It is an exciting and rewarding experience to learn a language. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities to make new friends and expand your career opportunities.
But if you haven’t done it before, the sheer amount of apps, books, resources and websites can be overwhelming, and not all of them are effective.
So, what tools do you use to learn a language?
Check out some of our latest posts on language learning tools:
- Unlocking Language Mastery: A Comprehensive Babbel Review
- Unpacking Duolingo: FAQ for the Eager Learner
- Unlocking 40 Duolingo Languages: What Hidden Gems Can You Learn For Free Today
- Traditional Language Learning Tools & Resources
- 3. Language Tutors
- Digital & AI Tools for Language Learning
- Media Resources For Language Learning
- Social Language Learning Resources – In Person & Digital
A quick look at the way different language learning tools can be used to develop your foreign language skills.
Certainly! Here’s the updated cross-tabulation table with an added column for “Conversational Skills.”
|Language Learning Tools/Resources||Reading||Writing||Listening||Speaking||Vocabulary||Conversational Skills|
|Traditional Language Learning Tools & Resources|
|1. Language Schools & Tutors||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|2. Online Language Courses||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|3. Language Tutors||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Digital & AI Tools for Language Learning|
|7. Language Learning Apps||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|9. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Media Resources For Language Learning|
|10. Native Language Podcasts and Audiobooks||✓||✓|
|11. Streaming Services for Movies and Television||✓||✓|
|12. Music and Lyrics||✓||✓|
|13. Blogs & Online Articles||✓||✓|
|14. News Websites||✓||✓|
|15. Social Media||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Social Language Learning Resources – In Person & Digital|
|16. Language Learning Games||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|17. Language Cafés||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|18. Travel and Cultural Immersion||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|19. Pen Pals||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|20. Language Exchange Platforms||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|21. Language Learning Forums||✓||✓||✓|
The table should help you identify which activities will be most beneficial for the specific skills you’re looking to improve. It’s a nifty way to keep your learning objectives aligned with your resources.
Now let’s have a look at each resource in a little more detail.
Traditional Language Learning Tools & Resources
1. Language Schools & Tutors
If you crave personalised guidance, enrolling in a language school or hiring a tutor could be your cup of tea. They can tailor the lessons to your learning style and pace, offering you one-on-one focus.
Here, you’ll benefit from experienced instructors and a systematic curriculum that addresses everything from basic vocabulary to advanced conversational skills.
Schools usually offer a variety of courses, even specialised ones like business language.
The advantages include personalised guidance and being part of a learning community.
However, you’ll need to commit both time and potentially a significant financial investment—the cost can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the course type and duration.
2. Online Language Courses
Considering the convenience of learning a language from the comfort of your home? Online courses might be the perfect fit for you.
Platforms like Coursera and Udemy, as well as companies like Rocket Languages or Rosetta Stone, offer a wide range of courses tailored to suit different learning styles.
The best language learning software will excel in teaching you essential vocabulary and grammar, often including listening and reading exercises to hone those particular skills.
You have the freedom to choose from comprehensive, multi-level courses or shorter, bite-sized lessons, depending on your needs.
One of the major advantages is flexibility; you set your own schedule and learn at your own pace.
Plus, the option to revisit material means you can really solidify your understanding. On the downside, you might find it challenging to practise speaking and conversational skills in a real-world context, and you’ll need a fair bit of self-discipline to stay the course.
However, if you’re focused and manage your time well, online courses can offer a rapid route to language proficiency.
3. Language Tutors
For a truly personalised learning experience, face-to-face tutors serve as a compelling language learning tool.
The one-to-one interaction usually takes place in a comfortable setting, often your own home, making it easier to focus.
Costs vary widely based on your location and the tutor’s qualifications, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $60 per hour.
This format offers immediate feedback and customised lessons, which can dramatically speed up your language acquisition.
With face-to-face sessions, you’ll likely find that your speaking and listening skills improve the most, thanks to real-time adjustments and clarifications.
Online Language Tutors
If you’re keen on personalised attention but find it difficult to travel, don’t want people in your home, or have an irregular personal schedule, online language tutors are an unparalleled language learning tool.
You get the flexibility to choose tutors based on your language goals, schedule, and budget; lessons can range from $10 to $50 an hour, depending on the tutor’s experience and expertise.
4. Textbooks & Workbooks
Fancy a more traditional route to language mastery?
Textbooks and workbooks could be your go-to resources.
