Now we have talked about how we are going to learn a language, it’s useful to find some tools and resources to make sure we can learn. Depending on what language you are learning, this will be more easy or difficult to find. For example French or Spanish have a lot of resources to learn, but Welsh or basque…not so much.
With that in mind i’m linking to some general resources as well as the Welsh resources I’ve specifically tried using.
One of the best tools you can get your hands on is a decent frequency list. You could buy a paper dictionary, or use wikipedias free online ones which include many languages.
A nice trick is to save the language you are learning to the home screen so you have an icon you can click on to take you to the list, like an app (but not).
Once you’ve got your most important words, you are going to need to revise them via spaced repetition. There are a lot of glorified flash card (that’s the analogue equivalent) apps which will help you to do this. The two I’d recommend are Anki, which is a more traditional flash card app with built in reminders. And Memrise which has sharable lists you can access. This means you maybe able to find your frequency list already set up, or a list of basic phrases as well. Perfect to get going
If you need to know a particular translation of a word, then Google translation is a pretty decent tool. Be warned, it get’s worse the more complex the translation. Here are a couple of general points.
1. A concrete noun [solid object] will be more accurate than an abstract noun [an idea or principle]. That is because usually we can agree on what a solid object is. Sometimes abstract ideas have one or two names in one language.
2. Phrases and sentences are more likely to be wrong.
Reading and news sources
It’s a really good idea to find something based on your interests to follow and read. I recommend doing a Google search and then using an app like Flipboard, apple news or an RSS client to follow that reading source. remember to make sure it is something you are interested in. Social networks can work too and may seem more appealing as people share shorter messages, however in reality these shorter messages often contain more complicated/“incorrect” grammar to make something fit. Just look at your last tweet and tell me if you could use this in a letter or say it to a friend.
That means it usually worth waiting a bit before you start following, especially Twitter.
Podcasts are a great source of information and language on a topic that you are interested in. I really recommend overcast or Pocketcasts over the apple client. Overcast is probably the best unless you really want a desktop client.
Music can be a really great way to learn a language as well, often a good song will be good even if you have no idea what people are saying. They often include poetic phrases and expressions that are useful for higher levels as well as common expressions in conversations. The pronunciation of words can be different in songs though as we often change how we say a word to make it fit a melody.
Videos have some clear advantages over just listening to something. Videos provide visual clues as well as audio clues for what is going on. That means that watching a video on a topic means you’ll feel entertained or informed even if you have no idea what they are saying, plus you will be more able to work out the meaning of words purely from the context they are said in.
Language exchanges are a great way to learn a language in a natural and interesting way. The type of exchange you have can vary from person to person with one extreme being a full blown traditional lesson and the other being a conversation, perhaps with the odd correction of your errors. If you are a beginner, it’s more likely to look like the former than the latter. there are many language exchange groups that you can find across the Internet and these provide great opportunities to learn and practice.
Meeting face to face
Although language exchanges are great, just meeting someone can be valuable as well, especially once you have a foundation in a language. This allows you to talk about whatever topic you like and you will probably not have to share your own mother tongue in exchange (meaning more practice and on a topic you are interested in.)
Language learning apps
A final set of apps to consider are language learning apps. These will often follow a specific course structure with explicit focus on a grammar point and set of vocabulary. These are a great way to get good information on a language which can help you learn one but I recommend you don’t use one as your only means of learning. Using some of the cultural resources will boost your interest in a language giving you greater motivation,
- Duolingo – Learn Languages for Free
- busuu – Language Learning. Learn Spanish, French, English, Italian & German Languages with Free Lessons
- Learn Spanish, English, French, Italian, German and many more languages with Babbel
Language learning audio sets
If you have a commute, an audio set can be a great way to learn a language. In fact I got my foundation in Russian via Michel Thomas’s audio course, it gave me a great foundation in the grammar and vocabulary so I could build on it easily later. Often,these courses are targeted either at phrases for travelers or highly unlikely sentences like “the lettuce, is on the table”.
- Michel Thomas Method: French Foundation Course (Unabridged)
- Michel Thomas Method: Spanish Foundation Course (Unabridged)
- Michel Thomas Method: German Foundation Course (Unabridged)
- Michel Thomas Method: Italian Foundation Course (Unabridged)
- Michel Thomas Method: Arabic Foundation Course (Unabridged)
- Michel Thomas Method: Mandarin Chinese Foundation Course (Unabridged)I’m sure there are many more great apps out there which can help people learn a language so if you know of a good one. Leave a comment below.