No More Hoarding! How to Organize All Your Language Learning Resources

Ever heard of resource overload? Most language lovers I know can't get enough of new books, courses, and blogs to inspire them...but there's a dark side!

Language resources can be overwhelming. You might wonder which ones are worth your time, or what you really need to get started in a language.

Over the years, I've amassed a huge pile of language learning resources, and in today's post I want to introduce you to a few of my favourites and explain four categories of resources that you should have when you're teaching yourself a language.

For instant organisation, you can find a Resource Organiser worksheet in the Language Habit Toolkit, available in the Fluent Online School.

1) Guiding Resources: Language Textbooks and Language Courses

organising resources.png

The first resource I believe you should have is what I call a guiding resource. This can be a book, a CD set, a video course, or even a night class. For any resource to be considered a guiding resource in my mind, it must fulfil the following criteria:

Great Structure

Never compromise on structure. Look out for units, chapters, steps. There is none that is best for everyone, so ensure that your guiding resource follows a path that you will find interesting. You don't want something that just throws a lot of information at you, and you don’t want to be yawning by chapter 3.

The resource should have lessons that move you from one level to the next level. For example, in Benny Lewis' Teach Yourself book, there are different units and they tell you what it is you are going to learn - units such as talking about yourself, asking about other people, talking about family, and describing things.

Having a structure to follow is very important for independent language learners, so be sure to check out the curriculum before you buy.

Designed for Your Situation

When you buy a textbook, make sure you check if your choice might be designed for group classes (for example, Façon de Parler). This doesn't make such textbooks bad resources, but the way they are written, a lot of the exercises are usually not designed for you to do by yourself. The text will say something like: "Find a partner in your group and then practice these sentences with them," or "In the group, have a discussion of this image." The textbooks just assume that you're in a group class. If you're teaching yourself, this is not always helpful.

Multimedia

Third, there should be a multimedia component. This means that you want more than just a book or audio. You want the book unit to be accompanied by audio, worksheets, or video. Online courses in languages are getting better and better, but check that there’s offline access if you need it.

My preferred structure for a guiding resource is this:

Start with a story or dialogue, then an explanation of what was new, and finish with a chance for you as the learner to practice what you’ve learnt.

Good examples of guiding resources are

2) Input Resources: Enjoyable and Comprehensible Input

Input resources are very easy to find…the internet is a total treasure trove of them! I also call them supplementary resources, as they supplement all other learning.

You can have as many as you want. You never have too many input resources. With these resources, you can follow any story or video for some time, drop it, and then get back to it weeks later. Most YouTube videos in the language that you're learning are going to fall into this category. Music and TV shows also fall into this category.

Your input resources must be understandable, but not too easy and not too hard. You need to be able to sense that you're learning as you're following it; so, there should be a little bit of a challenge. But at the same time, you don't want them to be so easy that you know exactly what's coming.

If it’s fun, it works

Input resources also must be enjoyable. They must be fun, so feel very free to toss out what doesn’t interest you. If you don't enjoy them, you aren't going to engage with them. At Langfest in Montreal, I met the famous applied linguist Dr Stephen Krashen, whose belief in comprehensible input is all about these resources. This is where the magic happens. You need input, it needs to be fun, you need to understand it, and you need lots of it.

Good examples of input resources include

3) Reference Resources: Dictionaries, Grammar Guides, Phrasebooks

In a journey as epic as learning a new language, you’re going to get lost and waste lots of time without a map, and that’s what the reference resource can be for you.

Accessible Language Materials

First, the resource must be accessible. Obviously, they should be there for you to touch or open, but more importantly, they must be easy to understand. Second, the resource must be accessible in the sense that you should have it around. It should be there when you want it because the whole idea of a reference resource is you don't follow it as a course.

Dip in and out

Nobody ever learned a language by reading a dictionary. Instead of following reference resources as a course, you just have them around for when you have a question. At the start of language learning, I think reference resources are good to help you answer the question for yourself: Where am I going to look this up?

Many video courses fit right into the reference category. For example, the Fluent courses on German pronunciation and on grammar cross over between guiding and reference resources. My dream for my German courses is that somebody follows it, gains a lot from it the first time, but knows that they can dip in and watch every video individually.

