5 tips to help you choose the right resources to learn a language

When you are learning a language on your own it can be hard to know where to begin. There are so many resources available to language learners, especially with technology and language learning apps available today, it can be quite overwhelming.

In this blog post we will go through 5 points to take into account when you start learning a language and are wondering which resources you should use. The first thing you need to do is:

(1) Identify your goals

Why did you choose to learn the language?

– Is it to learn the basics before a holiday or a short break so that you can manage when ordering food, getting around and shopping?
– Is it for your work so that you can communicate better with foreign colleagues?
– Is it to be able to chat to relatives and friends?
– Is it to move to the country permanently?

Adapt resources to your goal

You should adapt the resources you use to suit your reason for learning.

So if you want to get by on holiday, you would be better off getting a phrase book, practical CD, picture dictionary and download podcasts covering every day situations.
On the other hand, if you are learning for business and need to understand and respond to emails you would need to focus more on grammar and reading and writing.
If you are learning to communicate better with friends and family you would need to learn conversational language so you would need to use resources that improve your speaking and listening. You would need to focus on podcasts to improve listening and to help your speaking you would need to find any opportunity to speak to natives such as an exchange partner or tutor.
– If you want to travel or work in South America it would be better to find resources tailored to Latin American Spanish rather than Castilian Spanish that is spoken in Spain as the accent can be different, some of the words are different and the grammar is not quite the same either.

(2) Adapt resources to your preferred learning style

It is important to find resources that will benefit you most. Here we will go into a bit more detail about the type of resources you should look for depending on what type of learner you are. There are three types of learners:

* Visual learners: learn best by seeing what they are trying to learn. Activities visual learners would get on better with include:
– flashcards
– mindmaps
– infographics (Pinterest)
– cartoons
– Picture dictionaries

* Aural learners: learn best by listening to the language spoken. Resources they should focus on include:
– listening to podcasts
– vlogs
– watching YouTube videos
– listening to music and songs
– watching foreign TV and listening to radio

* Kinaesthetic learners: learn best by doing, and using their hands or other parts of the body.
– Playing games
– Role-play
– interactive software
– reading out loud
– writing study notes
– translating an article

(3) What do you find most difficult?

If you struggle with reading, writing, speaking or listening, use resources that will help you improve that area of the language. For example, if you find listening most difficult, make sure you listen to something every day. If you find writing difficult, try to write something in the language every day.

(4) What level are you at?

If you are a complete beginner you would choose resources that are completely different to more advanced learners. You would need to start with the basics, grammar books and flashcard apps. If you are an advanced learner you would be looking to use authentic audio and more advanced grammar books.

(5) Focus on your strengths

Choose resources you find easy and enjoy

Everyone uses some of all of the methods that have been mentioned at some point, however, we all find some easier and more enjoyable than others.

Combine resources:

Sometimes more than one of these approaches can work well for you so in this case, combine them. For example, you may listen to a podcast on your way to work in the morning, use a flashcard app during your break, read an online Spanish newspaper article at lunchtime and then write your diary in Spanish before you go to bed.

Mix it up!

Over time you will want to try different resources to keep you motivated and interested in continuing learning the language. You may change your resources every month or every few months to stop you getting bored and stuck in the same routine.
Remember, no one learning style is better than another. The key to real success is finding what combination works best for you and those which you find easier and more enjoyable.

The online course “Learn Spanish Successfully Solo” goes into more detail about finding the right resources to help you learn Spanish.