Resources

This chapter will show you how to find resources and help you think about which ones will work for you. After that, we’ll be looking at how you put them together to make a language method.

How to find resources

There are three good ways to find resources:

  1. Google search for communities of learners that are learning your target language—often there will be lists of recommended resources or a popular post by a user

  2. Google search for guides or articles about learning your target language

  3. Language repositories—these will be explained next

Every time you encounter a good guide or a resource you think you might like, bookmark it, then keep looking. Only go back to look at the best ones once you’ve spent some time searching.

Language repositories

Language repositories link or store a large number of language resources in one place. Well-curated repositories can be a great place to find useful resources for your language; however, non-curated repositories that simply list lots of resources without ranking them can be overwhelming and often include low-quality resources. The top two listed below are well-curated and recommended.

Some popular language resource repositories

Repository Description
All Language Resources A fantastic curated list of resources for lots of languages. Highly recommended.
Zero to Hero A curated list of video content and useful resources in lots of languages.
r/languagelearning resources wiki Useful repository with links to subreddits containing resources for many languages
So you want to learn a language A website with lots of resources
Multilingual books Another website with lots of resources
Open Culture A website that lists free resources

Choosing resources

Because there are many resources that only deal with one language, this guide does not represent the full range of high-quality resources available. Your own research should hopefully unearth more recommendations from other learners. If you don’t find anything, you’ll still have this chapter.

There are four key factors you should consider when assessing whether a resource is worth trying:

  1. If it is recommended by other learners

  2. How much you think you will enjoy using it

  3. How well it fits the archetype of a good resource outlined in this chapter

  4. Your budget

The three core resources

There are many different types of resources; however, there are three core classes we will look at:

  1. A beginner course

  2. A flashcard program

  3. Input

A beginner course is any kind of course that tries to teach you the fundamentals, such as the core grammar and basic vocabulary, in a structured manner.

A flashcard program helps you learn vocabulary and grammar by repeatedly showing you words or sentences and asking you to recollect their meaning.

Input is any piece of content produced in the language such as books, news, or movies.

The three core classes of resource are crucial for developing your method.

Next we will look at each of these types of resource and what to look for.

Beginner course

There are six basic types of beginner courses you can use. It will be up to you to choose which you prefer.

  1. Online text, audio, or video explanations—websites, podcasts, or video series that explain the basics of your language

  2. Teach-yourself books—books that provide explanations, exercises, and beginner input (highly popular)

  3. Online courses—often websites and/or apps with their own methodology (also very popular)

  4. Listen-and-repeat courses—courses that function by having you listen to phrases and then repeatedly prompting you to recall and say them out loud

  5. Classes—teachers in a classroom

  6. Tutors—one-on-one teaching

Some good examples of beginner courses

Course Examples
Text, audio, or video explanations YouTube videos
Free online lectures/courses such as listed here
Assimil (paid, audio)
BBC Languages (free)
Live Lingua Project (free resources)
FSI, DLI, and Peace Corps language courses
Teach-yourself books Colloquial series
Online courses Duolingo (free)
LingVist (paid)
Busuu (free with paid premium)
Glossika (paid)
Babbel (paid)
Mango Languages (paid)
StoryLearning (paid with a free 7 day trial)
Listen-and-repeat courses Language Transfer (free)
Coffee Break Languages (free)
Pimsleur (paid)

You may also find Cooljugator useful if your language has large amounts of verb conjugations.

What makes a good beginner course?

The course you choose should be one that you like and is recommended by other learners. Remember: There is plenty of room for personal preference. Choose something that you think works for you. You can change courses over the course of your learning.

A good course:

  • Focuses on teaching the language in context using input

  • Has interesting lessons or content

  • Uses interactive lessons

  • Covers all the bases: grammar, vocabulary, and the four skills

  • Allows you to follow your interest

  • Provides the appropriate amount of information to enable learning

A bad course:

  • Uses few examples or minimal content

  • Has boring content or presentation

  • Lets lessons be easily completed by passively reading or watching

  • Focuses too much on one aspect and/or ignores other aspects

  • Forces you to complete drills or activities before you can move on

  • Ignores grammar or does not provide any explanation when needed

No course is perfect, but the downsides of the course you use can be countered by the other components of your method. It is common for learners to use multiple courses where their relative strengths and weaknesses balance out. For example, you may use a tutor in addition to your course to practice speaking and get better explanations; or you might use a teach yourself book in addition to a listen-and-repeat course to help improve your vocabulary and listening.

