Have you decided what language you want to learn? If you missed our first post on language learning and want advice on how to decide which language to learn then click here. If you already know which language you want to learn then let’s jump right in.
The majority of language learners are doing it for fun or personal enrichment. Whatever your reason the following resources can help, but we will also have posts focusing specifically on language learning for kids and language learning for business or career advancement so keep an eye out for those as well.
The library has got you covered for a large range of language learning resources. From personal experience I recommend you use, or at least experiment with, as many of the following options as possible to give yourself a good idea of what works best for you. We all learn differently and a multi-pronged approach will give you a more well-rounded view of the language.
Library Resources– Audio CDs such as Pimsleur are great for picking up some key phrases and getting a good idea for what the language sounds like. If your main goal is to travel then memorizing verb conjugation lists won’t really be helpful, but being able to ask someone if they speak English will. Pimsleur will also teach you very important phrases such as “Where is…?” and “How much does it cost?”. Mostly these are good for getting a quick start and practicing listening and speaking.
Phrase books, such as this one for Swahili, can also be very handy. They contain the most useful travel phrases and are usually small enough in size to fit in a day bag. This option won’t have you speaking fluently anytime soon but it could be a good start and excellent for short trips. For a more systematic approach to learning a language, there are books and workbooks such as this The Everything Learning German Book. These books can be a bit boring. I have never known anyone to finish the entire book, but they do cover the basics of grammar, which is really important if you want people to understand you.
If a basic book seems too dry for you then try going digital for your language learning. Mango is a great tool that can be accessed through our website and has a multitude of languages available. It is also more interactive than a book, so if you have internet access this is a great option.
Resources Outside the Library– Digital learning is the hot new trend and there are no shortage of ways to learn a language with technology. Sites such as Duolingo and BBC Languages are free and fun to use. FluentU has videos to help you learn a language. There are also language specific websites that can be found with a simple google search.
If sitting at a computer and learning a language is not an option then how about an app on your phone? Memrise is a complete language learning app while Anki is a form of digital flashcards. Many of these apps and websites are free up until a point and then you have to pay while others are always free. Again, a search will also yield language specific apps that you may find useful.
Then there is YouTube. You thought YouTube was just for funny cat videos and makeup tutorials but there is also a surprising amount of language learning material there, such as these puppets that will teach you Irish Gaelic. You can learn anything on YouTube. But be careful, not everything you learn there may be appropriate for everyday use.
Podcasts are similar to YouTube videos and can be loaded onto a phone or mobile device. Portability is the new thing in language learning. As with YouTube, there are podcasts that will teach vocabulary while others will be in a specific language and require more advanced skill to understand them.
TV, radio and movies are even more options. Once you have some background in a language then you can use almost any form of media to improve your skills. I personally like watching cooking shows in Spanish.
Finally, the best way to learn a language is by practicing it with a real live person. Once you know enough vocabulary to hold a conversation then the next step is using that knowledge and actually trying to talk to someone. This could take the form of a conversation group, a night class, or a one-on-one tutor. Some of these options may cost money but if you are serious about becoming fluent in another language then it is well worth it. Community colleges often have inexpensive language classes or, through the magic of the internet, you can join classes or access a tutor online.
I hope this post shows that there are a variety of avenues into learning another language and many are free or inexpensive. If you are still having trouble finding the resources you need then stop by your local library and let us help. The next post will be specific to helping children learn a second language, but just because you aren’t a kid doesn’t mean some of these resources can’t be fun and useful to you as well.
~posted by Selby G.