reinforces their meaning and their use. The key is not to overload your mind with so many new words within a short period of time. As your vocab grows, you will need to revisit the older words from time to time. Obviously the words that you use the most often are being practiced there and then.
It can be quite daunting know where to start, having to learn a new word for everything. There are the obvious sections such as family, home, food etc. After that it is really up to you where you want to go. This is one of the great things about learning languages on your own. You can choose what to learn according to your interests. By learning according to your interests, it gives you motivation to remember the words and won’t be as tiresome. You will always be picking up new words in whatever you do within that language. The important thing is to look up a word that you don’t understand when you come across it. That way, you can build up words that you wouldn’t think to learn or slang/ common phrases.
One of the things that put people off from starting a new language is the tiresome task of learning of grammar. It is one of the most demotivating things that has to be done and that is never ending (in its practice). When starting your grammar, it’s pretty essential to start early. With so much to cover, there has to be a plan of what to learn otherwise you’d just be lost and give up. Another important thing that doesn’t occur to a lot of people is to learn the meaning of each tense and how it’s used. Through this, you’ll have made a start and it won’t seem so alien to you. Obviously we first learn the present tense and then the past and future. We’re clear on what they mean and how they’re used…or we should be. After that, there isn’t a strict list to follow.
A crucial thing to note is that you’re learning as new language and so its grammar rules and other various rules do NOT have to fit into what you know within your native language. By trying to learn a new language within the parameters of what you’ve learnt for your own language will hinder your progress. Obviously when you’re learning a language that’s close to your own (for me – English), such as French, Spanish etc, then it’s possible to follow along and learn grammar according to what you know.
Anyway that’s enough for now I think.. Good luck!
Till we next meet,
Learning a language is something you have to keep at and it is a long-term choice if you are to learn it well and progress. There are many sources of motivation at the same time there can be a lot of de-motivating things and some will depend on your character. It will be easier for example if you are someone who has a passion for languages, if you’re a particularly stubborn or competitive person. There can be a lot of character traits that can be put to good use for learning a language.
The root of your motivation will be why you wanted to study this language in the first place. This could be due to someone else being able to speak it or just wanting to know what certain people are saying. This reason was strong enough to motivate you to decide to start learning a language and sometimes if you go back to this reason it will give you extra encouragement. For me, the decider was because I was frustrated at not being able to understand a few interviews that had no subtitles. However I have always loved languages and been interested in it since I was young but never got round to it.
Depending on your preferred learning method/ learning aid, you could find a friend to learn with; you can encourage and practice with each other. You can also promote some friendly competition and push each other. However try to ensure that you are both serious about it because if one of you drops out, it will likely impact the other negatively. Having a friend lets you have someone who is going through the same thing as you are and may understand some of the things you don’t. You can use visual aids whether that be coloured pens, pictures etc. I assume that there is no deadline in learning this language so you can take your time learning however much you like and making it look all pretty. You can then look back at it with pride and it will also help you understand better if you’re revising. For me, I am fine with a notebook that keeps all lessons together as well as my practice exercises. It will end up being a kind of personalized textbook for you that you will understand the best. Use different sources and change things up to keep you engaged.
You might find it helpful to create a schedule that disciplines yourself or like me, you’re more a go by feelings person. Keeping a schedule has its obvious advantages such as constantly learning the language and keeping it up however if you force yourself to do it, you may learn next to nothing and so it’ll be a waste of time. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like doing it for some time, you need breaks but when you come back to it make sure you haven’t forgotten the essentials. I have phases where I am really into it and can do more than an hour every day to times when I don’t want to look at it at all for weeks on end. Obviously if this often occurs it will hamper your progress. The good thing about languages is that even the smallest things you do can be beneficial. This could be simply reading over your notes or listening to music in that language. Whatever you do in relation to the language will almost certainly help your four skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing.