The different types of courses I outlined also have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages and disadvantages of each of the six types of beginner course

Course Advantages Disadvantages
Text, audio, or video explanations Plenty of variety, usually free, and easy to use Quality is variable and remembering what is taught is usually left to the learner
Teach-yourself books Courses are usually complete and good quality Sometimes rely on ineffective grammar exercises; not very interactive
Online courses Often the highest quality, interactive, and can provide the full set of resources a learner needs Often pricey and may require an ongoing subscription
Listen-and-repeat courses Great for travellers, very good at helping you start to speak, get a feel for the language, and remember and use lots of useful phrases Not well-rounded
Classes Help students stay motivated; teachers can provide correction and language feedback. Costly; can be a slow way of learning the language if lessons are not frequent
Tutors Very powerful method; can provide correction and language feedback Multiple lessons are very costly; often only used as a supplement for this reason

Key tip: Change courses if you need to
Learners commonly change courses as they reach a point where their current one becomes boring or too easy. Switching is a valid choice if your new course still challenges you and helps you learn; however, I don’t advise you do so repeatedly.

Using listen-and-repeat courses

Listen-and-repeat courses are perfect for people who are travelling soon and need tourist phrases as well as anyone that doesn’t have a lot of time to study at their desk. They’re also great at building confidence speaking early-on.

If your focus is on communicating, listen-and-repeat courses are recommended. Because they are so specialised, I advise using them as a supplement. If you are less interested in communicating, consider them optional.

Using Tutors

Tutors are one of the best supplementary resources as they can structure learning to your preference. Tutors are highly recommended for those who can afford them.

Since tutors can be expensive, using one simply to explain the basics to you is not the best use of your money. Any information they give you will also be freely available on YouTube or another website. It is generally a better use of your money to use tutors as a source of input, to identify errors, help you start speaking, and provide correction. Remember: learning is a fundamentally internal process—you still need to put in hard work regardless of the source of the information.

You can find tutors in real life, through your local community, library, or university. Relatively inexpensive tutors are also available online on websites such as iTalki or LinguaTalk.

Budget

Budget is an important consideration for many people. There is no direct correlation between price and quality—many poor resources cost money, while many of the best resources on the internet are free. However, there is a general trend towards paid resources being better. Paying for something that is recommended by others and works for you can be a good investment.

If you prefer a cheaper option, a good path could be using text, audio, or video explanation or free online course in combination with a listen-and-repeat course. If you’re willing to spend a bit of money to make your life easier, you will likely find value in using a paid online course in combination with a personal tutor to help you practise and identify errors.

Flashcard program

Flashcards are a powerful tool used primarily to learn new words and grammatical forms. While you can make them by hand, these days we have apps to make the process simpler and more convenient.

Flashcard software

Flashcard software Description and links
Anki iPhone app (paid)
Android app (free)
Shared decks
Manual
Memrise An online flashcard program that focuses on using mnemonics
Clozemaster A flashcard program that teaches using fill-the-blank sentences that features a rather gamified interface
Quizlet An online flashcard system
LearnWithOliver Another online flashcard system

What makes a good flashcard system?

The best flashcard programs use spaced repetition. This works by automatically spacing out your revision using something called the forgetting curve. When you first learn a word, you are shown it again at very short intervals. With each revision, the interval becomes longer and longer until the word is safe in your long-term memory.

Anki

The most popular flashcard software is Anki. Anki is popular due to its free desktop and android app, large community, functionality, customisability, and clean interface. The flipside is that there can be a fairly steep learning curve, depending on what you want to do with it.

Anki allows its users to export and share flashcard decks they make. There are many pre-made shared decks for you to use to get started here. If you’re a complete beginner, find a deck with words ordered by frequency. The best decks also have example sentences. Feel free to download multiple and try them out.

Settings

Anki has a large amount of settings to change the behaviour of the “again”, “hard”, “good” and “easy” options. If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, the defaults will be sufficient to get started. You may find it helpful to use the fantastic setup guide and introduction here. Keep in mind, their recommended settings are optimised for single words. If you use sentences, you will need to make it a bit more supportive with new cards and reviews. You can also find some clear video explanations here and here.

You will find yourself confused by Anki at some point, so it is recommended to read the manual soon after you download it. You can find it in the table above and here.

Input

Sometimes content will already be integrated into the course you are doing. Even if your lessons already include texts or audio, it will be useful to find your own that interest you. More content is always good.

Here are some examples of input you might use:

Mode Example
Reading Books
Articles
Reddit-like websites
News websites
Conversation transcripts
Watching Interviews
YouTube channels
Movies
TV series
Listening Music
Podcasts
Dialogues for learners

What makes good input?

