Most days, you love being a language teacher.
But to be honest, the life of a language teacher is hard.
Really, really hard.
You have to come up with a full day’s worth of engaging lesson plans, seemingly out of thin air, every day.
And there are some days when you just don’t have the energy.
Maybe you’re not feeling well, or you’ve had a busy weekend or you have a lot of meetings and just haven’t had time to come up with that perfect, inspiring lesson or activity today.
But it’s much easier now than it used to be!
Writing a lesson plan no longer has to be a solitary activity.
The hardest part is sorting through them all to see what works for you.
We’ve gone ahead and done some of that work for you.
So grab a pencil (or just bookmark this page!). Here are the best resources out there right now for language teachers.
The Language Teacher’s Cheat Sheet: 20+ Go-to Resources
When it comes to general language teaching help, the internet can be a vast and intimidating place, so here are just a few excellent, time-saving resources that pack a lot of teaching tools into one place.
- IElanguages. This useful website covers a variety of European languages, including ones like Swedish, Finnish and Dutch in addition to the commonly sought heavy hitters like English and Spanish. It has tutorials for languages with hours of audio, and it also offers up realia, e-books and native speaker recordings. ESL teachers can even find lesson plans available for download.
- The BBC. Although this site is no longer updated, you can still find an astonishing wealth of resources for 40 different languages. Engaging TV shows, interactive courses and audio and video exercises are just a few of the activities that are on offer. Check out these clips of a German stand-up comedian giving humorous lessons on some of the more difficult aspects of basic German.
- FluentU. With a dizzying array of authentic videos for language learners of all levels, FluentU is a go-to source to find engaging content for teaching all levels of major world languages. Real movie trailers, news reports, music videos and more come with interactive captions, quizzes and other learning tools to provide a rich and authentic learning experience. A Teacher account enables you to allow your students to log in from anywhere, assign them videos for homework and easily track progress for individual students in multiple classes.
- Lesson Planet. This site offers subscriptions that give K-12 educators access to lesson plans, worksheets, apps, presentations and more. All materials are reviewed beforehand for quality assurance. In terms of content, Lesson Planet should be most useful for French and Spanish teachers, though there’s more limited content for other languages. You can find lessons that apply grammar and vocab in creative and real-world ways, and a subscription gives you access to your own online storage space where you can organize content.
- Zachary-Jones.com (for Spanish teachers). If you’re looking for a fun and unique way to teach Spanish using music, this is the site for you. It presents a wealth of authentic materials, mostly songs in a variety of genres and from a variety of countries, along with brief lessons and activities to accompany them. The materials are conveniently organized according to subject, grammar concept, activity type, country and musical genre.
You can easily keep up with the latest research and trends in language teaching by finding relevant publications online.
- Check out the variety of journals and articles linked to the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) website, for example. These can save you time by offering quick and easy pointers for aligning curriculum to state and national standards.
- Another great resource is CARLA (the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition). Here you can purchase books and PDFs on hot topics in language education, including struggling learners in immersion-based classrooms or how to maximize study abroad opportunities. You can even find PDFs of handouts from recent conferences.
- Many prestigious language journals now publish many of their articles online. For example, Language Teaching Research is a peer-reviewed journal that includes recent research on foreign-language teaching, with a focus on studies that have practical implications for classroom teachers.
- If you’re a member of a language teaching association, it’s worth checking to see if that organization publishes any online journals that relate specifically to that language. For example, the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association also publishes online journals for member English teachers with the latest research, as well as a forum for discussion.
- Members of JALT (the Japan Association for Language Teaching) can access its bimonthly publication The Language Teacher, which discusses current research on language teaching, particularly with regard to Asian languages.
But all these informative articles don’t mean much if you have no one to discuss them with! Here are some online communities of language teachers where you can bounce around some ideas.
- If you teach AP (Advanced Placement), you’ll find ready-made teacher communities in which you can engage in lively discussion about the teaching of your target language. Just use your College Board username and password to sign in and check out what’s on offer among AP teachers of French, German, Spanish or Latin.
- Moodle is a learning platform that has been around for a number of years, even preceding Facebook in its popularity among educators. It’s still used as a preferred platform for online coursework among many teachers and school administrators. The Moodle community for language teachers is a vibrant group where members share resources and engage in discussion.
