Japanese Woman in Cherry Blossom

Taking first steps in a new language

Are you starting to learn a language from scratch?

When deciding to learn a new language, many people traditionally turn to group classes as their first resource. They go to their classes once a week, listen to the teacher, and may even do their weekly homework - but for the most part, their language skills remain as passive and unimpressive as they were the first day. Sounds familiar?...

In my language adventures, I've found that in the initial stages of learning a language, group classes (or even private classes with a teacher) do not offer the best value for money or the best use of your time. You can pick up a lot more of the language basics, and do it more efficiently and faster, by tackling a new language solo. And once you've covered the basics, work with a teacher becomes much more productive and rewarding. 

Here are some of my favorite tools to start with when you are beginning your language story: 

1. Pimsleur courses: An amazing resource that gets you to have basic conversations in less than a week of daily practice. Available in more than 30 languages, these courses engage your memory and make you work on proper pronunciation from day 1. And all that - for about US$ 20 a month (for the most popular languages). 

2. Busuu: a great app that builds up your grammar and basic vocabulary step by step and prompts you for the timely repetition of acquired materials at regular intervals.  

3. Memrise: An excellent app for building vocabulary based on spaced repetition method with dozens of proposed languages. You can set your daily goal at just 5-10 new words, and the app will challenge you to learn these words as if you were playing a game.  A free version is available (even though an annual subscription can cost as low as US$30)!

4. Language podcasts: For the more common languages, there are now quite a few excellent podcasts for beginners, explaining the basics of the language and building core vocabulary. One of my favorites is Coffee Break podcast (available for French, German and Spanish). While you can listen to podcasts on many different apps, I really enjoy Castbox