Once you’ve decided you want to learn a new language, you need to determine which method to use. Researching the wide selection of learning materials and methods, however, can be overwhelming. Countless programs claim they’re the “best way to learn a language,” and that they will help you speak like a native in just a few days.
With so many options to choose from, how can you know which of these claims you can trust? How can you determine the best way to learn a new language, for you?
To help you succeed in your learning journey, let’s take a look at the most popular methods for learning languages and the pros and cons associated with each one.
Note: Each approach is effective in its own way, we’ve highlighted various aspects of each one, so you can make the best decision for your goals and your budget.
Learn a New Language App
These days, there’s an app for everything – and that includes learning a new language. Apps are easy to download and can help you study on the go.
There are several different options available in the app store. Language-learning apps offer helpful features like flashcards, quizzes, vocabulary guides, and pronunciation help.
Pros of Language Learning Apps
- Language Apps Are Affordable and Easily Accessible
Most language apps are available for free or for a small price – this means you can try them out with little to no risk.
Plus, since you just need to download them to your smartphone, they’re convenient and easy to install and use.
- Language-Learning Apps Are Fun
Many language apps use a technique called “gamification.” By transforming the learning process into a game, it makes it more fun for the user.
When you’re having fun, you’re more likely to keep coming back to learn more.
- There Are a Wide Variety of Apps Available
In addition to apps that teach you the language, you’ll also find dictionaries, translators, flashcard apps, and more to supplement your learning.
Make sure to try out different apps and see which one works best with your learning style.
- Language Apps Let You Learn on the Go
You already take your smartphone with you everywhere. If you have a language app installed on your phone, you can turn your downtime into study time.
Cons of Language Learning Apps
- Language Apps Are Primarily Made for Beginners
Everyone has to start with the basics of the language. While it’s great that beginners have so many apps to choose from, the selection drastically diminishes (or for many languages, is non-existent) for intermediate and advanced learners.
- Audio Recordings Aren’t Always From Native Speakers
Many language apps have computer-generated audio. While this is better than nothing, it can make it harder for you to hear the proper pronunciations.
Learn a New Language Online
The internet has made it easier than ever to learn a new language. Even if a particular language isn’t spoken within thousands of miles of your home, you can access learning materials and connect with native speakers online. Just a quick Google search is all it takes to see the vast number of websites available to help you learn a language online.
Here’s a great look at language-learning websites from Omnigolot.
Pros of Online Language Learning
- Language Websites are Easy to Access
WiFi access is easy to find almost anywhere; you can access these websites whenever you’re ready to study.
- Language Websites Cater to a Variety of Levels
For most languages, there are websites designed to help learners of all levels. You can find everything from introductory lessons, podcasts recorded in slow, clear dictation for intermediate students, and videos explaining complex grammar concepts for advanced learners.
In addition to sites with grammar drills, vocabulary, and pronunciation, there are also a lot of websites that make learning more fun for users.
GamesforLanguages, for example, is an online story based course. “Quick Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés can make learning and practicing fun and engaging for grown-ups,” says Peter Rettig from GamesforLanguages. “Rather than drilling unrelated or random words and phrases, learners hear and practice the real-life, useful words and phrases in the dialogs and story of a young man’s travels.
Cons of Online Language Learning Websites
- Some Language Websites Have Monthly Subscriptions
Although they may let you access sample lessons or get a free trial, many language-learning websites require a monthly subscription. These fees can add up quickly.
- Some Language Learning Websites are Outdated
There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a language podcast or blog that you love, only to find out that it hasn’t been updated in three years. While you can still use what’s already there, this means you won’t have new, fresh content to keep coming back for.
Learn a New Language with Lessons
One-on-one private tutoring is an excellent method for learning a new language. These lessons may be conducted in person or online via a video chat program like Skype.
Pros of Language Lessons
- Language Lessons Are Customized to Meet Your Needs
Other language-learning methods are made to be “one-size-fits-all.” Some move too quickly, while others may spend excessive amounts of time on a concept you’ve already mastered. Language lessons are completely customized to you. Your tutor will teach you what you need to know and practice – not what some pre-determined program wants you to learn.