These classics excel in delivering in-depth grammar explanations and ample practice exercises, making them particularly effective for mastering writing and reading skills.
Typically, they follow a structured curriculum that takes you from beginner to advanced levels, usually with end-of-chapter quizzes to gauge your progress.
These materials allow for focused, self-paced learning, offering you the chance to revisit sections as often as needed.
They’re also incredibly portable, meaning you can study anywhere, from a coffee shop to a long-haul flight.
But let’s talk cons.
Textbooks can’t offer you interactive or conversational practice, so you might want to complement them with other methods for a well-rounded approach.
Also, because they’re not updated as frequently as online resources, some information might become outdated.
Nevertheless, if you’re disciplined and like to have a tangible resource in your hands, textbooks and workbooks can speed up your path to language proficiency.
Flashcards serve as a versatile language learning tool that should not be underestimated.
Retain all this new vocabulary by focusing on basic words and phrases, and gradually work your way up to more complex ones.
One of the key benefits of flashcards is their portability, making it easy for you to utilise spare moments throughout your day for quick study sessions.
The science of repetition and active recall also backs their effectiveness in cementing information in your memory.
You can opt for traditional physical cards, or turn to digital platforms like Anki; they have different advantages. Both will let you learn new words in precisely the order you want.
If you make your own cards, with Anki or physically, each card can have an image, translation, or both. There are pros and cons to each method.
Neither digital nor paper flashcards are tied to a formal course structure (unlesss you want them to be), giving you the flexibility to focus on vocabulary and memorisation, where they really excel.
However, flashcards come with limitations such as a lack of conversational practice and in-depth explanations.
Also, if you’re new to digital platforms like Anki, the user interface can be a bit overwhelming at first.
On the cost front, physical cards can be created almost for free, while digital options like Anki offer free basic versions, though premium features may set you back around $25.
If your aim is to rapidly boost your vocabulary and memorisation skills, flashcards are a highly effective and flexible option.
– 625 Words to Learn a Language –
Gabriel Wyner’s ‘Fluent Forever’ App is a particularly useful flashcard app to get a quick start to many common languages.
It is based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience studies into how we best learn vocabularly in another language.
This is combined with Gabriel’s personal experience that it takes just 625 words to learn a language – or at least, to learn the basics of a language fast enough to get a head start.
6. Dictionaries and Translation Apps
In today’s digital age, dictionaries and translation apps have emerged as a go-to language learning tool for quick reference and on-the-spot translation.
Opting for this tool, you’ll typically find features like text translations, voice recognition, and even image scanning for signs or menus.
Google Translate is one that almost everyone knows about, but there are other examples like DeepL, Reverso and more.
Google Translate supports 109 languages for text translation, and DeepL supports 26 languages for text translation.
You can easily translate text, websites, or even documents from one language to another.
It’s a handy tool if you’re travelling, trying to understand a foreign text, or communicating with people who speak a different language.
Although the number of languages is fewer compared to Google Translate, many users find DeepL to offer more accurate and natural-sounding translations, particularly for European languages.
If you’re dealing with professional or academic documents, or if you simply want a more nuanced translation, you might find DeepL to be a better fit.
A more in-depth dictionary, Reverso supports 14 languages for text translation.
While its range of languages is smaller compared to Google Translate and DeepL, Reverso offers additional features like synonyms, definitions, and context examples.
This makes it particularly useful if you’re trying to grasp the nuances of a language or looking for more than just a straightforward translation.
It’s a good tool for language learners, writers, or anyone interested in delving deeper into the subtleties of a language.
All these apps are useful for boosting your reading comprehension and vocabulary.
One of their major advantages is the immediate access they provide to translations and word definitions, helping you understand texts and conversations much faster.
However, it’s worth noting that these tools should be used as a supplement rather than a replacement for structured learning.
Remember, while they incredibly useful, they are not always 100% accurate—especially with complex sentences or idiomatic expressions. Always double-check, if the translation is crucial.
Digital & AI Tools for Language Learning
7. Language Learning Apps
Always on the go and got your smartphone handy?
Consider turning it into your personal language tutor with a language learning app.
Platforms like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone serve up interactive lessons covering a broad range of languages.
You can expect a modular structure, complete with levels that unlock as you make progress, which makes these apps particularly effective for building vocabulary and basic sentence structure.
Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise, Mondly, Busuu, Drops, Mango, Rocket Languages, Rosetta Stone – all these platforms begin with, and in many cases focus on, vocabulary learning.
Duolingo and to a lesser extent Babbel and Memrise, use a written translation method, so are useful for people who learn better with text-based resources.
Apps like Drops or Mango, and the language learning programme of Rosetta Stone use an image based association, bypassing translation into another language.
Searching for the perfect vocabulary learning app? Discover how to evaluate your options in my comprehensive guide How do I Choose the Best Language Learning App?
The convenience is unbeatable; you can practice anytime, whether you’re waiting for a bus or winding down before bed.
Many apps also integrate gamification features, making the learning process fun and addictive.
However, while great for beginners, these apps might not offer the in-depth grammar explanations or cultural nuances you’d get from a textbook or a tutor.
And you’ll find that real-world conversational skills are harder to practise.
Cost-wise, many of these apps offer free versions with optional in-app purchases, but premium features could set you back around $5 to $15 a month.
If you’re looking for a convenient and engaging way to get started or reinforce basic skills, language learning apps can fast-track your journey to fluency.
To learn more about various language apps, check out our product reviews:
- Unlocking Language Mastery: A Comprehensive Babbel Review
- Unpacking Duolingo: FAQ for the Eager Learner
- Unlocking 40 Duolingo Languages: What Hidden Gems Can You Learn For Free Today
- Duolingo Review: How Did The Little Green Owl Win Back My Heart?
8. ChatGPT to Learn Reading and Writing Your Language
If you are reluctant to use Language Exchange Chats, one of the new language learning strategies you now have access to is the opportunity to “chat” with a robot.
ChatGPT is a form of Artificial Intelligence created by OpenAI. It has been trained on a vast amount of written language data to generate human-like language. ChatCPT3 is currently free for anyone to use after making an account.
ChatGPT is useful for language learning because it can provide instant, accurate feedback on grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.
Language learners can practice their skills by interacting with ChatGPT and receive real-time feedback on their writing or speaking.
ChatGPT4 AI in Bing Search Chat can interact in many languages, providing
a 24/7 language exchange partner at exactly your level!
Additionally, ChatGPT can generate examples of correct language usage, which can help learners improve their language skills.
As it is available 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere, learners can practice their language skills anytime they want.
BREAKING NEWS: There is an app specifically for using ChatGPT as a language learning tool. Conversly.ai has an attractive interface, and a few predefined options for the style of conversation. As of May, 2023 it is available for French, Spanish, German, Russian and Portuguese learners.
You can chat with an AI ‘buddy’, debate an issue of your choosing, and play a story telling game. Or you can just chat with the AI. Either way, the app feels a little more personal and ‘purpose built’ than the ChatGPT interface.
However! Trust, but verify! Because ChatGPT is ARTIFICIAL intelligence, it is still learning.
Also, ChatGPT sometimes “hallucinates”, which is what the industry calls the phenomenon of AI returning false information. It works by predicting how to string words together based on the millions of sentences it has encountered.
It is more than adequate for beginner language learning, but if a native speaker tells you that something ChatCPT has said is wrong, double check your information.
9. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Ever fancied stepping into a digital world to learn a new language? Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) can make that dream a reality and serve as high-tech language learning tools.
These platforms allow you to practice speaking, listening, and even non-verbal cues in a controlled, interactive environment.
Depending on the system and course content, costs can vary; a basic Mondly VR package could set you back around $10 a month, whereas more comprehensive systems might require an investment upwards of $300.
You’ll find that these innovative methods are especially effective for honing your IRL* conversational skills and improving your understanding of body language and cultural norms.
*IRL – In Real Life
Media Resources For Language Learning
10. Native Language Podcasts and Audiobooks
When you’re constantly on the move and prefer absorbing information through your ears, podcasts and audiobooks emerge as a top language learning tool.
They offer an immersive experience, often replicating natural conversations in the language you’re eager to learn.
You can find podcasts specifically designed for language learners on platforms like Spotify, or dive into audiobooks available on Audible.
Listening is the primary skill you’ll sharpen here, but you’ll also incidentally pick up on new vocabulary and phrases.
The cost varies; some podcasts are free, while subscription-based services like Audible can set you back around $15 per month.
A benefit specific to Audible is that you can often buy the same book on Kindle, and then read and listen at the same time.
So, you not only get to fine-tune your listening skills quickly, but you can also multitask—learning while commuting, exercising, or even doing household chores.
