You’ve chosen your language, and you’ve laid the groundwork to get started.
Now we must answer the question:
Where am I learning the language from?
We’ve tackled some difficult questions before, but this one may be the hardest of all.
Why? Because there are so many good answers, and they’re all subjective.
What do I mean by subjective?
Despite what the language education industry may have you think, the quality of a given resource is not set in stone.
More often than not, quality is a matter of personal opinion, and can be dependent on a number of different factors, including, but not limited to:
- At what stage of language learning you begin to use the resource.
- How much that resource promotes active vs. passive language development.
- How much personal enjoyment you get from the resource.
Entire articles can be written on the first two points, so we’re not going to discuss them here.
What we do need to talk about is the third point, which will help us figure out which language learning resources will be best for you in the long run.
Language Learning Should Be Fun
In a world where everyone says language learning has to be “hard”, it is often easy to forget about having fun through learning a language.
And if you want to get off to a good start in your language learning, that’s what you have to do—have fun!
Let’s put it this way:
No matter how good a given resource or method is said to be—even by accomplished language learners and polyglots—a resource will only be “good” for you personally if you find that resource to be:
These are the two most important factors, and you need to find resources that strike a balance between them.
If a resource is very enjoyable, but not challenging, you’ll certainly have a lot of fun learning, but you won’t be pushing yourself enough to learn more and make steady progress.
If a resource is very challenging, but not enjoyable, you’ll quickly grow to hate using it, and will soon stop altogether.
When you start looking for learning materials and resources, you want to zero-in on things that are both moderately enjoyable and moderately challenging, or highly enjoyable and highly challenging, or some variation between.
So, with that in mind, let’s start our search!
How to Find the Best Learning Resources, Quickly
Unfortunately, there are so many language learning resources available for so many distinct languages that it is beyond the scope of this article to even attempt a comprehensive review of everything out there.
Since you’re reading this as a pre-beginner, however, we can recommend some good places to begin:
1) Beginner-to-Intermediate printed courses (e.g. Assimil, Colloquial, Teach Yourself, Glossika)
2) Online tutoring (e.g. italki.com) or online classes (e.g. verbling.com)
3) Online learning platforms (e.g. duolingo.com, memrise.com)
4) In-person tutoring or classes (check your local listings)
Take 10 minutes now to search online and see which of the above options are available for your chosen language. Sign-up for or purchase at least two resources that seem most appealing to you.
Note: Major languages like Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese should have resources widely available in all of the above categories. If you’re learning a more obscure language, however, you may need to spend more than the recommended time to ensure that you come away from this exercise with a quality resource.
Test Drive Your Language Learning Tools
Now that you have a couple of resources at your disposal, you’re going to need to test them out!
Start with the resources that you can use every day.
Your plan now is to use that resource as directed every day for the next 7 days.
At the end of the seven day period, if you find the resource to be both enjoyable and challenging enough for you, continue using it, and possibly consider testing out another resource alongside your original one.
On the other hand, if the resource is neither enjoyable nor challenging, stop using it and start using another one of the resources you’ve acquired.
Continue this process for 30 days, adding and subtracting resources from your routine as necessary.
At the end of the one month period, you’ll now have a much more accurate idea of which types of resources work best with your individual learning style, and you’ll be able to use that knowledge to inform your learning decisions as you progress from the beginner to the intermediate stages, and beyond!