The best input is both comprehensible and interesting to you. This content is often intended specifically for adult beginners. As always, try to find recommendations from other learners. Here are the best resources you can find as a learner:

  • YouTube channels with conversation or dialogue intended for adult learners

  • Podcasts intended for learners

  • Short stories for learners, in books or online

  • Books for young teens

  • Websites with articles or news intended for learners

  • Graded readers

  • Anything with audio and a text transcript

  • Anything with naturalistic dialogues

A common method is to use content intended for children; however, the vocabulary is often not very useful nor the topics very interesting to an adult.

Content such as TV series, music, movies, and real news websites is generally made to be understood by adult native speakers. This content is usually too difficult for beginners to use effectively. I do not recommend you use them at the start.

Finding content as a beginner can be difficult, particularly for languages that are not as popular. If you’re starved for interesting content or just want to, feel free to try something outside of the typical beginner range—you can still learn with it.

Good sources of beginner content

Source Description
Easy Languages YouTube channel Street interviews with dual-language subtitles—quality beginner content in lots of languages
Language Input
Language Reactor YouTube catalogue
Catalogues of good subtitled YouTube videos/channels in lots of languages
Netflix Great source of foreign language TV and movies with subtitles
Olingo Shows you some good YouTube content for some of the most popular languages
eja.tv Live TV
r/languagelearning media section A list of good media resources
Project Gutenberg
Wikibooks
Loyal Books
Free public domain e-books
Gloss Website with a lot of beginner content
The Fable Cottage Dual-language fairy tales
Books by Olly Richards Conversations and Short Stories series of books available on Amazon

You can also use other learner’s guides online to find good input.

Key tip: Use a variety of different content
Make sure your content has a lot of variety in terms of the context and skills it uses. It is surprisingly difficult to translate your language ability from one skill into another without a lot of practice. For example, reading lots will help you learn a lot of words, but you will struggle to recognise these words when you hear them until you’ve done a lot of listening practice. One good heuristic is to look for content that contains at least some audio and some written. Starting with audio early will help your communication in the long run. In addition, using a range of resources will give you exposure to different vocabulary, accents, and degrees of formality that will help your overall ability.

There is a variety of useful tools to help you improve your learning with input. I recommend you check all of these out.

Popular tools

Tool Description
Readlang Import texts and get instant translations by clicking on words, has a built-in flashcard program
Lingq A popular paid service similar to Readlang that provides lots of content and records and highlights known words
WordLab Two fantastic chrome extensions, one for Netflix and one for YouTube, that give you more control over playback and subtitles—highly recommended for intermediate learners
Keyword lookup Chrome tip to help you search dictionaries faster using the search bar
ImTranslator Dictionary lookup addon

Other resources

Language exchange resources

Later in your learning, it will be useful to find ways to practise your language with others. These resources will help you find partners.

Language exchange resources

Resource Description
Tandem
HelloTalk
The two largest language exchange apps
Conversation Exchange
My Language Exchange
The Mixxer
Websites for finding exchange partners. These sites are more basic than the apps, though many consider that an advantage.
LangCorrect A community focused of submitting your writing and having it corrected by native speakers
Journaly Service to help you write journals and get your writing corrected by others

Dictionaries

The best dictionary to use depends on your language. Not all are listed here. The ideal dictionary will give you example sentences, an English equivalent, and the correct pronunciation.

Here are a few dictionaries that offer translations for multiple languages:

Popular online dictionaries

Dictionary Description
Linguee Clean interface. translations are sorted by frequency
Wiktionary A poplar dictionary with helpful pronunciation guides and support for a wide variety of languages
Bab.la Great interface and lots of sample sentences. Has a built-in verb conjugator
Reverso Useful example sentences
Tatoeba Helps you find example sentences
Forvo Example sentences and pronunciation recordings—no definitions
WordReference Standard dictionary

Translators

Translation software can help you understand entire sentences. Avoid becoming over-reliant on translating whole sentences. Try to understand a sentence yourself first.

Popular translation software

Software Description
Google Translate The most popular translation software on the web
DeepL A powerful alternative to Google Translate

Phrasebooks

Phrasebooks are optional, but phrases can help you get a feel for the language and greatly improve your communicative ability when travelling. A cautionary note: phrases cannot be learned simply by reading them. Learning needs to be supplemented with flashcards.

Here are some websites you might like to use:

Online phrasebooks

Website Description
Book2 Phrasebooks in lots of languages
LanguageGuide Interactive way of showing simple vocabulary

Key tip: Use resources you enjoy
Studying languages is not always the most exciting activity, so choosing resources that you enjoy helps a lot. Keep in mind that there is plenty of room for individual preference for resources when it comes to what is the most effective way to learn. Use what you like and don’t worry too much about what others recommend. If you find yourself getting bored with a resource, feel free to change it.

Resources are worth very little on their own. Next we will cover how to use your resources together by building a method.

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