The human hand is an amazing thing.
It has 27 bones and can do a wide array of important tasks, including performing surgery, typing and making lewd gestures at bad drivers.
But there’s one problem with hands: the vast majority of humans come equipped with at most two.
That means that sometimes, you can’t do everything you want all at once.
You can’t cook a delicious meal as you play a language game on your phone.
You can’t drive as you thumb through a textbook without risking life and limb and testing other drivers’ proficiency with lewd gestures.
Luckily, you don’t have to use your hands to learn a language. Audio makes it possible to study a language without lifting a finger.
Some innovative language apps have even gotten in on the hands-free learning craze by offering special learning modes.
Plus, if you’re able to listen to language content while doing other things, your learning experience can be that much closer to language immersion.
So if you just don’t have enough hands to do all that you want, give these hands-free learning options a try!
Why Try Hands-free Language Learning?
One reason to go hands-free is to fit studying into even the busiest schedule. Since you can study while you drive, cook, scrapbook, etc., you don’t have to set aside any additional time outside of your normal routine.
Additionally, using hands-free language learning can help you make productive use of time you’d otherwise be bored. Let’s face facts: some activities are just plain boring. For instance, while you certainly wouldn’t want to cut showering out of your schedule, it probably isn’t the highlight of your day entertainment-wise. Hands-free learning can turn boring tasks like this into productive learning opportunities.
Plus, hands-free language learning can give you great listening and speaking practice. With conventional textbook learning, listening and speaking practice can be hard to come by. However, they’re some of the most important skills when you learn a new language. Hands-free language learning gives you an easy opportunity to focus exclusively and extensively on listening and speaking.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Hands-free Language Learning
Pair hands-free learning with hands-on learning.
Hands-free learning has a lot to offer. However, do you know what it doesn’t offer? Written words. And if you really want to learn a language, you’ll need to use a hands-on approach sometimes.
That’s why it’s best to pair any hands-free option with a more hands-on approach, like FluentU. FluentU provides authentic, real-world videos like movie trailers, music videos, news and more. Each video is captioned, so you can easily connect the spoken and written words. Plus, if you don’t understand a word, you have an abundance of helpful resources at the tips of your fingers. That’s because FluentU provides each word’s definition, example sentences and an associated image. You can even click a word to see how it’s used in other videos.
Plus, FluentU is one of those innovative programs that does offer hands-free options, like downloadable audio files.
Listen whenever you have a spare minute.
Since hands-free options are so convenient, listen whenever you have a spare minute, whether you’re waiting in line, brushing your teeth or working out. Those minutes really add up. plus listening often can keep the language fresh in your brain and prevent backsliding and forgetting what you’ve learned.
Engage with the audio.
Talk back! Audio gives you listening practice, but as long as you speak up, you’ll also get speaking practice. A lot of audio programs specifically instruct you to repeat what you hear. But even if your program doesn’t recommend this, do it anyway to perfect your pronunciation and cement vocabulary into your memory.
Try a variety of programs.
There are lots of hands-free language programs, so it’s important to find what works best for you. Trying a variety of programs will expose you to multiple approaches and varied content, giving you a broader perspective on hands-free learning and a clearer idea of what works for you.
Visualize the written words as you listen.
Again, the main downside of hands-free learning is that you don’t get any reading or writing practice. However, if you already have some familiarity with the language, you can visualize written words as you listen. This will help you connect the spoken and written words so that when you see what you learned in writing, you’ll actually recognize it.
Look, Mom! No Hands! 6 Hands-free Language Learning Options
Since Pimsleur’s approach is primarily audio-based, it’s a top contender for anyone interested in hands-free language learning.
Through 30-minute audio lessons, Pimsleur teaches key vocabulary and grammar and encourages you to actually use the language.
Conveniently enough, Pimsleur also offers text-based resources, like digital flashcards, reading lessons and matching games, that you can use to augment your learning whenever you’re ready to use your hands again.
Pimsleur has apps and digital downloads. CDs are also available, though more limited.
In total, Pimsleur has learning options for over 50 languages, including common choices, like Chinese, French and Spanish—and less common offerings, like Albanian, Finnish and Ojibwe.
Collins Paul Noble series
The Paul Noble series from Collins packs a hands-free punch.
This audio-based series is like a vocabulary binge since the primary focus is on vocabulary acquisition. If you want to see the words in writing, there’s also an accompanying booklet.
Paul Noble’s courses often use innovative formats. Many of them feature two students who you learn alongside, while Paul and a native speaker guide you through the learning process.
Downloads are available, but you can also find some CDs of the series.
The series is available for Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Behind the Wheel series
The name says it all. This series is specifically designed for commuters to listen to behind the wheel, but you don’t have to be driving to let this program steer your learning.
The structure is designed to be flexible so you can easily cram some learning into whatever time you have. The program focuses on teaching high-frequency words and sentence-building techniques with the goal of giving you the functional language skills you’ll need.
It also comes with transcripts and additional exercises for you to enjoy when you’re not behind the wheel.
Behind the Wheel is available on CD or for download.
Language offerings include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Podcasts are a great way to pass the time. But what if they could also help skyrocket you towards fluency?
With LanguagePod101, you’ll never be lacking for resources to help propel you towards fluency without the need to lift a finger. That’s because LanguagePod101 offers lots of language learning podcasts you can listen to through the website, desktop software or mobile apps.
But if your hands are getting twitchy and want to get in on the learning action, you can also use LanguagePod101’s videos, flashcards, lesson notes and more.
LanguagePod101 offers over 30 languages, including both common languages and less common offerings, like Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Norwegian and Vietnamese.
Here are some of their more popular languages:
Radio Lingua’s Coffee Break Languages is a series of podcasts for language learners.
Each podcast has a specific focus, whether it be a difficult construction, tricky verb or scenario you need to prepare for.
Audio lessons are free, but purchasing the premium version can score you additional audio materials, video flashcards and lesson notes.
Coffee Break Languages is available for Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
MosaLingua has a lot to offer. For eager language learners, there are plenty of flashcards, dialogues and audio pronunciations to guide you on your road to fluency. Plus, they’re all backed by scientific techniques designed to improve your learning.
But now MosaLingua has gone and gilded the lily by creating an update that allows you to use the apps hands-free. This way, you can play through the flashcards and hear each word in English and your target language for easy studying.
MosaLingua offers English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
Go ahead—try the hands-off approach to language learning!
And One More Thing…
Since you’ve read this far, you’re obviously serious about learning languages, so you may just love FluentU.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that real people speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos, like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover over or tap on the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s “quiz mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.