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.

Benny Lewis Has a New Language Hacking Series: Here's My Review

In today's review, I'm excited to bring you guys my first impressions of Language Hacking German - A Conversation Course, the new book by Benny Lewis.

In this series, you can also get books for learning Spanish, French and Italian.

TL;DR: I'm impressed with the design, structure and method used by these books.

They're awesome, if you're anywhere between A1 and A2 pick up a copy and use it to practice. Also looks like a good potential Christmas present.

Benny.. Who Dat?

If you read language articles on the internet, you've probably come across Benny Lewis. He runs the website Fluent in 3 Months and has been blogging and learning languages for over 10 years. Benny has previously published a book with a real publisher, which is an inspiring thing for all of us language bloggers.

More importantly, he brings a more modern approach to language learning into book shops. I'm very much on board with that!

This particular series, "Language Hacking", is a collaboration with Teach Yourself, whose materials have always been language learner favourites. I've checked these courses out and used them, and they're definitely one of the best brands for self-teaching materials on anything.

"Language Hacking is a state of mind. It's about positivity and an approach that puts everything you're learning into practice immediately." - Benny Lewis

Advantages of The Language Hacking Book

My first impression was that this book is really good-looking! It's got a nice size to it, the design throughout is engaging and interesting, and it just feels very nice to hold in your hands. You can see straight away that they're trying to make #languagehacking into a thing, so the message is clear: This book is for 21st century learners.

The Structure

The structure of the book follows that of a traditional self-teaching language book, so it's not trying to overthrow everything good in the system. The design is lively and engaging, with vocab delivered in sentence structures, culture tips, conversation examples and exercises. It's a great "complete package".

What's different here is that this focuses very much on conversation as the goals and "learning outcomes". The book avoids mentioning grammar concepts in favour of setting the learner a mission with every unit. What I really liked is that each unit clearly sets out the mission as a use case, describing what kind of situation you would find yourself in when you will use what you are learning.

In each mission you learn some new stuff, and there are exercises so you can test that you learnt it correctly. The #languagehacking system adds in Benny's "Conversation Countdown" methods of building a script and sharing it immediately with a dedicated web area sponsored by italki.

The design is all about making language learning less intimidating. I hardly saw any grammar terms mentioned, with focus on descriptions like "slingshot words" instead of "subordinating conjunctions". In fact, this style combined with the mission and scripts system feels perfect for new learners, but also for experienced learners as they'll be able to breeze through this and create sentences quicker.

You're In Good Hands

£11.89

The brand "Benny Lewis" is present throughout the book, and that worked really well for me. As you work your way through it, you get to feel as if someone is on the journey with you and guiding you through this course. The quotes and images of Benny were a fun addition - I'm not a fan girl, but as a structure this worked very well for me.

Each mission mentions a small #Languagehacking tip in the introduction - a great concept. As you're learning your new language, I can imagine how much these little tips will help you build more confidence and feel ready to speak quickly.

Anything Else You Need To Know?

The book doesn't solve a key problem of language learning, which is the idea of being too busy. It's written with "conversations with natives" in mind, so if you're learning languages without immediate travel plans you may feel cut off from many of the examples. The scripts system is also nice, although I would prefer to make my own -- this is because I'm experienced and relatively "fearless" as a language learner, not because the idea itself is bad.

If you're a very long-standing Fluent reader, you'll have read my thoughts on the use of the word "hacking" in the context of language learning. I'm not a fan of the name of this series, but the "language hacking" brand is what Benny Lewis has used for years.

The tiny things are exactly what makes this so good for more inexperienced language learners. They were nitpicks, really - overall this is an impressive product.

Audio Access

At first I grumbled that there is no CD with this book, but I quickly remembered that we live in the 21st century and all the audio is downloadable. So it does come with audio, and the example sentences I heard were very good and match the book scripts excellently. You can get the audio from www.teachyourself.com/languagehacking.

Conclusion

Overall, this is one of the most impressive versions of a language course I've seen in a while. The way that it incorporates "hacking" ideas (I'll just call them shortcuts) into a traditional self-teaching book design was fantastic.

These Language Hacking courses are an incredible addition to the bookshelves of any language learner, but particularly for those that are new to the language.

Overall, a clear 5/5 - kudos to Benny Lewis and Teach Yourself. This is not a grade I give readily at all, so you can trust that this course is well worth your investment if you want to learn a new language. I hope they publish more versions soon.

How To Get This Book For Yourself

£12.28

The links below are affiliate links, so you'll be supporting Fluent at no extra cost to yourself. Go ahead and click to take a look!

