Learn all you need to know about finding and using awesome music for all your language learning needs.
Plus: Get your free PDF guide of language learning playlists.Read More
Learn all you need to know about finding and using awesome music for all your language learning needs.
Plus: Get your free PDF guide of language learning playlists.Read More
If you’re ready to set up your own online teaching business, here are the tools that we think you absolutely need to start your business.Read More
Every month, I share my personal language goals and progress here on the blog. Right now, I’m learning Welsh and Mandarin Chinese. This post is a motivating glimpse into “polyglot life”, which is far from perfect...but it does involve wine.Read More
Add some new ideas to your language studies this summer with our popular roundup of this season's hottest language learning resources and tools.Read More
Do you dream of learning another language, but you’re not quite sure how to start?
Maybe you’ve recently downloaded your first language learning app, but you’re not quite sure how to go from screen to reality.
Or if you learnt a language in the past and want to refresh your skills, you’re wondering if the world has anything new to offer besides weekly evening classes at the community centre.
Congratulations to you! This is an exciting time. If you’re feeling curious but confused about how to teach yourself a language, this is the right article for you.
Today I have 10 simple tips that will make starting your new language a total success and help you stay motivated for many months and maybe even years. They’re perfect for beginners, or learners who need a fresh burst of inspiration.
Let’s get started:
Have you heard about the life changing magic of tidying up? I mean that Marie Kondo book and Netflix show. In Marie Kondo’s world, the simple act of letting go of your less exciting stuff is a way to improve ALL of your life. And that advice works for language learning too!
Before you saddle yourself with the new project of learning another language, it pays to tidy up your mind.
Start with a simple list, asking yourself: “What do I believe about my language learning abilities right now?”
Once all the beliefs are out on paper or screen, examine each one to find out which ones are actually useful to you. In Marie Kondo terms, find the ones that spark joy and throw out all the others. Your brain will be clutter-free and ready for a positive new start!
As you’re currently reading this article, you are probably excited and keen to jump into learning your new language. This is awesome! Let me ask you one more question:
What are your reasons for learning this language?
You have got to know your reasons and hold on to them, because the world is going to start getting distracting. Textbooks and evening classes make lots of assumptions about why you’re learning.
For example, if you’re truly in Japanese class because you love manga, you’ll soon get bored of a textbook for busy travellers. When that happens, it’s easy to assume that you have lost your love for everything in the language.
So make sure you are prepared and do write down what motivates you, and once you get bored you’ll have a letter to open and remember where your true North is pointing.
Every new project deserves some gear. Runners buy shoes, knitters buy wool, and language learners buy notebooks, dictionaries, textbooks and other delightful things.
If you’re someone who loves to start a new project with an optimistic shopping excursion, go ahead and indulge! For tips on what and how to buy, read No More Hoarding! How to Organize All Your Language Learning Resources.
And to save a bit of money, don’t forget that libraries and second-hand shops always stock a few shelves of language resources that you can use.
Beyond your paper resources, your smartphone is an amazing language learning tool. The most famous language learning app you might know is Duolingo, but don’t stop there. Download three, four, seven apps to help you learn. Why not!
Every language learning app uses a slightly different system. Get yourself a whole range of different apps to test drive and make it your goal to find out which one’s the most enjoyable.
It’s easy to start ignoring one app’s notifications when you’ve broken the streak. In fact, my advice is to switch notifications off completely as they can easily make you feel bad about your progress when you’re actually doing well.
For a few tips on how to select a good app, see How to Find a Great Language App.
Research has shown that learners who learn by reading and listening to lots of interesting input at the right level can learn languages up to six times faster than those who study rules and textbook dialogues.
The trick here is to find something you’re interested in: perhaps a fun short story (like in my German Uncovered course), a video game, comic book, or a song.
Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in something you only half understand, see if your brain can start seeing any patterns, and make best friends with your dictionary.
It’s surely challenging, but you’ll be amazed at just how much you can learn just from enjoying something you love.
There are so many cool ways of using music for learning a language that it deserves its own place in this list. You can start by searching online for artists that make your favourite style of music in their language (rap and hip hop are amazing for this), or by investigating local music styles.