Good examples of reference resources include

The three core reference resources you need are


So those are the three key categories of resources you should have somewhere in your personal language library. To re-cap:

  1. Guiding Resources give your studies shape and help you know your progress. You want these to be structured.
  2. Input Resources make language learning effective and enjoyable. You want these to be fun and right for your level.
  3. Reference Resources are on hand when you have specific questions and need a quick answer. You want these to be easy to access and understand.

If you don't have these three areas covered on your (virtual or IRL) bookshelf, it's easy to feel lost when learning a new language, to miss things, and even to lose yourself and think you're better than you are or worse than you are.

4. Self-Teacher's Resources

Are you learning a language by yourself? You need one more: the self-teacher's resources, which are all about how to organise yourself. This category contains language learning blogs, podcasts, books to help you master the learning process.

The self-teacher's resources are awesome because they

  1. keep you motivated and accountable
  2. help you adopt great study techniques.

For a practical, action-focused take on this resource that will set you up for inevitable success, check out the Language Habit Toolkit, your language coach in a box.

What are your favourite resources? Want recommendations for a resource in your target language or feel you're lacking something?

No problem! Leave me a comment below or say hi in the Fluent Language Learners Facebook group.

Why is it so Hard to Find Pop Music in Other Languages?

This podcast goes into so much detail - it's an exploration of pop music in languages and language learning.

  • Why does pop music matter for language learning?
  • What influence does the industry have for which music gets made and which doesn't?
  • Why is English such a convenient language for pop music?
  • How should you incorporate pop music into your language learning routine...or should you?
  • Where can language learners find music in their own target language?
  • Who are our favourite artists in other languages?
Read More

28 Days of Social Media: The First 6 Social Networks

socialnetworks-language

Hello, hello! It's the first Friday of my "28 Days of Social Media" journey, time to take stock and post a quick update telling you what has worked so far, what I liked and what didn't deliver.

If you want to join in with the challenge, check out the full details here on my blog.

Language Lessons from Social Media

Week 1 was great fun overall. Something I noticed straight away was that I have a head start because I already have all the necessary apps and I know how to use them.

I learnt using:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Periscope
  • Pinterest

So that's 6 social networks. Wow!

If you aren't as confident using social media, Lindsay's course Social Media Success is a great little primer, because it contains a great bunch of intro videos for the networks we don't use for languages. For example, Lindsay shows exactly how to work Snapchat in just 5 minutes. She was my Snapchat tutor at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin this year, and I can certify that she definitely knows a few secrets.

Instagram Love

Every day of this social media challenge asks learners to take part in the #iglc, that's the Instagram Language Challenge. This challenge is run by Lindsay and she posts 28 little prompts every month, so you can reply and post something in your target language and inspired by the prompt every day.

I have enjoyed the creativity in this challenge, especially video day which looked like this:

The #iglc prompts were the most effort out of all the prompts I completed this week - following a prompt takes only 5-10 minutes, but that's more than most things on social media. I think this wasn't so much about the language as it was about wanting my pictures to look really nice and tempting, so that everyone will think I'm cool. A total social media risk!

The key here is to make sure you note down what you're actually adding and learning in one central place. Otherwise all you're making is pretty pictures.

Key Lesson from the IGLC: Go crazy, have fun. But review your words at the end of the week so you can memorize that new vocab.

And I would advise reviewing your words and noting them away from your social media channel, so that you can bring the best knowledge back into your language mode.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a fantastic resource for language learners, and I have been using it to inspire my lessons for years as well. You can find anything on there, from new charts to full videos in other languages. This week, I revived my Welsh learning board.

But because materials for this language are still kinda limited on Pinterest, I also started playing with my long-standing little language on the side: Malaysian! I started a new board and felt like I'm finally finding those few minutes to try out my new language.

Key Lesson: Pinterest is a fantastic playground for getting you started in a new language, but also for organizing when you have lots of things on the go.

Today is another review day in the Social Media plan, and I am so grateful that this prompt will help me really learn, not just add more to my list.

Facebook

There was only one prompt this week, which was to switch my Facebook user language. I did switch it to Welsh and learn a few new words of social media vocab.

