What's the best way to study?
There are a number of different ways to study a language, each of which
has advantages and disadvantages. You may find a combination of these
is best for you.
Studying in your country
If you can find a course in the language(s) you want to learn in your
country this is quite a good way to study. A variety of courses are usually
available, including part-time and full-time courses, short intensive courses
and courses leading to qualifications. If you look around you can probably
find a course that suits your requirements.
The main advantage of such courses is that you'll have a teacher or
tutor to provide you with instruction, support and feedback and with whom to
practice your language. You will also be studying with others who are at more
or less the same level and you can compare notes with them and
help one another. Formal courses also help you to structure your studies.
Taking a course is not for everyone however - some people don't feel comfortable
in a classroom environment and prefer to study at their own pace and when
it suits them.
One option is to study a language in a country where it's spoken. There are
numerous schools teaching English, French, Spanish, Italian and German, but
far fewer teaching other languages. The main advantage of studying abroad is
that you are totally immersed in the language, not just in class, but the rest
of the time as well. As a result, you should make fairly rapid progress. Another
benefit of studying abroad is that you get to try the local cusine, to meet the locals
and to sample the local culture.
The main disadvantage of studying abroad is the cost, not just of your course,
but also of your accommodation, food and travel. This can work out considerably
more than you'd spend studying a language in your own country.
If you're a native or fluent speaker of English, you could get a job teaching
English in a country where the language you want to learn is spoken. This is good
way to finance your studies.
For information about English teaching qualifications and jobs, see:
If you cannot find a suitable taught course in your area and are unable to
spare the time to study abroad, you could consider online courses. There are
plenty to choose from in a wide range of languages. Many are free but some you have
to pay for. Some of the paid ones provide support from tutors via email, chat
programs, video conferencing, telephone or even face to face.
Links to many online language courses
There are many different courses designed for self-study available. These
include textbooks, with or without cassettes or CDs, cassettes alone, videos,
DVDs and CD-ROMs. Each type of course has its strengths and weaknesses which
are discussed below.
If you want to learn how to read and write a language and are not bothered
about speaking it, then all you need is a good textbook, a grammar and a dictionary.
Examples of this type of textbook include Peter Jones' excellent
and Learn Ancient Greek, and
by Ian Press.
Textbooks with cassettes or CDs
This type of course is probably the most popular and is designed to give you
an all round knowledge of a language. Some courses focus more on colloquial
language while others concentrate more on reading and writing. Most courses
are intended for complete beginners or people with only minimal knowledge
of the language. Intermediate and advanced level courses are available for
some of the more popular languages, such as French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Examples of this type of course:
courses are available for 100 languages and include all audio
courses, explorer courses for those who just want to learn the basics, and
in-depth courses for more serious students.
Teach Yourself and Colloquial courses - these are similar and are available for a wide range of languages;
focus on teaching you everyday language, and introduce you to new alphabets
or other writing systems where appropriate. Each course consists of a course
book containing dialogues, grammatical notes, exercises and cultural information,
together with cassettes or CDs with recordings of most of the dialogues and
some of the exercises. Most of these courses are suitable for
beginners. Intermediate-level courses are also available for the more popular
languages, such as French, German, Russian, Spanish and Italian.
There are also Teach Yourself courses that introduce you to various
writing systems, dictionaries, grammars and books about the culture of
All audio courses
This type of course usually consists solely of cassettes or CDs, though some
may also include a limited amount of printed material. All dialogues, exercises,
instructions and explanations are recorded and the focus of these courses is
teaching you to understand and speak the language.
Various language courses are available on CD-ROMs and DVDs. Each course is different
but they generally include dialogues, audio, exercises and tests. Some also include
phrasebooks, dictionaries, videos, games and provide online and/or telephone support.
These courses include:
- include CD-Rom with vocabularly and grammar exercises, a series
of graded stories and a talking dictionary. An accompanying booklet
contains the text of all the stories, and an audio CD includes the
vocabulary and the stories. Available for over 40 languages, including
Bavarian, Breton, Cornish, Manx, Occitan, Quechua and Romansh.
- a range of language courses for many different languages. Their site also
includes useful phrases, games, cultural information, articles, quizzes and
A selection of multi-language courses
to more than 25,000 audio books programs. Choose from popular and informative
categories. Join now and receive free MP3 player.
A good way to practice and improve your L2 is to find a language exchange partner.
This is someone who speaks your L2 and wants to learn your L1. Language exchange
works best when both partners have roughly an intermediate level in their L2.
Language exchange is also a great way to meet people and make new friends.
Sites that help you to find language exchange partners and penpals
Picking it up by osmosis
Some people manage to pick up foreign languages with little or no study or
instruction. This method seems to work best if you're in an environment
where nobody speaks your L1 so you have to learn the L2.
I have managed to do this to some extent for Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic.
Alhtough I have actively studied these languages and been on a number of
short courses for the former two, I've mainly picked them up through
listening to the radio and reading whatever material I come across.
This is a way to immerse yourself in languages without living in
an area where they're spoken.
How to learn any language
How to Learn a Language - tips and discussion
Language Learning Advisor - A Guide to Language Learning Success
Language Impact - Helping Language Learners Learn Language
LanguageTutors.org - connecting learners and tutors of languages around the world
Motivation! a newsletter for learners of Spanish
Meetup.com - a way to meet people interested in learning languages, etc.
Internet Course Finders - a database of 10,000 institutions teaching 88 languages
in 115 countries:
VTrain - The Ultimate Vocabulary Trainer
On the mortality of language learning methods
Language learning and translation software by Transparent Language
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