Then just hit play and enjoy. To go a little further, you can start reading the lyrics or researching artist interviews. Feeling more ambitious? Attend a concert!
Most people think that they have to wait until they have studied for 50+ hours before they can start expressing anything meaningful in another language. But what if you could flip the script and START by expressing yourself right away?
The trick here is to realise that you don’t have to do this by writing a perfect essay. Expressing how you’re feeling can start with something as simple as one word (“hungry” - “tired” - “headache” - “curious” and so on) and it will help you learn the most relevant and important vocabulary you could ever wish for.
Your act of self-expression can be long like a diary entry or short like a tweet. You can make it by creating a colourful art collage, or by writing the same word in 20 different pens. If you’re feeling brave, you can even share your creation online or record an audio diary.
What matters is that you signal to yourself that you’re ready right now, instead of having to wait for some kind of future level.
While I’m on the subject of avoiding anything that makes you feel like you’re “not good enough yet”, I have another tip that has served me fantastically well with every language I’ve taught myself since I left full-time education:
Make daily contact with the language.
That’s all. No need to study 200 flashcards every day or go through four Duolingo levels. What you want is contact. Switch the radio on, watch a video, say hi to a friend, read a page in a book, do a grammar exercise, it does not matter.
Daily contact is the foundation on which you can build a solid language routine without feeling like it’s driving you around the bend.
Most of the time, we think of social media as a distraction and a waste of time. But there’s another way of looking at it.
Follow accounts that share content in your target language, and you’ll instantly have a cool and relevant library of interesting stuff to study. As you get better and feel confident, start making comments in your target language and creating your own posts.
For more specific tips and a list of the best social networks for language learning, check out this list of 17 tips.
Last year, I interviewed listening expert Cara Leopold for the Fluent Show, who shared this simple lesson on what works well in language learning:
No matter which product you buy or which blog you read, they all have something that will work. The key is finding out whether it will work for you. (“The Miracle Morning” is certainly NEVER gonna do it for me, for example.)
Try Flashcards, try vocab lists, try immersion, try podcasts, try everything that looks interesting in your target language.
Even if you find that it doesn’t work so well for you, it’s unlikely to break your language skills completely.
Have you tried any of these 10 tips for learning another language? Are you just feeling inspired to add these to your routine?
Leave a comment below to join the discussion - I’d love to hear what works best for you.
Habits are the key to building a lasting change and long-term achievement into your life. For language learners, making your study into a habit is just the best. It means you no longer question everything you do and clear the path to just getting on with what you want to accomplish.
I’ve written a short guide taking you step by step through establishing your own healthy language habit, which you can get for free by joining the Fluent Language email newsletter below.
Imagine what you would do if you could easily understand spoken Spanish.
You could finally travel to the Spanish-speaking countries you’ve dreamed of, watch foreign films and addictive telenovelas, or understand a paella recommendation from the _menu del día_on a Thursday in Valencia.
Best of all, you’d be prepared for real conversations with native Spanish-speakers. The only question is: how do you find the time to practice your Spanish listening skills?
Podcasts are a great way to add a little Spanish listening practice into your day-to-day life. They are free, and can accompany any part of your day: driving a car, washing your dishes, doing laundry, working out, reading, and more.
In addition to the Spanish podcasts you’ll find in this article, check out the Fluent Show. That’s my own show, co-hosted by Lindsay Williams, where we discuss languages, learning methods, and how to live a multilingual life.Click here to listen and subscribe.
If you're curious about podcasts, but not quite sure how they work, here's what you need to know:
In this article, you’ll find:
To help you target your Spanish learning goals, this list also specifies whether a podcast uses Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, or offers options for both.
Notes in Spanish is a podcast run by Marina, a native speaker from Spain, and Ben, an Englishman. Each episode is actually a conversation between the two. There are episodes dedicated to beginners as well as intermediate and advanced learners. For beginners, the hosts also go over key vocabulary, phrases, and basic grammar points both before and after their conversations.
Since Ben is also a Spanish learner, he offers a lot of useful tips for listeners while Marina often provides corrections and points out common mistakes. They speak clearly, making it easy for beginners to follow along.