On Amazon

Click here to go directly to Language Hacking on Amazon.com

And click here if you're buying in the UK

Having seen the printed copy of this book (but not the kindle version), my feeling is that you are best served by investing in the print. The prices are currently very similar, and you'll be able to take notes and write in your book, take it everywhere and share it easily.

Yes, I'm analogue girl. (You can write me a postcard to tell me what you think of that!)

The Book That Will Change How You See Language Learning (+ Clever Notes & Action Plan FREE)

One of the most common things I hear from language learners is

becoming fluent book

"what is the best way to do this?" You want to know how to learn a language, in as much detail as possible.

And it's hard to answer that question once and for all, for everyone. People are different, and no one's going to teach you good habits overnight. I know there are plenty of players out there telling you that their way of doing flash cards or listening to native content is the real answer.

But seriously, guys. What it really takes is that you learn to understand your own smart and capable self. That's where a book like Becoming Fluent comes in.

By the way, I've gone ahead and done a little bit of hard work for you guys. You can now click the button below and download my book notes for Becoming Fluent along with a fab little action plan template so you know what to do next.

What Is Becoming Fluent?

Becoming Fluent is an impressive book in the field of language acquisition. It's written with the scientific background expected from academics. But that doesn't mean that language learners cannot apply it to their lives: Throughout the book, the authors mix explanations and practical tips. The book is written for adult learners who want to conquer another language, and goes into the following topics:

  • What do you have to do to make sure you become a successful language learner?
  • How can you choose the right target language to study?
  • What are the best
  • How important is it to know the culture and norms of people who speak your target language every day?
  • How can you get better at memorising and remembering more?

Why It's Awesome

There are many language learning books out in the market that tell you all about how wonderful the author's methods are. Most successful polyglot-style books follow this system. The logic is that if following certain steps made the author fluent in another language, then you can do the same by copying the steps.

In Becoming Fluent, I detected none of this. The authors do work from their own experience in languages but never claim to know all the answers. Each chapter is based on a new aspect of language learning and gives a neutral summary of what the science says, followed by practical advice.

I've never used or endorsed the "copy a winner" approach, and I don't think it's quite how things work for language learners. Success in language learning is about more than just playing the game right. The more you learn and discover about yourself, your habits, your preferences and strengths in language learning, the more you will approach a real ability to learn any language quickly.

So for me, Becoming Fluent was an outstanding book about language learning because it doesn't tell you what exactly to do. This one is about empowering yourself to find your own perfect method.

What Wasn't So Great

Becoming Fluent is smart and thorough and scientific, which is a big rarity in language learning. It's great to read such a sensible voice in our field. The book comes at language learning from so many different angles that some great aspects get a little lost.

I would have liked the book's action-focused tips to be highlighted or separated from the main text, making it easier to find exactly how to put new insights into action. As it is, Becoming Fluent does require you to put in a few hours for reading, but this is time well spent.

My Favourite Parts

  • All of chapter 2, which addresses the many lies and misleading beliefs that we hold in our heads before we even start learning. If you can only listen to/read one part of the book, this chapter is going to make a massive difference. It's a small window into how your brain trips you up.
  • This sentence in Chapter 3:

"The REAL test of how well you speak a language is how easily you communicate when you are using that language, and the pleasure you derive from speaking it."

  • The ideas behind common ground and the zone of proximal development, which are all about how you think of how good you are, how good other people are in comparison, and how you can get better step-by-step.
  • The focus on learning and speaking a language like an adult, not a kid or teenager. This focus builds great insights, for example the understanding that it's more important to be yourself in another language than to sound "exactly like all the native speakers".
  • The image of tutors and helpers as a Sherpa, i.e. Someone who's climbing the mountain with you, showing you the way, teaching you about the process as you're doing it.
  • The concept of cognitive overload, which explains exactly why and how and when you get tired.

Overall, I am very happy that I read Becoming Fluent and recommend you check it out too. I ordered my copy from the local library and am very glad that it's in their catalogue now. You can get your own printed copy in the same way, or order it from Amazon (here's the US link and the UK link).

Don’t forget, you can grab my full book notes (9 pages!) by clicking the button below. They include your own action plan template and a checklist of books to check out, so next you can be prepared on your next visit to the library or to Amazon.

If you want to try a faster read gives instructions on what to do, try Fluency Made Achievable (which is written by me, so you will definitely enjoy it if you like this blog).

The Best Fluent Shelfies of July (Plus: Giveaway Winner Announcement)

The Fluent Summer Giveaway has officially closed and wrapped up!

