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Last week, a fellow language learner shared on Instagram that “language learning is much more fun than language study”….and they’re right. If you’re not using the right tools.
If your language study routine is still boring this far into the digital language learning revolution, then you’re doing something wrong. I totally understand the desire to skip the study part of language learning and solely reach fluency through natural acquisition.
But that’s not something that 99.9% of us can successfully do. Fortunately, there are tried and true methods to improve any study routine.
When it comes to studying languages, the luxuriant amount of tools available is almost overwhelming. Almost. The 10 tools I list below are all reliable, useful, amazingly efficient resources that’ll upgrade your language study routine like no others.
Of course, you don’t have to use all 10. I encourage you to choose the tools that work best for you and your learning style. And trust me when I say that they’ll put you right in the fast lane to fluency.
1. Language Journal
Trying to get some control over your language learning routine? You and me both sister.
Keeping a journal is one of the most efficient, fun, and analog ways to interact with your target language. You can use it to plan out a self-curriculum, track your progress, or write down new terms.
It’s a triple threat tool and something I encourage all language learners to own regardless of where they are in their journey.
My bullet journal is definitely my main means of output practice. I’m sure you know by now that writing and speaking are the two forms of output practice language learners need.
And unless you’re consistently using Italki or language exchange applications, I’ll bet you’re significantly more comfortable writing than speaking. But that being said, if you’re not using a journal already, chances are you’re not actually writing that much.
Most language teaching platforms are set up for you to listen a lot and click. Or even if they do have writing activities, they often cover narrow segments of vocabulary and are very specific in what they allow you to output.
Just think about the slow pace Duolingo takes you on when learning a language. Sure, writing “the boy eats bread” is better than nothing– but you’ll be taking yourself down a turtle-like path to fluency.
With a journal, or even better, a bullet journal you’re taking full control over how much of the language you’re retaining. A bullet journal is like the mother of all things self-teaching.
But I won’t waste your time with my gushing. If you want to get started setting up a language journal, then head over to 10 things you NEED to include in your Language Journal (for maximum memory!) And take my free step-by-step course on setting up a language journal that’ll actually help you learn your target language.
The spreads I demonstrate are designed to be motivational, educational, and aesthetically pleasing. You won’t need any special supplies; just a few pens and highlighters, along with an optional pair of scissors and sticky notes.
100% free with SkillShare’s 2 month free trial! (Use the link above to make sure you get your full 60 days)
Honorary Bullet Journal mentions from fellow Etsy Shop Owners:
- Dotted A5 Soft Cover Bullet Journal by Corderona
- Van Gogh Painting Starry Night Bullet Journal by Corderona
- Hardcover Bullet Journal Notebook by penandpagesde
You can also grab some self-designed stickers from my shop to really make your language study sessions fun.
2. Flewent Extension
The Flewent language learning plugin takes any webpage in English and translates your choice percentage of the words into a language of your choice.
Ideally, this should help you build your vocabulary in your target language while reading news, checking Wikipedia, and doing daily web browsing. It also provides a pop-up to view the word on Google Translate (for better / more results), Wikipedia, or Dictionary.com.
Once installed, whenever browsing your regular web pages, the translations are automatic- all you have to do is click on any of the newly translated words to see the original word in English!
These words are even automatically stored into a dictionary you can refer to whenever.
Making for a great gradual intro for beginners, who likely aren’t looking for full immersion with lengthy articles. Plus it’s often easier to learn words when you do so in context- especially if it’s content you’re interested in!
While the extension only works on webpages in English, there’s a wide range of languages available to translate into.
HOWEVER, I am by no means saying it’s 100% effective! While it can be great for learning nouns & adjectives, the machine translation often doesn’t take into account verb tenses, idioms & set phrases.
But as long as you bare these potential shortcomings in mind, Fluwent might be an interesting addition to your study routine!
The Guardian: “Smartphone owners are spoiled for choice when it comes to dictionary apps, but Linguee looks like it could dislodge your current favorite from your home screen. It translates between a number of languages, with quick tools for searching. And it works offline too.”
The dictionary Linguee is used by millions of people.
- Translations in French, Spanish, German and more
- Reliable: Created by over 400 lexicographers
- Fast: Translations after entering just the first few letters
- The dictionary is free and also available offline
Dictionary for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, and Polish. All dictionaries are bidirectional – you search simultaneously in Spanish-English and English-Spanish.
You’ll find example sentences (Google Translate, who??) containing all the words you search for. And all of the dictionary entries have been recorded audibly by professional speakers.
4. Deepl for Windows
Deepl for Windows lets you select text in any application and simply press Ctrl+C twice to translate it. Adapt the translation as you like; copy it, or paste it directly back into your text; keep working.
Emails, essays, blog posts, reports – translate instantly, no matter what or where you’re writing. You have full control over which applications function with DeepL for Windows.
The keyboard shortcut offers you a fast and easy way to translate text. Only after you press the combination a second time will the text be sent from your clipboard to DeepL for translation.
This means you needn’t worry about simply copying text; DeepL receives what you’ve selected only when you press Ctrl+C twice.