A common de-motivation is taking on too much at once. This will depend on the similarity of the language to your own. If it is completely different from your native language you will obviously need to spend more time learning the basics and creating a solid foundation before you move on. For example for me this could be Russian or Mandarin or Arabic because they have different alphabets/characters to English and they also have different sounds accompanying them. Therefore I would spend a lot longer on memorizing the writing, the sounds and shapes. If the language is similar to your own, you will need to take care to not use your own language as a basis for the one you’re trying to learn. This will make it harder to learn and understand the new language. You need to approach it with a clean slate and an open mind. A common thing that people do is to implement their own grammar rules to the new language. They’re so set in their grammatical rules that the new language’s rules don’t make any sense to them and they become disheartened. I understand that in the beginning you may need to place certain things you’ve learnt into the categories of your own language to memorise things. Just make sure not to let your own preconceived notions of what’s linguistically correct to affect your learning. Sometimes noticing patterns or commonalities in the language for example in certain conjugations can give you a motivation boost as you feel like you’re actually progressing and have a better grip on the language.
Track your progress. This can be simply done by looking back through your notes and seeing how much you’ve done. You can also try watching a movie or listening to music in that language. However be prepared not to understand every single word even with at least a year of learning the language you will not understand it all. It is easy to become de-motivated because you may not think that you’ve progressed very far at all.
Till our next meeting,
Here are a few steps that will hopefully get you set up. This is only through my own experience and it is something that works for me. It probably works more for those who have a more traditional way of learning (writing and repeating). If it doesn’t work… don’t blame me, I sort of made all of this up.
- Find a source to learn from, this may be through a book, website (my preference) etc. You will be looking for something that has steps you can follow. This will be your ‘home page’ of learning, kind of the backbone of your lessons. The difficulty of finding these resources will depend on the popularity of the language. For me, when looking for a website I look for a very structured, organized and mostly complete website. Books are usually already ordered; try to make sure that they have almost all the grammar so you don’t need several books. The most important section will be grammar, as vocab will be easy to find elsewhere. If it is structured it will make it easier for you to follow through the list and learn each section as a lesson. This will help you feel organized and will ensure that you don’t start at a random place with a lot of difficulty. Usually you should start with learning the alphabet and sounds and then begin to learn about the gender of nouns if there are any.
- I have a workbook or notebook where I make notes on and write examples etc and eventually you will have several lessons or sections in your book and can learn off them independent of the website. By writing all this down, it helps me understand what is being said and helps me remember (you may need to read it a few times). It will also give you a little motivation to be able to see your progress.
- Start learning vocab; I usually start once I have reached the present tense section of the grammar. It doesn’t really matter when you start learning it but make sure that your grammar is priority as it will be the foundation of the language. There won’t be any point of having a lot of vocab without knowing how to use it. You will also be learning vocab from the grammar examples.
- Set a schedule… or don’t. It is completely up to you, whatever works best for you but keep in mind that as with everything, the more you do, the more you learn. However don’t force yourself when you really don’t feel up to it because you will learn next to nothing and become frustrated.
- Use a variety of sources on the side so that you can develop all the skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
- Last of all, start now. Don’t think of yourself as being too old, we’re talking about learning a language, not ballet. Just think, if you’re 60 and you start now, at 61 you will have learnt it for a year and can probably speak it conversationally… or at least recall a few words. Keep at it!!
Till our next meeting,
Learning a language is one of the most fulfilling experiences. It opens a whole new world to you where you can explore a new culture, way of life and people. This can then help you grow personally and ‘widen your horizons’ as they say. This can be a new hobby for you and it will keep you occupied for probably the rest of your life should you choose to stick with it. Learning a language, much like learning how to play an instrument is very mentally stimulating. It keeps your mind active and busy.
For me, I have always loved learning languages. Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort, but it is very enriching. As I said, it opens up a whole new world. It all started when I would go to different countries and be uncomfortable with the fact that I couldn’t understand anything. You can feel lost and annoyed at having to rely on making your own assumptions and deductions in order to grasp the situation. I realised that learning the whole language may seem dramatic to some but I had some interest in it before, that was just a prompt for me to start.
Obviously you shouldn’t learn a language if you have no interest in it. It takes a lot of time and dedication to reach a level where you can communicate comfortably. Honestly, even deciding to further your knowledge in your native language is a task in itself. I suppose what’s so fascinating about languages is the fact that you will never finish learning everything because there’s just so much to learn. Language is also evolving all the time. New words are being added to the dictionaries yearly.
With that being said, this will be a kind of series where I talk about learning a new language and hopefully you’ll find some use out of it.
Till our next meeting,