Best resources to learn a language fast

It can be daunting to learn a new language quickly. Anytime I’ve learnt a new language, I’ve felt self-conscious even practicing it, let alone engaging in conversations with native speakers. Yet, it’s an essential skill if you’re spending significant time abroad. Perhaps your circumstances even require you to learn multiple languages, as it has for me.

Before reading this article, I would strongly recommend doing this quiz to determine what your preferred learning style is, which will get you to the end result much faster! For example, it revealed that I am an auditory learner, which means I learn best by listening. It’s important to realise that attempting to learn through another method would be slower and more frustrating, possibly even causing you to abandon your language training altogether.

Once you know your learning style, here are nine resources to help you learn a new language quickly and confidently.

Improve your language skills through listening

1. Use language-learning apps and websites.

Language training has received a huge boost from technology. Whether it’s changing the language on your phone, the language on your browser, or pursuing more structured options online, there is a myriad of avenues to choose. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Anki: It uses intelligent flashcards to help you memorize the vocabulary.
  • Livemocha: It allows you to interact with native speakers, providing lessons in more than 35 languages. 
  • VOA Learning English: This site specifically designed to help English learners. I found VOA five years ago and it has been a great resource, featuring more than 10,000 stories and 3,000 videos designed for simplicity and speed. It won’t just help you learn English; it will help you with American history, culture, economics, and more.
  • BBC Languages: In its “Quick Fix” section, BBC Languages showcases useful phrases in 40 languages. Besides this, the site’s strong suit is the comprehensive lessons it offers in various languages. For instance, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Chinese.  

Not satisfied? You can review three more apps.

2. Listen to podcasts.

Listening is one of the foundational methods of learning to communicate in a foreign language. Luckily for us, it’s also one of the easiest to fit into a busy schedule since you can listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and audio lessons while you’re exercising, driving, or enjoying any other activity.

The podcasts below are specifically designed to help English learners. They are my three favourite podcasts that I listen to during my lunch break each day: 

Subscribe to these podcasts on your device. And, if you’re more advanced and want native podcasts, change your location in iTunes and browse local podcasts from your country of choice.

Studio for podcast

3. Watch TED Talks.

These short videos are entertaining and inspirational, plus they come with subtitles and interactive transcripts. TED has over 100 languages available—just use the language dropdown to select whichever language you wish. As you become more adventurous, try to understand the videos in the language you are learning without the transcripts.

Here are my four favourite TED Talks:  

Read and learn new vocabulary

4. Read books.

Reading in your second language can be as fun or as challenging as you want to make it. However, it does require effort, which is one essential attribute for learning a new language. In addition, read widely, whether it’s magazines, blogs, children’s books, biographies—anything you can get your hands on.

Otherwise, if you don’t have the means to be able to order books, visit your local library. Track down your favourite books from your childhood, and relive the fond memories in a new language! If you want an idea of where to start, here are 5 Life-changing Books to Help You Make an Impact.  

Here are three simple reading strategies that helped me improve my understanding of the text, and will work just as well for you:

  • Annotate the text: You know how your parents always forbid you to write in books? I’m giving you permission to ignore their rules. Annotating books is a great way to become an active reader.
  • Guess the word meaning from the context: All too often we reach for the dictionary before we try to work out what the word means from the context. Instead, try and ascertain the meaning of unfamiliar words from context alone, and you’ll learn the new language much faster.
  • Talk to people about the book: What’s the point of learning a new language if you don’t use it to interact with others!? In short, be excited and proud to test out your new skills, whether it’s with friends, on solo outings, or in a book club.

Reading

5. Use recipes.

Similarly, cooking is a wonderful way to explore the gastronomic culture and bring people together for a fun time. Search for recipes in your target language and give them a try. You can even host your own cooking show in your target language, from the comfort of your home.

Practice what you have learnt

6. Talk to native speakers.

This tip is going to catapult you towards fluency, no matter how many mistakes you’re making (there will be lots!) or how nervous you might feel. In other words,the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll become comfortable, so start now. 

7. Do quizzes and competitions.

Adding in an element of competitiveness can catapult you to fluency quickly. The European Day of Languages site has some great ideas for this.Quizzing other language learnersrs8. Play computer games.

While this might seem a little counterintuitive, but playing computer games in your target language can help you upskill without even feeling like you’re studying! Moreover, if you’re just starting out, play an online game in English for language learnerslike Free Rice—which currently has German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin in their foreign language category.

9. Choose a partner in crime.

We all know the power of accountability in achieving a goal in any field. As Tony Stubblebine (CEO of Coach.me) points out: “You’re 50% more likely to succeed in your goal if you know at least one other person doing it.” As a result, pick at least one friend to study with, or better yet, compete with. Moreover, not only is it more fun to learn with other living, breathing human beings, but a little friendly competition can significantly boost your results. 

Have you got a tip of your own to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

Author: Khuloud Kalthoum

Khuloud is a 30-year old social entrepreneur, engineer and TEDx speaker. Syrian currently living in Portugal, where she decided to start SPEAK Braga. Life brought her here & she loves it. She is fluent in Arabic, English and Portuguese.

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