The best thing about using Facebook was my group Fluent Language Learners because it's a great community for people who are also taking this challenge. Posting in the group every day is making me feel like I have accountability and I'm not going to stop.

Key Lesson: Find a community and tell them what your goal is, so that you can share the progress you are making.

Overall, you can probably tell that I'm having early successes already. I'm learning new Welsh words and using my Welsh, and I'm FINALLY picking up my new language without feeling a lot of pressure.

Next week, my social media update is due on Christmas eve and it's a busy one with lots of travel. Let's see how well language learning can incorporate into our lives when we do it the social media way. I'm looking forward to it!

Periscope

There had to be one that didn't work for me. This was it...Periscope didn't have content I enjoyed or understood, and I struggled with their interface too. Maybe I should download the app?

Are you Taking the Challenge?

If you're also following some prompts from my 28 Days of Social Media for Language learning, how's it going? What did you enjoy this week? Leave a comment below!

You can join in anytime on Facebook, or by posting anywhere using #kerstinsocial.

The Story of Bilingual German-English Live Training

One of the worst moments I've ever experienced in German teaching was the time I tried to introduce a class of lunchtime learners to the Akkusativ case. Armed with whiteboard and sample sentences, I walked into the class, and I felt so ready and so excited to be teaching this (what I thought) awesome system in grammar.

"So when you have an object in your sentence, here's what happens..", I explained to them, with colour-coded underlining to illustrate. I thought I was doing well..until I saw everyone's face. In this classroom, at 12:45, in the middle of a busy workday, something clearly wasn't working.

That's when I realised that language teaching and language learning are not the same thing. And even worse, that what I was explaining didn't make sense to half of these people and they didn't care either.

Relevant Teaching

I came out of that class feeling absolutely defeated. I think I even cried, feeling like I'm failing myself and my students. And the experience always stuck with me and built part of the philosophy that is behind my actions now: The LEARNER is in charge of learning a language. And the learner, that's you right there reading these words.

When you're taking classes with me, you can get the solid and important explanations at your own pace in my online courses, but in live lessons I avoid explainers and I never lead with them.

Instead, the key to the Fluent Language method is relevant teaching.

For you as a German learner, that means experiencing language immersion at a good pace, making your own conclusions, and answering questions regularly. It's important to speak or write early, but it's also important that you're learning relevant and well.

Action: Bilingual Live Training

In my most recent teaching venture, I created a bilingual webinar - the first one I ever taught, and a successful one too.

Thank you so much if you were among the lovely people watching on Saturday. It was a challenge for me to teach in this way, but an incredibly rewarding experience to know that the viewers were following along, answering questions, and understanding the immersion concept.

Do you want to try it out? Catch up with the webinar today, and make sure you also download your worksheet and follow along. Click here and find all you need at the webinar live page.

Did you watch the webinar? Did you learn something new and use the worksheet?

Tell me how you enjoyed it in the comments below, and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to learn about the next one.

Podcast Episode 43: Language is Everything: Talking Language Activism with Wikitongues

Our good friends at Flashsticks are back as podcast sponsors - go check out their awesome new app Flash Academy (it's free), their post-it notes in 8 languages, and claim 10% discount using code KERSTIN10.

An organization dedicated to raising awareness of language diversity.

"This is one of the most important things that we can do as humans - to constantly strive to learn about things that we don't understand."

We all know that language is important, but after listening to this episode you'll be amazed at the enormous variety of perspectives on this topic. Non-profit organization Wikitongues looks at languages from all points of view - as a metaphor for life.

Listen to the new podcast episode now to find out all about Wikitongues and how Lindsay and I are connected to their mission.

wikitongues

When a language is lost, the individuals in that community lose a part of who they are. Language death is both a loss of history and a loss of identity.

If you oppose racism, mysogyny, genocide and oppresion, you must support language diversity!

And if you thought language discrimination was a thing of the past, think again: Languages like Occitan and Cornish are experiencing it right now.

Some cool languages documented on Wikitongues:

Note for pedants: In the interview, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights was mentioned, but the speaker may have meant the Universal Declaration for Linguistic Rights. I researched this but could not find the exact quote in either one. If you know more details, go ahead and leave a comment or itunes review to help us out.

