Learning a language is like setting out on an adventure. You will face ups and downs, you will weather unexpected twists and turns, and at the end of the day you’ll be so glad that you did it.
Everyone’s language-learning adventure is a little different. But there are the 8 best language learning tools—that everyone should have in their toolkit:
- Flash cards (virtual or old-fashioned
- Social apps to stay connected
- Rocket Languages Interactive Audio lessons
- A textbook (don't worry - just one!)
- A small notebook
- A progress log
- TV shows downloaded in your target language
- Plenty of rewards
1. Flash cards (virtual or old-fashioned)
Love them or hate them, flash cards are useful. Luckily, thanks to your smartphone, you no longer have to lug around thick packs of index cards or spend hours writing them by hand (although this is definitely helpful if you’re a kinesthetic learner).
Carry half-size index cards for quick practice during a commute or lunch break. At the end of each study session, separate your cards into two stacks: words and phrases that you know pretty well (Stack A) and words and phrases that you definitely need to keep practicing (Stack B). The next day, mix Stack B in with a completely new deck of vocabulary words. Repeat this, and at the close of the week, review all of your words.
If you’d rather go digital, use the Rocket Languages app for spaced repetition cards that you can access via your computer or phone. We've got some pre-curated flash cards for you, but you are welcome to create your own!
2. Social apps to stay connected
Language is for communication. So one of the best ways for language learners to learn is to actually communicate in it.
Connect with native speakers using mobile apps like Hello Talk. Help someone with English, and they will be all too happy to help you practice your language.
Or if you’re a fan of friend-making apps like Bumble BFF, set your location to a target-language country to chat with everyday people.
Not only will you improve your communication skills, but you will also have an incentive to keep learning—if you don’t, you can’t stay connected to your friends!
3. Rocket Languages Interactive Audio lessons
I get it. You’re busy. It’s hard to fit a new language into your jammed schedule. When you have your hands full—figuratively or literally—it’s impossible to sit down with a pack of flash cards or even navigate an app.
For on-the-go learning, download thirty-minute Rocket Languages audio lessons, each of which will walk you through conversations, grammar concepts, speaking practice, and general language skills. No hands required.
You can also stock up on language-learning podcasts, such as the Coffee Break series or News in Slow.
4. A textbook (don’t worry—just one!)
If you attempted a language in school, textbooks may be the bane of your existence—for good reason. They’re often dry, dull and outdated. They can’t help you hear the way a language is spoken, and they can’t offer feedback on your pronunciation in the way that natives or Rocket Record can.
However, textbooks can actually serve a purpose if you use them in conjunction with other materials. If you’re a tactile learner who needs to hold something or a verbal learner who needs to read and write, textbooks can be a useful reference point during your studies.
When you’re stuck on a grammar concept, you may find it helpful to pull explanations from many different sources, including Rocket Languages, podcasts and, yes, a textbook.
5. A small notebook
Notebooks are old school, and you may prefer the “Notes” feature on your phone. But don’t rule out keeping a physical notebook, especially if everything else you use is digital. There’s something magical about a pen and paper.
This notebook should be palm-sized: small enough to fit into your pocket and easy to whip out on the go. Whenever you come across an unknown word—whether that’s in a foreign country, when chatting with a native speaker on Skype or when watching a show in a different language—write it down. Every time you think of a grammar question or wonder why something is the way it is, write that down as well.
Look up the answers the next time you study, and record them in the notebook so that you can review at a moment’s notice.
6. A progress log
This could be a calendar that you hang on your wall to visualize each day’s goals, or a pocket-sized planner full of to-do lists. All that matters is that it’s a visual representation of your progress.
When you complete everything on your list, cross off the entire day. If you notice a lot of days aren’t crossed off, you’ll realize that you’ve been slacking and whip yourself back into shape.
7. TV shows downloaded in your target language
Learning a language isn’t all flashcards, grammar lessons and vocabulary drills. In fact, if that’s all you ever do, then you’ll burn out, fast.
Keep something fun in your language-learning toolkit. Browse target-language websites to save foreign movies directly onto your phone, or download shows for offline use with apps like Netflix.
If you’re not a TV/film buff, grab some mobile games or music in your target language instead. As long as it’s fun, it’s a good resource to supplement your regular studies.
Of course, you can’t passively consume this information; studies show that doesn’t work. Ten minutes of focused studying is often more effective than one hour of passive listening. However, if you pay attention, decipher words using context clues and repeat lines out loud, you’ll improve your speaking, listening and reading—all while having fun.
8. Plenty of rewards
Learning a language is hard, sometimes thankless work. Of course, it’s its own reward—but why not give yourself an extra boost?
In addition to long-term goals (like becoming a polyglot), set short-term, actionable and measurable milestones. Is your long-term goal to reach a B2 level in Italian by the end of the year? Than an actionable short-term goal is to learn one hundred words a week.
Reward yourself for these milestones. The rewards could be anything from watching that new show you’ve always wanted to try, to finally buying that new novel you’ve had your eye on, to even purchasing tickets to a target language country.
Got everything you need?
If so, then you’re ready to begin your language-learning journey. Head over to the Rocket Languages course page to get started with quality language learning software. Or check out more language learning tips here.
Post by guest blogger Jamie McGhee: Jamie McGhee is a novelist, playwright and aspiring polyglot currently making her way through East Africa with a backpack.