Travel lovers everywhere have spent the last months feeling kind of down, which is inevitable.
To get through this flightless period, I have been working on improving my Spanish and generally learning languages (Japanese is up first). After all, what better feeling than knowing that when I eventually (please) get to another country, I can actually speak in the local language?! With loads of grammatical errors and an accent that will get me laughed at, BUT STILL.
In my experience, even knowing some basics in a country’s local language will help you out immensely. People react to you differently. Simply knowing that you made a decent effort to communicate with them gets you a whole different reception and connection upon arrival.
Of course, learning a language is challenging. It requires time, effort, and consistent dedication. However, there are plenty of resources online – some of which are free! – to help you.
If you want to learn a new language and need help knowing where to start, check out the six websites below. I generally recommend using a combination of sites and methods. Each website tends to be best for one particular aspect of language learning.
So for example, if you want to focus on vocabulary at the moment, or listening, there are websites geared towards those things. However, to really study a language, you’re going to eventually need to use all these methods.
Also, if you want to win up to three free language courses from the first website on the list, which you will have access to for life, enter the competition below by July 10!
This is one of the best websites for rapidly increasing your vocabulary in your target language. Full disclosure: they approached me to try their website and give an honest review a few weeks ago, and I have been INCREDIBLY happy with my experience, so I am now sharing it with you.
Though many use Duolingo for vocabulary, I would argue LearnLanguages24 is several steps up for a few reasons:
First of all, it utilizes spaced repetition as a learning mechanism. For those who don’t know, spaced repetition is incredibly important in getting a word to stick in your mind. Basically, words you review now will get brought up repeatedly in the future, but words you know better will be spaced out further, while words you have difficulty with will be drilled more often.
This way, I find that even when I haven’t used the website for a few days, my recall is so much better when I start up again. Alternately, with Duolingo, I tend to keep seeing words I know really well, and will always forget the difficult words that only pop up once in a while. LearnLanguages24 is more tailored to a specific student’s vocabulary knowledge and learning stage.
The website also uses short stories/dialogues to help you see new vocabulary in the context of a conversation. There is background music that has been proven to help you focus and acquire words faster, but you have the option to turn it off as well.
Full courses range from $20 to $60, depending on how advanced a course you want, BUT if you use my promo code, you can buy a language course and get a second language for free!
How many people do you know who studied French for all of high school, yet can only return a completely blank stare when actually spoken to by a French person?
Be honest: is that person you?
If it is, don’t feel too bad. The way we learn in school isn’t generally geared towards improving our conversation skills in any given language. I don’t know about your studies, but conversation is probably what I spent the least time doing in my language classes. And conversations with native speakers? Almost never.
Italki.com offers the perfect solution to this. If you are rusty in a language, or learning one and want to try talking with a native speaker, you can find a language partner entirely for free on Italki. The idea is that you should find a language partner who speaks your target language and wants to learn your native language. That way, you can do a kind of language exchange and help each other out.
There are also community tutors and professional teachers on Italki who will tailor a whole lesson for you, but for a price. This can range anywhere from $4 to $20 an hour, depending on the tutor’s experience level and country of residence.
If you want to get your conversational skills up to snuff, which is the best thing to work on if you have a trip coming up soon, Italki is the way to go.
When we learn languages as toddlers, we don’t acquire most of it through flashcards or textbooks. Our initial language acquisition is through hearing words and phrases and learning to repeat and use them in the right context.
Yet another believer in spaced repetition, Glossika tailors their learning to your particular language level, and seeks to recreate the way humans learn languages naturally. They believe that using full sentence practice, as they call it, helps you learn pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary all at once.
The one downside to Glossika is that it costs $25-$30 monthly, but for access to all languages. It is a very extensive and comprehensive language course, and especially if you plan to learn more than one language, it’s worth it in my opinion.
Language Learning With Netflix (Listening/Comprehension)
Who doesn’t want to watch Netflix for an hour and chalk it up to productivity?
With the boom in quality foreign language shows on Netflix, there’s probably a Japanese movie, Spanish serial, or Brazilian drama that you’ve been dying to watch (or one that your friend who won’t shut up about film theory has highly recommended).
Language Learning With Netflix provides subtitles for series on Netflix. You might ask, doesn’t Netflix already give that option as well? Yes, BUT here’s where Language Learning With Netflix does it much better.
Not only can you get subtitles in the target language (which always helps me when I’ve missed or didn’t understand a word someone spoke) and subtitles in your native language, you can also look up literally any word in the dialogue by just hovering your mouse over it.
The entire dialogue runs on a sidebar to your right, you can skip back and forth if you missed the last line or want to re-hear something, and you can even control the speed of speech. For many Spanish series, I tend to play them at 90% speed, which helps me a bit with comprehension, the goal being to eventually make it up to 100%.
Language Learning With Netflix is available as a Chrome extension, so make sure to do all watching on your computer.
I am currently watching Cable Girls (Las Chicas del Cable), which is a great Spanish series which takes place in 1920s Madrid, with extraordinarily pretty people. I highly recommend it, both for the Spanish and the general prettiness.
I wouldn’t recommend ReadLang for beginners, as I think students should have a good sense of basic vocabulary and grammar before trying to read websites in their target language.
However, those who are at a more intermediate or advanced level in their language learning should head over to ReadLang. The service is a browser extension that translates words and phrases you come across on a website written in your target language.
Though you can read almost anything, people like to use ReadLang to read blogs and news sites in their target language, as this provides a wide array of content and vocabulary you can learn.
You can use ReadLang for free, with unlimited word translations but limited phrase translation per day, or pay $5/month for the premium version, which allows you unlimited translations all around.
What language do you want to learn next? Comment below!