I love doing the prize draw and notifying all the giveaway winners myself because it makes me feel like a little language fairy who gets to brighten everyone's days. This year, the prizes went to a total of 20 winners. Congratulations, you guys!

The winners are:

Margaret Nokling, Kimberley Howes, Amy clarke, Lealu Elliott, Grzegorz Kalarus, Catrin James, Francesca Tuck, Angela Walker, Rachael jones, James Hewlett, Maureen Findley, Cathryn Bowen, Angel Armstead, Toulson Chris, Emily Clark, Jake Brown, Clare Woodman, Shannon Kennedy, Ian Fariel, Liane Mccreanor and Edwards Cheryl.

If you've not had an email from me in your inbox yet, get in touch to find out what you have won.

fluentshelfie Success

A shelfie is a picture of your bookshelf that you can share online. A bit like a selfie, but smarter!

If you have built up a sizeable collection of language books, this summer gives you an opportunity to show them off in the #fluentshelfie contest. The hashtag started out as a way to claim extra chances to win in the giveaway, but quickly gained popularity as posts from language lovers came in on Instagram and Twitter.

Showing off your langauge bookshelves is so much fun and allows you to participate in the big language learning community online. So if you haven't posted your #fluentshelfie yet, it's not too late.

Best #fluentshelfies of July

Check out the whole Shelfie gallery over on Instagram.

Here are some of my favourite Shelfies from July:

Thanks for the #fluentshelfie Posts, and please keep them coming! I love that this hashtag is picking up steam and can't wait to see what you're going to share in August.

If you have a shelfie picture that you'd like to contribute to the collection, post it on Instagram or Twitter with #fluentshelfie, or just leave a comment here and tell me the story of your bookshelf!

Upgrade Fluency Made Achievable on your iPad or Mac

If you are a regular Fluent reader, you'll already know that I have published two language learning guides so far. They're called Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook, and both have been for sale exclusively on Kindle this year.

fma

Well guys, it's time to break free and announce the launch of my new iBooks version of Fluency Made Achievable. Over the past weeks I decided to work on creating this special edition of the book, and it's now been approved for sale on the iBooks store.

Why is this cool?

This is not just an ebook you can't do anything with. While every language guide I write is designed to make you take action and start changing small steps in your routines, the new iBooks version delivers more of that than ever. The work on this new version included several optimisations to make it the best possible FMA you've ever seen on the iPad or Mac.

An clear, easy and very helpful read that was well worth the money for me. (Eleni Gotsis on Amazon)

The book is already very popular over on Amazon.com, with 4- and 5-star reviews all round. And here are the most important reasons to get the iBooks edition of this book if you're reading on an iPad or Mac:

  • The navigation and table of contents have been optimised so you can jump between chapters and points and find the right parts straight away. There is not a single reference to a page number, everything works as it should in an ebook.
  • It's produced for the iBooks reader, which makes it way prettier than a Kindle version.
  • The links are clickable so you can switch between reading and researching like a real 21st century book master.
  • You can now buy this in 51 different countries!
  • The book contains multimedia enhancements in the form of embedded video and brand new audio interviews.

Why can't I find this on my iPhone?

The iBooks edition of FMA contains added media enhancements and sadly this seems to mean Apple won't let you buy it on your phone. You're not missing out though, just whip out your Mac/iPad or get the classic Kindle version.

No special offers?

As you know, I run the odd promotion for my books but want to make sure I don't add to anyone's "digital junk" pile. The iBooks store will let me distribute promo codes soon, but not until I've jumped through a few tax hoops (like telling them that I don't live in Japan...in writing...in duplicate) so until then I have just made the price affordable for everyone.

Sounds awesome, how do I find iBooks please?

If you are on an iPad or Mac, simply open your app browser and type in "ibooks". You already have the iBooks store on there as it comes with your device. Then all you need to do is this:

1. Search for my name

ibooks store

2. Find Fluency Made Achievable

3. Enjoy!

Pretty! Optimized for your Mac or iPad. And ever so helpful :)

Pretty! Optimized for your Mac or iPad. And ever so helpful :)

Anything else you should know?

I'm very happy to be offering this new version of my book in iBooks, and behind the scenes you should also look out for the Fluent Box Set, which is coming back in the summer.

I have considered writing a new language learning guide or a little travel guide for German learners, so if you're excited about what I could write next why not comment here and tell me what you'd like to see? I'm curious about your suggestions.

As always, thanks so much for reading and checking in with the Fluent blog.

Kerstin

Language Book Club: A One-Day Sale and Event with Language Authors

Have you put tomorrow's date (Jan 30) in your diary? The whole day will be filled with fun and learning, giveaways and special deals during Language Book Club, our Facebook event.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN US

Here are All Discounted Books

Just a few of our discounted books on the day..

