As I run a language learning resource website, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “What resources should I use to learn x language”. Unless it’s a language I have already started then I have absolutely no idea but I can help with the types of resource that you need to select.
First, it is alway a good idea to figure out what type of learner you are. It’s quite simple to do and I talk about it a bit more in this post.
The most important thing is experimenting and finding out what works for you. Language learning is not a “one size fits all” subject. I’m sure many will disagree with my method but it is what works for me.
I know plenty of people who advise just to find a good grammar book to get started but I really don’t like them (I mean the grammar books, the people are lovely). If I try to sit down and work through a grammar book I am normally asleep by the end of page 6 and that’s only if page 5 is the contents.
What I normally do is create a pool of resources, choosing one from each category and sort out a routine from there. I’ll write a post on how to create a low impact routine shortly and then link it from here.
I’ve added links to the sections of the library you need below, after selecting the link, you just need to select the language.
Lessons and Speaking Practice
For me this is the most important one, speaking is the hardest skill to master and the one that we tend to practice least. The problem is, it is a complex skill and if you don’t do it then you can get good at it.
Imagine trying to drive a car from just reading about it – it just doesn’t work. This is the same.
If you are struggling to get started with speaking then check out this post.
My all time favorite resource for lessons is iTalki, the lessons are surprisingly cheap but fantastic. I’ve had a lot of fantastic teachers and speaking partners through this site. If you have never checked it out then you definitely should.
For Spanish I am using Baselang. Like iTalki, this is amazing and highly effective. The biggest advantage to Baselang is that it is only $129 for totally unlimited lessons. However, It’s only of benefit if you are consistently having at least 10-12 lessons a month.
Reading is one of the best ways to pick up vocabulary. The more you read, the faster you get at it and the more vocab you pick up. Very quickly you will start gaining vocab from the context and words in context are so much easier to remember.
Olly Richards wrote a fantastic post on it.
I also often use graded readers. These are fiction books written for your level. For these I use Kindle Unlimited, that way I can read my way through lots of them without breaking the bank. If you have never heard of it, it’s a service by Amazon that allows you to “rent” books.
Video is also a fantastic source of input. I choose this over audio where possible as the visual queues you get when watching often make it easier to understand.
Podcasts are a fantastic resource and there are a ton of them. It may take a while to find one that you really like. It would probably be a good idea to ask the guys in our Facebook group for recommendations in the language you are learning.
Using the Pod101.com sites are always also a good place to start, theses provide audio lessons for a cheap monthly subscription.
You can find a list of the available languages on the Innovative Language page.
Other resources I would recommend to get you started are Michel Thomas or Pimsleur. Sign up to audible to get these cheaply. Check out the links below to get this even cheaper.
For Italian and Spanish, I have also been using Glossika. This is an audio version of a spaced repetition program. This is highly effective and the Glossika phrases still often spring to mind.
Did you know that you generally need to see something 7 times before it will come to mind easily? I’ll admit that I heard that in a marketing course so not sure if it is scientific fact or not but from experience it definitely sounds true.
Spaced repetition programs are generally flash card games that present words and phrases to you to periodically to help move them in to long term memory.
Duolingo is a popular free one although I personally prefer MosaLingua or Memrise. Anki is another popular choice but it is a bit more intensive to get up and running so I would recommend starting with one of the others first.
OK, so I told you I hate grammar books but learning grammar itself is unavoidable. Personally for the beginner stages, I only pick up grammar from lessons or I google for specific terms and tenses that I am having difficulty with.
That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you though.
Language learning is hard and the most important thing is building a sustainable routine. I failed learning languages in the past because I kept trying to do it alone. To keep at it, you need support.
If you don’t already have a support network, then here are a few simple ideas to get you started
- Post on Facebook, tell all of your friends you are learning.
- Search for and find some appropriate Facebook groups
- If you need additional help like I did first time round, then you could benefit from joining a community like the Add1Challenge.
I wrote more about it in this post: Go From Beginner to Winner with the Add1Challenge
Put it all together….
If you select one resource from each section above then you should be in a really strong position for learning your target language. If you try a resource (especially a free one) and it’s not working, then try something else. Your time is too precious to spend it working through a resource that doesn’t match your interests or learning style.
If you are just starting out and don’t know how to progress, try it out and let me know how you get on in the comments below.