If you’re struggling in a particular area, your language tutor can spend more time on these topics and help you advance at your own pace.
- Instant Feedback
When teaching yourself with other methods, it’s easy to pick up bad habits. With no one to correct you, you may learn incorrect pronunciation or other errors that’ll be hard to correct in the future. During private lessons, you receive instant feedback, so you know you’re doing everything right.
- Language Lessons Are Fun!
Taking one-on-one lessons is nothing like being in a traditional classroom. You won’t be lectured to while you fall asleep. You’ll work with your tutor in lots of creative and interactive ways – and have a ton of fun in the process!
Cons of Language Lessons
- Language Lessons Require Commitment
When studying independently, it’s no problem to take a day off if you’re busy or just don’t feel like studying. With private lessons, however, your sessions are pre-scheduled appointments. While your teacher will be understanding and try work with you when things come up, it does require a certain level of commitment.
Interested in learning Spanish? We’re now offering FREE live, online group classes with our teachers. Check out the classes here!
Since the rise of the personal computer, language-learning software has been promoted as one of the best ways to learn a new language.
Pros of Language-Learning Software
- Language Software Goes More in-depth
Language-learning software typically covers much more information than an app or website, which can help you achieve a higher level of knowledge by the end.
- Language-Learning Software May Be Available at Your Public Library
If you don’t have access to a computer at home, check your local library. There may be pre-installed software available for you to use.
Cons of Language Learning Software
- Language Learning Software is Expensive
Most of these software packages cost hundreds of dollars. That’s a lot of money to spend on something you aren’t sure you’ll like.
- PCs Aren’t as Popular as Other Devices
Increasing numbers of people are using tablets and mobile devices instead of traditional computers. Using a PC or laptop may be impractical or impossible for many people.
Other Things to Consider
Besides cost and commitment, there are some other important factors to consider in order to determine the best way to learn a new language.
What Are Your Language Goals?
Regardless of which language you wish to study, you need to ask yourself why you want to learn this language. Are you planning a trip to a foreign country and want to be able to find your way around? Are you learning a new language for business reasons?
Would you like to have a basic understanding of the language or do you hope to gain fluency? Are you looking to supplement what you’re learning in school? Keep these things in mind as you weigh the pros and cons of each learning method.
What is Your Time Frame?
How much time do you have to devote to learning a language? What pace is ideal for your lifestyle and learning style?
How to Learn a New Language Fast
It seems like speed is the name of the game when it comes to learning a new skill. Everyone wants to know the fastest, easiest way to accomplish a goal, and language learning is no different. So, along with the best way, you’re probably wondering what’s the fastest way to learn a new language?
Keep in mind that while there are various language-learning hacks, individuals learn at different rates. Some of these suggestions may help you speed up your learning curve, but they’re not guarantees.
If you want to learn to speak a new language quickly, here are several tricks to try in combination with the methods above:
- Practice every day (without fail)
- Take one-on-one lessons with a qualified tutor
- Use the language (as much as possible) – talk with natives, read, or watch a movie
- Converse with native speakers
This is one of the best things you can do to learn a new language. If you can travel to a country where your language of choice is spoken, you’ll be forced to use the language, which will speed up your learning. Look into study abroad and language-immersion programs. Not only will you learn a new language, you’ll have an unforgettable travel experience.
Of course, travel may not be feasible for everyone; luckily, there are some great ways to practice language close to home. Benny Lewis from Fluentin3Months recommends language Meetup groups. Meetup groups allow you to connect with people with similar interests. Check your local listings to find a group near you.
Plus, here are some great Spanish conversation ideas that you can use to practice almost any language!
So what’s the best way to learn a new language? Whichever way works for you!
Remember, the best option for you may actually be a combination of these learning methods. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and it’s OK to try a couple of things and see what you like best.
If you want to try taking lessons, you can find a qualified language tutor near you.
No matter which method you choose, we wish you the best of luck. Be patient, stick with it, and most importantly – have fun!
Have you had success learning a new language? Tell us what you did; share your experience in the comments below!