SpanishPod101 from InnovativeLanguage covers the basic through advanced levels of Spanish. The episodes are exciting and immersive. Plus, you can find episodes for both Castilian and Latin American Spanish along with the differences between them. There are even episodes that explain some of the regional vocabulary from places like Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, and Spain.
The dialogues are presented by engaging hosts in a clear, concise way covering many grammatical features and cultural topics. On the website you can sign up for premium content to access spaced repetition flashcards, PDF lesson notes, and a community forum.
Unlimited Spanish with Òscar Pellus uses a unique storytelling technique based on Òscar’s method of learning Spanish through exposure and repetition. Every episode includes a quick story followed by a question and answer session that encourages listeners to practice their speaking skills as well. It’s also a great option for anyone who doesn’t care for lengthy grammar explanations.
Podcast topics include various aspects of Spanish culture, including places and food, as well as social topics and situations. When necessary Òscar touches on some relevant vocabulary and grammar, but it isn’t overwhelming. The podcast is entirely in Spanish, but if you have any trouble understanding, you can download transcripts of every episode in PDF format.
Done entirely in Spanish, this podcast is meant to provide an immersive experience for intermediate to advanced learners. The host, Karo Martínez, is lively, engaging, and speaks both clearly and naturally.
There are over 100 episodes to choose from, some of which explore grammar concepts, offer tips to improve your pronunciation, or explain colloquial expressions. Other episodes talk about different parts of Spain or even how to learn Spanish with popular shows like Game of Thrones.
The Español Automático site offers episode transcripts along with additional guides and resources.
Though this podcast is directed towards those learning Spanish for work, its main goal is to help listeners get used to and understand native, spoken Spanish.
The host, Miguel Lira, is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico and a Spanish learning coach. Each episode goes over a particular conversation exchange in Spanish, such as conversations between workers or while simply ordering coffee. Miguel, as the sole host, uses a different tone of voice for each speaker, which is both entertaining and helpful as you follow along. There are also a few episodes on cultural subjects, like The Day of the Dead in Mexico.
In addition, the website offers notes, transcripts, and other resources to help you review the conversations.
News in Slow Spanish is an intermediate level podcast. This podcast covers world news, grammar, and expressions and slows down all the dialogue to make it easier to process what you hear. Every episode breaks down a point on grammar and vocabulary. It also lets you choose between Castilian and Latin American Spanish.
The audio is very clear and easy to follow. On the website, there are transcripts for each episode available with grammar, expressions, pronunciation, and quizzes.
Yabla is a video-based learning platform with bilingual subtitles and integrated dictionaries. The subtitles are interactive, which is a really cool concept! Check out how Yabla works in detail by reading myfull review.
Yabla is great for all levels from basic to advanced. You can check out their podcast and choose between videos from Spain and Latin America for hours of entertainment.
Coffee Break Spanish, a podcast from Radio Lingua Network, combines Spanish language lessons with a lot of useful information about Spanish food, culture, Spanish speaking countries, and so on.
My favourite part of the podcast is the chemistry between relaxed and charismatic host Mark from Scotland (who is fluent in Spanish) and Spanish learner Kara from Scotland. Mark guides both Kara and listeners through Spanish grammar, conversation, culture, and society.
The dialogues are presented in a clear, concise way, covering many grammatical features and cultural topics. On the website you can sign up for the premium content to access spaced repetition flashcards, PDF lesson notes, and a community forum for a subscription fee.
The Duolingo Spanish Podcast tells real-life stories from all across Latin America. Some of the stories are uplifting and inspiring while others are suspenseful and heartrending. Either way, they really make you want to hear more!
The stories are done partially in Spanish and partially in English, which makes it a great option for more advanced beginners who want to get used to spoken Spanish while still understanding what’s going on.
If you’re interested in a more immersive experience, there are plenty of podcasts intended for native Spanish speakers available.
One great option is the Radio Ambulante podcast. Radio Ambulante is a longform journalism podcast that shares real-life Latin American stories. There are stories about language, sports, education, events, and more. Plus, there are both English and Spanish transcripts available for every episode.