Just a few of our discounted books on the day..

The following books will drop their prices for one day only. (Note I can't guarantee this and am informing you based on their promise, so no, you can't sue me if there's no deal to be found. I can promise you that my deal goes ahead.)

This is my own guide to acquiring vocabulary and never forgetting it, and I'm making it FREE for the day. Look out for my bonus deal at 11am GMT in the Facebook event.

You know about Anthony Metivier from my review of his language learning course here on Fluent. He's obsessed with memorizing things! If you want to build memory palaces and learn how to get great at remembering words, Anthony can help.

Benny Lewis's book takes the message from his blog and makes it even more accessible for anyone: Language learning is possible. You don't need money or years, you can get started straight away.

Russian Step By Step means textbooks written by really passionate teachers. I've had the pleasure of working with Natasha and Anna, the ladies behind this fab series recently, and can't recommend their commitment to Russian teaching enough. They teach what normal people need to know - not scholars.

In this book, Ben writes about attitudes and methods for successful French learning. It's a quick and simple read and will help any French learner over the common road blocks.

This is a whopper! Jared and Diana from Speaking Latino are offering 12 books as a huge bundle helping you discover Spanish from Argentinia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Have I missed one?

Pick up this book by Olly Richards to discover more about why you keep forgetting foreign language vocabulary, and how to be better at it.

For independent learners and teaching parents alike, this book provides a solid foundation to language learning. It focuses not on courses, but stories - the fun way to get unblocked!

This is a novel set in Northern England, and written both for English and Chinese learners. Aidan O'Rourke has crafted a captivating story.

And Here is the Much Anticipated Schedule

Get your questions ready, join our Facebook group and event, and tomorrow you will be able to live chat with all of the following authors. All these times are in GMT.

10:00 Benny Lewis

11:00 Kerstin Hammes

12:00 Olly Richards

13:00 Benjamin Houy

14:00 Speaking Latino (Jared Romey)

15:00 Anthony Metivier

17:00 Chris Broholm

18:00 Kid World Citizen (Becky Morales)

19:00 Mystery Guest (tbc)

20:00 Aidan O'Rourke

Support the Organisers

By now, you've probably become aware that we're not just holding the event to make money. There are so many discounts and so much organisation involved in these kinds of events that I simply have to take a second and ask you guys if you could possibly spare $1 to support us?

If your answer is yes, then here are a few ways to do it:

1. Boost my Patreon Campaign for anything you can afford at all

2. Support Chris Broholm on Indiegogo

3. Use our Affiliate links so Amazon can pay us like 0.05% of what you buy

All the links above are affiliate links and go to Amazon.co.uk, so if you do buy through these you're giving a tiny cut to Fluent too at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you in advance for all your support. It really means a lot to us! I want to make more podcast, run more language events and create courses for you guys but it is impossible without paying the rent and the website.

See you guys tomorrow!

New Podcast: Chris Broholm on Challenges, Information Overload and Book Club (and the Owl!)

In Episode 12 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, I interviewed a fellow podcaster! Chris Broholm is a language learner with a big mission: 10 Languages in 10 Years!

Listen to our interview to find out more about

  • Who everybody's favourite owl is!

  • How Chris built up his own support community of inspiring language learners through the Actual Fluency Podcast

  • Whether there is a best way to approach language learning methods

  • What to think about when you set yourself an ambitious goal like Chris Broholm's 10 Languages in 10 Years

  • The importance of bewaring information overload

  • The language learning method that you absolutely must try out

  • And why trying it out is all that we can tell you to do!

As long as you’re doing something, you’re doing it right.
— Chris on Language Learning Methods
www.languagebookclub.com

And most importantly...

We talk about Language Book Club and how much we're looking forward to it!

Article of the Week

Duolingo is Getting More Serious by Kay Alexander on Fair Languages

Tips of the Week

Chris chose Tip 1 as his favourite, because goal setting is still WAY undervalued in learning a new language.

  • Tip 1: set your chosen Fluency level (travel fluent, job fluent?)

  • Tip 2: Be a historical linguist

    • Word origins and vocab divergence can help with remembering words

    • Look up "etymology"

  • Tip 3: Sprint with the Language Challenge

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Support the Creative Language Learning Podcast through Patreon - from just $1!

Actual Fluency Indiegogo Campaign

The italki New Year Challenge: Study 20 Lessons and Win

Actual Fluency Episode 32 with me talking about how to be an independent online teacher

Handbook of Russian Affixes

Russian in 10 Minutes a Day by Kristine Kershul

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.