- With a little research, you can find some wonderfully helpful and supportive language teacher communities on Facebook. For example, Chinese teachers can find some intriguing possibilities by typing the words “Chinese teachers” into the search bar and changing the search setting at the top to “Groups.” Most of these will be “closed” groups, meaning that you have to ask to join and gain approval from a moderator before you can see posts or comment on them. Some of them are set up so that the administrator can post ideas and resources and others can comment, as with this Fun for Spanish Teachers FB page.
Even with closed groups, you’ll be able to get some idea of the quality of the community from the number of members and from the description. A community with 2000 members will yield a more lively and multifaceted discussion than a community with only 20. Sometimes the description will stipulate something very specific; for example, the page may be targeted only to teachers who live in a particular geographic area. If there’s no description at all, or very few posts, this may not be a very active community and probably not the most helpful for you to join.
- If Twitter is more your speed, it’s easy to find language education influencers to follow. This allows you to learn from their ideas and engage in discussion with like-minded educators. A little discernment is necessary to find just the right Twitter users to follow. For example, when you type the words “Italian language teachers” into the search bar, a variety of results will come up. You can visit the different accounts to see what kinds of resources are posted and what kind of discussion is happening, and then decide which accounts to follow.
If you need a quick learning activity to enhance language learning in your classroom, why not utilize one of the many great language learning apps out there?
Here are a few of our favorites.
- Duolingo. You’ve probably already used this app as a supplementary activity for students to work individually in the classroom or for homework. But did you know that you can also use Duolingo to set assignments for your class, track their progress and engage with other language teachers? If you already have a Duolingo account, you can easily access Duolingo for Schools to utilize all these great features.
- Busuu. This app can be a great way for students to gain some practice, especially by interacting with and getting feedback from native speakers. There’s also the option of signing up for a Busuu Pro account, which allows you to track student progress and easily gauge their level and their areas of strength and weakness.
- WordReference. You may already be using this popular online language dictionary as a resource for students. But it’s also an excellent springboard for lessons and discussions on language differences and how to use dictionaries effectively for communication.
Are you struggling to convey the different uses of prepositions? Check out the explanations of the many different Spanish words that all mean “to” in order to exemplify the complexity of translating it. Have students read forum discussions about some of the slang words and idioms so that they can get a real idea of the richness and depth of the language.
- YAKiT Kids. This is a great app to use with kids if you feel like you’re in a bit of a rut and need something fresh and unique to make things exciting again. YAKiT Kids allows children to practice their language skills by making photos and images into fun talking characters. They can experiment by changing voice pitch and adding animated stickers. These videos are easy to share and a great way for kids to express their creativity and practice their language skills at the same time.
- Anki. This powerhouse memorization app can generate flashcards on virtually any topic, and adjusts itself to the learner’s level of competence. You can choose from ready-made flashcard packs in the target language or create your own. You can also have students complete fill-in-the-blank “cloze” activities in the app to help them remember and practice the meanings of words.
- Skritter (for Chinese and Japanese). This app is unique in that it gives immediate feedback on formation of Chinese and Japanese characters. It measures student progress and even allows access to a variety of Chinese and Japanese textbooks. Users find it fun and engaging, even to the point of it being addictive! Once your students begin using it, they may never want to stop.
- Memrise. This rich memorization app is a powerful tool for learning vocabulary. Students can access multimedia flashcards which include clever and engaging “memes” to make the words more memorable. It channels their drive for competition by tracking them on leaderboards, and also adapts to their strengths and weaknesses as they go.
There’s nothing quite like authentic materials for making the language come alive for your students! And some of the best sources may be sites that you already use all the time.
- Foreign films on Amazon Prime. If you already have an Amazon Prime membership, you can easily find foreign films in almost any language by typing the language in the search bar. The Russian science fiction classic “Solaris” could serve as a springboard for relevant discussions about the limitations of virtual reality, for example. Students of Spanish will enjoy the inspiring Venezuelan mountain scenery and the profound reflection on life and death in “La Distancia Màs Larga.”
- YouTube. There are tons of relevant language learning resources available on YouTube, but you have to know where to look. Click on “Browse Channels” and search channels in your students’ target language to find podcasts and instructional videos of all kinds. You may find just the right video to convey a challenging or a boring grammar concept in a fun, engaging way. You can also search for popular songs and TV shows in the target language; check out these French TV clips.
So, no need to panic next time you’re stressed, tired or pushed for time!
Just hang on to this list of resources.
We’ve got you covered.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach languages with real-world videos.