How to learn a language
How to learn a language

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How to learn a language

2.1 Resources: language-learning tools

Watch the following video in which the first of these different categories of resources are discussed.

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There are many resources available that have been designed primarily as a language-learning materials. These can be divided into those that offer full language-learning solutions and those that focus on one skill in particular. Full language-learning packages include self-study courses that come with books, audio, and video materials. They offer a variety of grammar explanations, texts, and media with exercises.
Similar online propositions also exist in several formats, such as podcasts, websites, and apps, including well-known providers such as Duolingo or Busuu, to name but two. Some of these also offer opportunities for interaction with other students and native speakers, as well as support from communities of learners. Many of these offer some content for free, but require a subscription to access full content.
The second main group of resources designed for language learning are those that offer activities to develop different areas of language, such as grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Again, many are available in traditional format, but there are also podcasts, websites, and apps available for these purposes.
Breaking it down into different areas, we find grammar resources that provide grammar drills, often providing lots of repeated practise. These can be very useful to practise verb forms, for example. For vocabulary, there are some software packages that provide flashcards that can help you revise words that you want to learn. These range from basic designs that provide a word on one side and its translation on the other to more advanced designs that offer images and sound. Some of these also allow you to create your own cards.
To practise reading, there are graded readers and stories written in simplified language, and they also often provide a glossary to help you understand. To support your writing, there are resources to help with spelling and also writing characters in languages that use different types of script, for instance. Then there are resources that help develop your writing skills, and some online services provide peer support from native speakers who can correct your writing.
You will also find resources that focus on listening, including using audio with transcripts and vice versa, texts with a read-along audio track, and pronunciation guides with exercises to improve your pronunciation. There are websites and apps that focus on providing opportunities to speak and interact with teachers, native speakers, or fellow language learners, such as italki, HelloTalk, and Tandem. They match language learners with partners or tutors for text, voice, and video interaction, either in real time or asynchronously.
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Have you tried these types of resource before? Full learning packages are particularly useful to learners who are at beginner and intermediate levels, as they offer ways to practise the language in fairly controlled environments, usually presented by clearly stated levels of difficulty. It’s a good idea for the complete beginner to start with a book (with audio) that will offer such approach. The resources available for separate skills can vary in terms of quality and support they offer, but all of them can provide ways of practising your target language. You may want to browse your local library and bookshops or do online searches to find relevant materials for you.


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