(It can also help reinforce language you have already learned, by listening as you fall asleep!)
11. Streaming Services for Movies and Television
If you’re a fan of entertainment, streaming services like Disney, Hulu, and Showtime can become a unique language learning tool.
These platforms offer a wide range of movies and TV shows in multiple languages, often with the option for subtitles.
You get to enjoy your favourite genres while being exposed to colloquial expressions and the cultural richness of the language you’re learning.
The primary skills you’re likely to improve are listening and comprehension, but you’ll also gain a good grasp of everyday vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
A typical subscription for these services can range from $6 to $15 per month, depending on the platform and the package you choose.
So, you’re not just binge-watching for fun; you’re also accelerating your language learning journey in an enjoyable way.
Alternatively, if you are looking for someone else to source helpful material, “virtual” immersion tools like FluentU use real-world videos—think music videos, news, and inspirational talks—and turn them into personalised language lessons.
These platforms make you feel like you’re in a native-speaking country without leaving your living room.
12. Music and Lyrics
For a harmonious way to learn a new language, consider diving into music and lyrics.
Platforms like Spotify or Apple Music offer extensive playlists in various languages, allowing you to groove to the beat while picking up new phrases.
You can usually find the lyrics online by searching for artist, song name and adding ‘lyrics‘ into the search.
Or go Old School, and buy a CD – remember, they usually come with the lyrics on the inside cover!
This engaging language learning tool immerses you in colloquial language, slang, and even cultural themes embedded in the songs.
You’ll primarily improve your listening skills and extend your vocabulary, especially with words and phrases you won’t often find in traditional textbooks.
The cost of these music streaming services can range from $10 to $15 per month.
So, hit play and let the melodies accelerate your language learning in an enjoyable and meaningful way.
13. Blogs & Online Articles
Annika Zang has a snazzy suggestion for finding new vocabulary in context:
This way you learn a language in context.
Even better – take all this vocabulary you notice in the native language books, movies or music, and make your own flashcards, either physical cards or in an app like Anki.
14. News Websites
If you’re keen to stay informed while learning a new language, news websites are a terrific choice.
Sites like BBC Mundo for Spanish learners or Deutsche Welle for those tackling German offer articles, videos, and podcasts in various languages.
There are even specialist language learning websites using news and current affairs to help you learn your language, like News in Slow French.
News in Slow French is a language learning tool provides you with a rich array of vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and a keen sense of the language structure, all wrapped up in current events.
You’ll find it particularly useful for enhancing reading comprehension and vocabulary, and even listening skills if you watch video content.
Learn more about
News in Slow French
Read our independent review and find out why we like it so much.
For everyone from beginner to upper intermediate and even advanced language learners of French.
Most news platforms offer free content, although some might have a subscription fee ranging from $5 to $20 per month for premium features.
So, while sipping your morning coffee, browse through the latest headlines and supercharge your language skills in a practical and informative manner.
15. Social Media
Tap into the potential of social media for an interactive and engaging way to learn a new language.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram host numerous groups and influencers who specialise in language education, offering you a thriving community to join.
Alternatively, do you love cycling? crochet? online gaming? Combine it with your language learnign by finding a hobby group in your target language.
This unconventional language learning tool grants you access to a wealth of real-world dialogues, idiomatic phrases, and cultural insights.
You’ll especially excel in honing your reading and comprehension skills, and even speaking if you engage in community discussions.
While basic access to these platforms is generally free, some influencers or groups might offer exclusive paid content, ranging from $1 to $10 per month.
So go ahead, scroll through your social feed and dive into language learning in one of the most dynamic settings possible.
Social Language Learning Resources – In Person & Digital
16. Language Learning Games
When it comes to blending education with entertainment, language learning games rise to the occasion as a valuable tool for acquiring new skills.
You can choose from classics like Scrabble, Bingo, and Pictionary, or go digital with apps specifically designed to make language learning more interactive.
Typical features of these games often include vocabulary quizzes, sentence formation challenges, and even conversational simulations.
These games are particularly effective at enhancing your vocabulary and sentence construction skills, all while keeping you engaged through a gaming format.
Cost-wise, many games are free to download, but sometimes they offer in-app purchases for advanced features or levels.
If you find traditional study methods a bit dry, language learning games provide a fun and fast-paced alternative to boost your linguistic prowess.