How to Party With The Football-Crazy Germans This Month (+ German Anthem Video)

There's chanting in the stands, sunshine in the streets and everyone is dusting off the Mannschaft jerseys: Euro 2016, this year's biggest football tournament has finally started!

Party With German Friends

If you're learning the German language, you already know how important the sport is to Germans. There are over 6.5 million football club members in Germany, but during Euro 2016 those numbers pale into insignificance. You're safe to say that at least half of the Germans you'll meet are going to take an interest in this tournament.

By the way: As a Welsh learner, I've already picked up a few new words by learning the Welsh national anthem. Never say sportsball isn't for learning.

So Why Miss Out On Euro 2016 Fun?

No matter who you are supporting, no matter if you even care about who wins, the excitement is going to be unavoidable in the coming weeks. The following tips are guaranteed to help you feel at home in any Fanmeile or public viewing zone (those are what the Germans call their big screen areas)

1) Don't Bet On The Favourites

Germans are a risk-averse bunch. The classic British tradition of supporting the underdog is puzzling to many of them. Why go for anything but the most promising option? So if you want to get with the German mentality as a football supporter, reserve a soft spot for the most likely tournament winners.

For Euro 2016, the strongest football teams are Spain, Italy, Poland, the reigning world champions Germany and host nation France.

But don't go out and place a bet on them to win. Bet shops and betting agencies in sports are less commonplace in Germany as Germans prefer wise investments to anything as risky as gambling.

2) Get The Grillparty Started

Football World Cup and European Cup tournaments take place in the summer - perfect timing for millions of Germans to open up Balkonien (balconia - a German word for "holidaying at home") and invite their friends round for a BBQ and viewing party.

For the best German Grillparty, you need a venue (garden, allotment, balcony, public BBQ area), a TV to watch the match, some meat (despite the vegan trend, Germans tend to be non-veggie), salad and veggies, and a good supply of drinks. No need for spicy sauces - German foods are rarely hot and spicy.

3) Be A Fachsimpler

Fachsimpeln (playing the expert) is a hobby no one can resist entirely, and watching sports among friends is no exception. When you're among your friends and everyone is playing armchair pundits, listen out for some of the following words to help you keep up:

  • Der Anstoß - kick off
  • Die Schwalbe - dive (when a player feigns injury)
  • Der Stürmer - striker
  • Der Verteidiger - defense player
  • Das Mittelfeld - mid-field
  • Der Elfmeter - penalty
  • Der Eckball - corner
  • Der Freistoß - free kick
  • Das Foul - foul
  • Verlängerung (in der Verlängerung) - extra time
  • Ich bin für Deutschland. - I'm supporting Germany
  • Wie steht es? - what's the score?
  • Der Pokal - cup (in a sporting context)

By the way, you can practice these sentences and learn a lot more about how Germans talk in my German pronunciation course.

4) Be About The Team, Not The Player

Back in the early 2000s, German football wasn't quite as successful as it's looking today. Our teams were made up of good players, but the team spirit was lost. In recent years, German football has undergone a transformation and brought in a new focus on the whole team.

The official song, motto and hashtag for the German football team in Euro 2016? Jeder für Jeden (or #jederfuerjeden) - everyone for everyone. This team is not about running around behind a super famous striker. They're hoping to bring home sporting glory together.

5) Learn Some Football Quotes

Football coaches and football players are people who are often asked for their opinions, and every now and then produce a piece of wisdom second to none. You can find many quotes attributed to German coaches on this Spiegel.de page. From Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten, to nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel, you won't need to be fluent in German to join in with your football-crazy friends this summer.

Or if you want to hang out and watch football with me for the night, all you really need is a passionate supply of these lines. Let's be honest, even shouting "Mesuuuuut!" at strategic moments will be wonderful.

german football

Who Are You Supporting?

Football tournaments are an awesome way for people to get together and have a bit of fun (that's valid for the incredibly underfunded womens' sports too, by the way).

Are you joining in this summer? What's your favourite football quote?

Let me know in the comments below!

Language Update: Speaking Welsh After 8 Months (+ Free Toolkit)

Welcome to my third update on how I'm getting on with the Welsh language! I can't believe how much time has passed, and I'm excited to share what I've learnt in 2016 so far.

