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.

How To: Bullet Journal for Effective Language Learning

Have you ever found yourself in a really good language learning flow, only to have a couple of days off and fall off the wagon? I know this has happened to me numerous times, whether when learning a language, trying to work out daily, or even trying to keep a housecleaning routine.

But now there's a perfect and beautiful answer: the Bullet Journal. Could this powerful paper-based organisation system help you get fluent in another language? Let's dive in and check it out!

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9 of the Best Resources for Learning Spanish Online

Finding credible resources for language learning can be difficult and time-consuming, but don't worry...I'm here to help! Welcome to a new blog series called 9 Best Resources. Every month, I'll bring you trusted and reliable apps, courses, books and more.

The series kicks off with one of the most popular languages among learners everywhere: Español!

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3 Tutor-Approved Ideas For Learning a Language With Duolingo

Language learning was so boring before a little owl in a tracksuit came along. 

Armed with addictive streak and modern technology, today's smartphone language learning feels more like a computer game than a language lesson. And in many ways, that's a great thing.

Read on to find out my top 3 tips for getting the most out of your Duolingo time.

Read more

My Challenge Results & 17 Tips For Language Learning on Social Media

social media tips

This is 2017: Social media is more powerful than ever. The next US president is tweeting at all hours. The Facebook algorithm has contributed to shaping public opinion. And over 80% of the population (in the USA) are on some kind of social network.

You'd think we're all a bunch of timewasters, scrolling our life away. But in this world of chaos, a small idea came and brought new motivation: "Use social media for good", it stated. Let's all stop wasting time and turn that naughty Facebook habit around.

Today, I'm here to tell you how that idea works out in practice. I've just completed a 28 Day Social Media Challenge, supported by the course Social Media Success. This course by Lindsay Williams is made for language learners and builds up your new study habit over 4 weeks.

Download the Guide

If you want to get more "behind the scenes" insight and find out which social networks are my top recommendations for language learners, be sure to download the new Guide to Social Networks from my Fluent Cool Kids Club by signing up here for free..

My Challenge Results

In my main language, Welsh, I spoke more sentences, discovered more native speakers, and added new vocabulary. In other words: HECK YES. This habit does not replace bigger study sessions, but it didn't take away the time for them either. Instead, I spent an effortless extra 3 hours on language learning.

I also found more time for my secondary languages. Currently these are Malaysian and French, and in the challenge I did things for both of them. Just a little bit, but it was there and lets me build onto them. I'm already working on a schedule.

17 Quick Tips for Language Learning on Social Media

Over the course of the 28 days, I collected short and simple tips that can help anyone get started with language learning on social media. Feel free to try a few of these, or even just to pick one.

Learn when you are busy

We already spend so much time on social media that this isn't a new time demand for most people. In fact, when was the last time you checked Facebook or Twitter? 20 minutes ago? Good! If you can do that, then you will find the language activities very easy. I was able to stick with the plan even on days where I travelled for over 12 hours, or met my whole extended family.

Here are my top tips:

  • Mix language tools (flashcards) and social media together

For example, you can add new words you learn on Snapchat to a list on Memrise, or document your Duolingo tree in a Facebook group.

  • Edit your newsfeed to stay focused

Are you following someone who tweets more nonsense than helpful things? Edit your newsfeed! You can mute some posts and set up focused lists to help you get there and save time. Twitter is my favourite tool for this.

  • Newsfeed a mess still? Make a new profile

I created a language profile on Instagram so that I could stay focused on languages and have a newsfeed that gives me support and motivation. You can do the same on any social network, and most apps now support quick switching.

It pays off in 4 ways

Lanugage learning on social media is not just a way of taking your language skills to the next level. It also keeps you accountable, meaning you will stay motivated and keep going for longer. You will create documentation of how you're doing in languages, allowing you to see and feel progress. And finally, the community of language learners will start connecting to you meaning you make new language loving friends and find more interesting things about your language.

Here's how to get the most out of this:

  • Follow teachers, bands and businesses

Social Media for Language Learning is about getting your newsfeed right, so make sure you follow as many useful accounts as you can. Find them by searching for your languages or seeing what's related to people you follow.

  • Find existing communities

Every social network has a bunch of great groups that are already talking about your language. Check out Instagram challenges, Twitter chats, subreddits and Facebook groups.

  • Avoid hiding your mistakes

When there is something wrong, people like to comment and correct it. This is how you find the best language community online, so forget about looking flawed and start putting your mistakes out there - they're like community bait!

  • Make and share a goal

If your followers know what you are working on, they will be more invested in your success and you'll get lovely support messages. This also works for your own motivation, as stating the public goal keeps you more accountable.

Not every social network is great for language learning

In my experience of working through the social media jungle, some apps and websites emerged as stars and others felt like a waste of time. You can read more about my experiences in the special guide to social networks I created for the Fluent Cool Kids Club, which is free to join.

  • Organise everyone you follow

On Facebook it's groups, on Pinterest it's boards, on Twitter it's lists. The better your organization, the faster you can find the right people.

  • Organise early, but not too often

Invest half an hour at the start to get your lists or groups set up, and then don't worry about it anymore and enjoy the journey!

  • Be ok with not being everywhere

Over time, you will realize that some apps or networks feel more like an obligation than a pleasure. The best way for you to find out what works for you is to try the challenges in Lindsay's course. After 28 days, look back and ask what worked best for you - then ditch the duds and stick with your daily practice where it matters!

Oh, by the way: This is fun!

Maybe this all sounds like a lot of hard work, but let me tell you: I had lots of fun with my languages. This way of learning is creative and lets you try out anything such as practice with kids, singing new songs, sharing pets or photos of your books.

Some tips to get more out of this:

  • Use apps to go with your apps

The app store is full of great ways to take your photos and words to the next level! You can create images with apps like Wordswag, discover Snapchatters on Ghostcodes, and much more. Simply search your app store for the name of any social network and you'll find new ideas instantly.

  • Explore more social networks

No one said you have to stick to Facebook and Twitter! Try language learning networks or look around on the boards of Fluent in 3 Months or Italki for example, or investigate the extra social networks in my new Cool Kids Club guide.

  • Use algorithms to find more and more

Once you follow a language learner, the social network will learn what kind of people and topics you're interested in. Wait a few minutes, and watch your newsfeed transform into a language class like no other!

At the end of every week, you should spend 30 minutes on a review for new words and lessons. Here's what I did:

  • Review your liked/saved posts

On most social networks, you can access a list of everything you've "Liked" so that you can use this as a bookmark system and work through it once a week as you review the best of the week.

  • Learn social media vocab

The easiest way to find out vocabulary for "post", "comment", "tweet" etc is to switch the user language in your social network.

  • Add your new words to a separate vocab list

Every week, it pays to invest a little bit of time to take all those new posts and words out of the internet and put them into your notebook, flashcards, and, ultimately, brain.

  • Stay organised

Building habits is not the same as doing an intensive challenge, but this investment of your time in "little and often" will pay off. Use a diary, a tracker or follow the Social Media Success schedules so that you don't give up halfway through. The goal here is to start a daily language practice, not to become fluent in a short time!

So here's the conclusion: Social Media for Languages is something you should try - immediately! It won't take a lot of time, and it will pay off for sure.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here and tell me what worked for you and which social network you use all the time.

And don't forget that my free guide to ALL social networks is waiting for you in the Cool Kids Club!