17. Language Cafés
If you crave real conversations and a hot cuppa, Language Cafés are the language learning tool for you.
Imagine sitting in a cosy café, surrounded by people just as eager to learn a new language as you are.
Platforms like Meetup or specific language café events in your area usually organise these gatherings.
Here, you can flex your speaking and listening muscles in a relaxed environment, as you’re most likely to improve your conversational skills and fluency.
While some cafes might offer free entry, others may charge a nominal fee, ranging from $5 to $20 for the experience.
So don your best chatty hat, grab a flat white, and get to conversing in your new language!
18. Travel and Cultural Immersion
Ready to take your language skills to the next level? Consider travel and cultural immersion as your ultimate language learning tool.
If you’re committed to intensive learning, in-country language schools offer a rigorous but rewarding experience; they usually cost between $500 and $2,000 per week, depending on the country and course intensity. One of the most established network of schools is Education First, or EF.
Alternatively, consider specialised language learning tours, such as the educational tours organised by EF’s sister company, EF Tours, who merge travel and education to a number of international locations in a seamless package, generally ranging from $1,500 to $4,000.
Don’t forget about self-organised opportunities either; working holidays or volunteer stints can be an affordable way to soak up a language and culture.
While these methods will bolster all of your language skills, they particularly excel in enhancing your speaking and listening abilities, giving you an unparalleled understanding of native colloquialisms and cultural nuances.
19. Pen Pals
If you’ve got a way with words and love the idea of forming international friendships, digital pen pals serve as a phenomenal language learning tool.
Not only can you practise your writing and reading comprehension, but you also get to take your time formulating sentences, choosing the right words, and even using a dictionary as a crutch if you need it.
This method is mostly free, though some websites offer premium features for a cost, usually around $5 to $20 per month.
So, dust off that virtual quill and parchment; your next letter could elevate your language skills to the next level!
20. Language Exchange Platforms
If you’re keen to practice speaking and improve your conversational skills, language exchange platforms offer an unbeatable experience.
You can find them in a variety of places. Facebook has been a wonderful platform for finding others to exchange with. Websites like Meetup.com also have a number of face-to-face and online language exchange opportunities.
And then there are stand-alone websites, like ConversationExchange.com, which despite having an interface that is a little jaded, has consistently been one of the most effective means of finding new people to speak with, both face to face, and online.
More recently there is a growing number of tools like Tandem and HelloTalk, which connect you with native speakers and language learners, allowing you to indulge in real-world conversations.
Other places that have proven wonderful communities in which to set up language exchanges are Polyglot Conference, and Polyglot Gathering. These, and a growing number of associated and similar events for language lovers, provide the attendees with the opportunities to have year long online chats in their target languages.
The conferences themselves also host a number of language exchange opportunities, and can be a fun holiday for anyone who loves languages – you don’t even need to be a polyglot!
Typical features include text chats, voice recordings, and even video calls, providing a comprehensive environment for language practice.
Speaking and listening are the skills you’ll most effectively hone using this language learning tool.
Most platforms offer basic features for free, but for a more tailored experience like advanced matching or expert tutoring, you might have to shell out around $5 to $20 a month.
Not only do you fast-track your language learning, but you also get the chance to make international friends along the way.
NOTE: Women especially need to be aware that it is quite common to receive unwanted advances on these apps. It is important to set clear boundaries and communicate clearly with potential language partners. This includes specifying the type of communication you are comfortable with, such as only chatting about language and culture, and avoiding personal or intimate topics. It is also recommended to avoid sharing personal information like phone numbers, social media handles, or email addresses even when you feel comfortable with the other person.
21. Language Learning Forums
If you’re on the hunt for diverse perspectives and real-world advice, language learning forums should be your go-to resource.
You’ll find these forums invaluable for improving your reading comprehension and for learning how to ask and answer questions in your target language.
Usually, joining these forums is free, though some may have premium features or courses that can range from $10 to $50.
Tap into this wealth of collective wisdom as a dynamic language learning tool and you’ll find your skills sharpening at a rapid pace.
To learn languages fast can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With effective use of the types of language learning tools we have discussed here, anyone can become fluent in a foreign language.
By setting realistic goals, choosing a language that interests you, and following the tips and tricks outlined in this guide, you can make your language learning journey faster and more effective.
Remember that language learning is a lifelong process, and the key to success is consistency and perseverance. So, keep practicing, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of discovering new cultures and ways of communicating.