If you haven’t heard of Anki before then oh my goodness have I got a treat for you. This tool is a sworn language study routine essential by numerous polyglots and language learners. Myself included.
Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless.
AnkiDroid lets you learn flashcards crazy efficiently by showing them just before you would forget them. The app is fully compatible with the spaced repetition software Anki (including synchronization), which is available for Windows/Mac/Linux/ChromeOS.
★ Key features of both Anki & AnkiDroid:
• supported flashcard contents: text, images, sounds, LaTeX
• spaced repetition (supermemo 2 algorithm)
• text-to-speech integration
• more than 6000 premade decks
• progress widget
• detailed statistics
• syncing with AnkiWeb
• open source
RocketLanguages’ online and app-based language courses are designed to get you using your new language quickly, correctly, and confidently. The platform is basically everything you need to learn your target language, all in one package.
They use real-world conversations to teach you the most important grammar and vocabulary. The ultimate reason I love this language teaching application is it’s state-of-the-art voice recognition tool.
You can match your voice to thousands of words and phrases, check your pronunciation, and receive feedback as to where you need to improve.
Plus every lesson comes with a range of testing tools to make sure the material really sticks in your memory. Their algorithms adapt to focus on areas where you need more help.
Even their free trials gives you 24/7 lifetime access to selected lessons (over 4 hours worth) from the full language course.
The languages that they offer courses include:
7. Habit List
Habit List includes everything you need to reach your goals, wrapped in a beautiful and intuitive interface. It motivates you, helps you stay focused, and keeps you on track.
Get motivated with streaks — something Duolingo has taught us is very motivating. See how high you can go, then try to beat your personal best.
You can choose from 3 kinds of schedules: Specific Days, Non-specific Days, or Intervals. You can track your progress by viewing your history at a glance and gain insight into what’s working—or isn’t.
You can even set a daily review reminder to get in the habit of using the app.
You’re even able to view trends over time, allowing you to see weekly and monthly completion percentages. Bar colors range from green to red and give a visual indicator of how you’re doing.
While this app is by no means explicitly made for language learners, it’s still one of my all-time favorites when it comes to tracking language goals.
8. Innovative Language
With Innovative Language, you learn directly from native speakers and start speaking in minutes. Lessons are like personal classes, except you learn at your own pace.
You can learn practical, native-level conversations in minutes. Their teachers explain it all, word-by-word, in every lesson.
By joining, you get all new language lessons, all the time… for free. From Beginner to Advanced, and available in 34 languages.
Making this one of the few teaching platforms for more obscure languages like Filipino, Urdu, and Thai. Personally, I’ve loved this platform since day 1 of my Vietnamese journey and I don’t think Duolingo can even compete.
The languages that they offer both free and paid subscriptions in include:
- Chinese — Cantonese
- Chinese — Mandarin
And that’s just a few of them! With 1+ billion lesson downloads since 2005, you’ll be learning with the largest library of lessons.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Italki, but maybe you just don’t understand the hype behind it. It’s just video chatting right? Definitely not.
With Italki, you’re able to choose from over 10,000 teachers for 1-on-1 lessons based on your goals and interests. You only pay per lesson and at the price that meets your budget.
Plus you can learn from literally anywhere and at any time— all sessions are scheduled for when works best for you. So with Italki, you’ll never have to worry about not having access to native speakers. And unless you’re learning Spanish or French, this can be a very real concern.
This is just about the only language teaching platform that you can genuinely learn any language on.
I’m talking about Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Deutsch, Hindi, Arabic, Thai, Urdu, Punjabi, Tagalog, Persian (Dari and Farsi), Danish, Japanese, Korean, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Armenian, ASL, Bosnian, Esperanto, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese, Slovenian, Somali, Swahili, Slovak, and basically every language under the sun.
So yes, if you’re looking for a unique addition to your language study routine, then I would definitely suggest Italki. It’ll help you get in some much needed speaking practice, along with comprehensive feedback.
Ultimately, it’ll take the fear out of conversing in real life since you’ll be able to actually feel confident in your pronunciation skills.
10. Language Magnetic Memory Series
I don’t typically just throw out free promotions like this, but I genuinely love memory palaces and mnemonics. They can make the language memory process so much more enjoyable.
Any language learner could benefit from adding both to their study routine, and this book series walks you through exactly how to do just that.
The use of memory palaces is a method that dates back to the ancient greeks yet is just as effective today. To at least provide some form of definition, a memory palace is a mental construct that appeals to your spatial memory. You form connections in your mind between foreign vocabulary or grammar and allocate these to locations you know by heart.
Anthony Metivier is a memory expert and he’s produced a number of books on this topic, specifically curated to different languages.
Each book is structured as “How to Learn and Memorize [language name] Vocabulary.”
Languages offered include:
Before you go upgrade your language study routine…
Now that you know what tools to use, head over to 8 steps to creating a Language study routine that you LOVE.
My language craziness expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out polyglot inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this blog.
Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.
All exclusive content curated specifically for atypical language learners looking to make the language acquisition process as fun and creative as possible.
Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas (read the first 50 here!), the keys to a “naturally simple” approach, a rapid acquisition 2-week plan, and science-based guides to creating a language journal you love. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.
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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.