Before you read the post, make sure you have downloaded your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" with all my resources in a handy format.

8 Month Progress

First of all, let's accept it's always tough to assess your own progress. I have a bit of a self-critical streak, and like every other language learner I remember the failures more than the successes.

But there are successes to report. I've closed some basic vocabulary gaps like numbers, days of the week and all that. I added around 150-200 new words in the last months (that's around 7-9 each week, if you've got to count).

I'm halfway through the first Say Something in Welsh course - not bad!

Check out this video to see how I'm speaking Welsh at this stage.

What I've Been Doing

1) Following Say Something in Welsh and the BBC Big Welsh Challenge, and Creating Vocab Lists and Memrise Courses

My core routine has not changed. I add new words to a hand-written list. When I'm not near my notebook, they go straight into Memrise. You can read more about the exact process I use here.

2) Writing Practice Typed and Hand-Written

The great thing about writing is that you really have nowhere to hide. No matter if I'm on Hello Talk or writing by hand, it's obvious where my mistakes are. I share my writing and get corrections online, which helps immensely. Applying the corrections and reading the improved text creates an extremely effective learning process.

3) Finding The Community

It's been tough to attend my Welsh class on a regular basis, but I got involved in an online community. The Dw i'n dysgu Cymraeg group on Facebook is a cool place to find more learners and get help with questions.

Understanding Welsh

Back in February I started watching a Welsh TV drama called Byw Celwydd. After this finished, the next show for me was Ffasiwn Bildar, a reality TV show.

Each source of natural language is a bit different

Going from scripted drama to a reality TV show means that I get to hear more “real language”. But the spontaneous talk is harder to understand, so I still use subtitles. And when I listen to music (indie band Candelas are great), I can repeat, listen again and translate the lyrics. But of course they're more poetic and make less sense!

All in all, having Welsh language channel S4C and Spotify as language resources is a great help. My next TV show will be "Y Gwyll", which you can watch in English as Hinterland. Who doesn't love a bit of Celtic Noir!

Speaking Welsh

I'm now expecting more from myself when I speak Welsh. My pronunciation is fine, and my spelling has improved in line with it. It's still difficult to have an all-Welsh conversation. I'm lucky that all Welsh speakers are bilingual and speak English too.

Welsh is a tease. It lures you in with simple structures! At the start, I was cheerfully ignoring one of the key aspects of Welsh grammar: the mutations! A mutation is when words change their first letter because of the previous word...or their gender...or some other reason. They're not exactly transparent, and it's impossible to hide your bad mutations.

Speaking Welsh In The Real World

People I talk to have to be patient! A lot of the Welsh speakers I have met have been language lovers who know exactly how I'm feeling. The patience of Simon Ager, Richard Simcott, Mererid Williams and Gareth Popkins has been pretty legendary. At the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin for example, I ran into Richard and was encouraged to speak to him in Welsh -- but I'd just come out of my first ever Indonesian class! That sense of embarrassment when you don't rise up to the occasion was painfully real.

Another cool result: I've found out that some of my Facebook friends speak Welsh. It's amazing how people come out of the woodwork when you are learning their language. And how cool that I can talk to them in Welsh now! I'm so grateful for these connections.

Great Plans For The Summer

It's time to make the 3-hour trip to deepest, darkest Wales and start speaking, don't you think? I'm very excited about a few upcoming things.

1) Eisteddfod

The Eisteddfod is an annual festival of all things cultural in Wales. It takes place in the summer over several days - a must for any Welsh learner! I was particularly excited to find out that there's a gig with several Welsh bands and radio star Huw Stephens. Just the right motivation to go!

2) Welsh WJEC Mynediad exam

Having looked at the requirements for passing an A1 exam in Welsh, I think that I could be able to pass the beginner's WJEC exam by the end of the summer. Exams are a fab way to focus when you're learning a language. So I will take the opportunity and prep for this one.

I'm looking forward to visiting Wales again, and can't wait to document all the language I hear and see.

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you feeling the progress, or feeling stuck? Let me know in the comments below!

If you're in the UK, are you going to the Eisteddfod? I'd love to see you there!