If you want an easy way to access even more Spanish podcasts, go to iTunes and switch your country setting to Spain, Mexico, or any other Spanish speaking country. There’s no restriction on your switch and you’ll be able to access all podcasts in the same way that listeners from those countries can.
This article was written by Cassie Wright and me. She’s a freelance writer who loves languages. Thanks Cassie!
Which podcasts do you listen to for practicing your Spanish? Leave a comment below and share your tips.
Hello and welcome to Clear The List, the monthly language learning round-up about language learning goals and progress. This blog round-up is hosted by my friends Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy, and April marks a full year of my language goal-setting using this process.
The month of April started off very intense and ended a lot more relaxed. That’s how I like it!
In the first week, I was finally lifting the curtain on my new German course, German Uncovered. It’s an incredible feeling when that first student enrols and all the work translates into their language progress. I held a welcome call with co-creator Olly Richards for our first gang.
This month, I was also busy preparing for the next German retreat. These retreats are an amazing opportunity for intermediate and advanced students to visit another country, discover more about culture, and practice their language through immersion. The June edition is now fully booked for German, and you can get on that waiting list for the next event if you like.
What a month! I was so proud to release my interview with one of my favourite language authors, Dr Roger Kreuz who wrote Becoming Fluent. Roger is a psychology professor and associate dean at the University of Memphis, and our conversation about language learning was wonderful and inspiring.
If you follow the Fluent Show, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for the psychology of the language learner, so this interview was definitely a highlight of the year.
I’m currently working on two target languages as a learner: intermediate Welsh and very early beginner’s Chinese.
In the Welsh language, my level is now pretty functional as long as I maintain a lot of contact and produce a lot of my target language on a regular basis. And I do mean every day when possible.
In the month of April, I found it most difficult to get speaking opportunities. I didn’t arrange any meet-ups with my local conversation partner, my tutor was busy, and when I spoke to my friend Nicky it was in English because he was a guest on the Fluent Show.
In the first half of the month, I was also struggling to find time and mental energy to learn Welsh. But once Easter came around and my workload eased up with Fluent, I feel like everything got better! I started by switching on Radio Cymru for a few mornings, then added a bit of S4C.
But the best part was creating my new Instagram account, @kersydysgu. Inspired by some wonderful Fluent Show listeners who have done this, I decided to try out the idea of a fully separate, and ONLY IN WELSH insta account. And my daily contact is through the roof because I’m already spending way too much time on the app. What a fantastic way to get more contact and write in Welsh on a regular basis.
My other language is Mandarin Chinese. I had set myself structured goals for this language for the first time last month.
My goal was to watch a bit of Easy Mandarin on Youtube, but I did nothing. Listening fell flat in April. I don’t enjoy many language instruction podcasts and I’m too low level for any natural input that I know.
My very tentative goal of an italki lesson was realised last week. Hooray! My first tutor listened to me counting to 10 and saying “living room” and “desk” at random, then declared my pronunciation very good and my learning “a mess”.
And fair point! I had not even noticed how little I had spoken apart from sounding out the words in my apps, and how little I could say in the way of dialogue. I was incredibly motivated after that and greeted her the next time with a full introduction, including where I live, my age, and my family. Take that, language mess!
I’m very pleased that I got my head around tones and basic pronunciation before the lesson, and I’m now hoping to take some regular classes. Good reminder: It isn’t really ever too early to work with a good tutor. They know what they’re doing!
Most of my learning is still reading-based, so I kinda met my goal by default.
I think I did quite well! My notebook is in regular use at the moment, and following up the lessons has made a big difference here.
At the moment my approach is to write in pinyin and also Chinese characters, but I’m not trying to memorize any of the characters. I’m thinking stuff like 我 and 你 will start sinking in automatically.
I’m using Google Translate and the Pleco app a lot for writing at the moment.
Every month, I log my “daily contact” with the Welsh language. In April, it was difficult to keep anything going during the launch of German Uncovered. But once Easter rolled around and I took some time to rest, Welsh returned to my life. In the last week, my Welsh instagram account made it easier than ever and I’m on a streak.
