Apr 23 2019

Learning Languages Effectively

I typically only write about software and software applications, but today I’m going to share a little snippet of advice that I wrote up for a friend regarding language learning.

Do you know a good app for learning languages? I’m looking to get better at Spanish this summer. Thanks!

Here’s my advice on learning languages. Almost all of what I’m going to say can be found at how to learn any language or language learners. These forums have tons of polyglots who share some of the best techniques for learning languages. I highly recommend going through some of the posts and reading about how some of the best learn languages (a lot of these people are able to speak between 4-10 languages). There is a section on the website where people write a journal on their progress, and how exactly they are practicing.

Instead of focusing on apps for learning languages, I would focus on finding where the language is naturally used. This could largely be TV shows. A lot of Netflix shows have translations in Spanish – I went through season 1 of BoJack Horseman a couple months ago. Books are another possibility. Children’s books are good if novels are too difficult. A lot of people will re-read a famous novel in the language they are trying to learn – i.e. Harry Potter. This helps if you’ve already read those books. Some other places you can find your target language are reading news articles, Google searching in the language, using social media in the language, etc.

Every time you come across a word you don’t know, or a word that you’d like to remember, you should enter it into Anki. Anki is the best flashcard software. Back in high school, I was able to memorize about 500 french words in under a month, and I can still recall a lot of them. The key with Anki is that it uses spaced repetition. When you create the cards, it is important to not translate the word into English – instead use pictures, cloze (word omissions), or definitions in the target language.

As far as speaking goes, you can attend meetups (there’s one in Milwaukee), you can do language exchanges online where you offer to teach somebody English and the other person will teach you Spanish (Lang-8, again, language learners, reddit). I’ve also seen some people record themselves talking into a camera in the target language, and then they would share it to seek corrections.