Total: 17 day out of 30.
I also track how many times I’ve spent 10+ minutes on Chinese, mostly for fun. In April, I checked this box 7 times. Often, this signals way over 10 minutes but it’s not about the minutes. It’s about the habit.
This month is an unusual one. I’m travelling for the first 2 weeks, to Machynlleth in Wales and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve got a full-time responsibility away from Fluent, so I’ll have to see how work fits around it.
Again, I don’t feel I need to actively split my goals into listening, speaking, reading and writing at this intermediate stage. I just want to feel like I’m as good or better, and that will be about contact and speaking.
Spending the first few days of May in Machynlleth is a good start, and in the second half of the month I hope to get started on Say Something in Welsh Level 3 and get back into meeting my speaking partner.
In this language I’m a total beginner (很高兴认识你) and will benefit from the goal structure. So let’s go!
Ready to try again with YouTube for Chinese beginners. I’m looking for dialogue-based or story-based input here, rather than someone explaining greetings to me in detail.
If you want to recommend a channel or listening resource, leave me a comment below.
This is the easy one for any beginner, all my apps and my textbook are reading practice. No specific goals.
I’ve already booked one Skype lesson and hope to complete 3 by the end of the month.
(By the way, this month on the blog I have a brand new italki review - check it out if you have not tried out italki before.)
That’s it! Plenty to be getting on with.
Many people have been asking me to list the resources I use for learning my languages this month. Here they are:
Have you ever studied Welsh? Are you a Chinese beginner? Juggling 2 languages like me?
Leave a comment below to tell me all about how you’re getting on, and what you are planning to study next.
Be sure to check out the Clear the List linkup full of inspiring language goals and reports, hosted by Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy.
Imagine you're learning a language that's so easy that you're having full conversations within just a few hours. The vocabulary makes sense, the grammar feels natural...it's all just very easy. You've found the holy grail of languages...the one that you'll find so easy that you'll master it in just a few hours.
Listen to the latest podcast episode to hear Lindsay and me discuss this topic with lots of surprising insights and our own hit lists of top 5 easiest languages.
Here are a few of the factors that determine if you will find a language easy or difficult:
Familiarity is the most obvious way to guess whether a language is going to be easy for you to learn. The closer its structures and vocabulary are to your native language, the easier it should be to understand and learn them.
The idea: Languages in your language family are the ones that give you the least new material to learn. With less to learn, that means you don't have to work as hard. It's easy!
The language families theory works perfectly, but it has one flaw: Without knowing about the languages you don't know...how can you tell that those familiar ones really are the easiest?
For example, speakers of a Latin-based language like Spanish will list Italian and Portuguese as their easy languages... but fewer people mention Romanian. Romanian is less popular, but it is still Latin-based and fairly accessible.
Many people start to mistake languages that are widely spoken with languages that are easy. And that makes sense in terms of access - how easy is it to find materials for your language? How unusual do you feel when you’re learning this language?
But is the most popular language really the easiest? Maybe there's more to it!
Sometimes, a language emerges because it needs to create ease of communication quickly and often this leads to simplified grammar structures. Languages designed to aid communication are Pidgins and sign languages, for example. They’re considered easy partly because they are based on existing languages.
In the podcast, we discuss whether a pidgin or a sign language could be the easiest language in the world...or maybe not?
In my Facebook group, one learner replied to my question “Which are the easiest languages for you?” in an unusual way. She said:
"I think the easiest three are often your last three, because you develop your language learning strategy as you work out which things help you learn"
It's very true. Languages can be easier or harder depending on you and where your skillset and mindset are at.
A bad experience in the past (like in school) can give you the impression that a language is hard, when it may have been more to do with your learning environment.
In addition to this, some languages just call to you and that motivation makes the complex grammar or weird vocabulary a joy to learn rather than a burden.
It's personal to you as the language learner, so there is no general answer. What you know and the languages you know are also limited, so...in a way you won't ever have the answer until you try.
But remember: It’s hard not to confuse “easy” with “available".
Listen to the podcast to hear our lists of easy languages and share your views in the comments below