If you were building the ultimate language learning toolbox, what would you include?
Apps? Online courses? Top Hollywood movies and your favorite TV shows?
What about new and innovative programs or a personal dictionary?
Choosing the right language learning tools is the ultimate way to position yourself as an engaged and motivated language learner.
They’re like the secret weapons of language learners, with each tool offering a key feature.
Of course, with any toolbox, you’re also encouraged to choose a variety of different resources to support each of your goals and skills.
You’ll need a writing resource, something for speaking and don’t forget listening, grammar and reading! You’ll then need to choose a tool that matches your level and that you’ll want to use again and again.
Sometimes, just choosing the right tools feels like a big task.
Thankfully, in this post, we’re going to examine some of the most engaging, entertaining and educational language learning tools on the market. So that no matter your level, you can nail your language learning goals and become a fluent speaker in your chosen language.
How to Get the Most from Your Language Learning Tools
“A good tradesperson never blames their tools and a bad tradesperson always blames their tools.”
This is one of my all-time favorite proverbs.
Sometimes using tools is about how we use them as much as what they can offer us.
Modern language learning tools can be a fantastic help towards fluency. But, they must be used in the correct way and with the right strategy. A fancy new app will never beat motivation, an open mind, willingness to learn and a clear study plan!
Choosing the right selection of tools is half the battle.
The other half is using the tools to your absolute benefit. Because of this, we’re going to look at some of the top tips to maximize your language learning results and bring you closer to your goals with tools!
Use a Variety of Language Learning Tools
Choosing a variety of resources will encourage a well-rounded and complete language learning journey.
You’ll be able to study all the key skills—speaking, listening, reading and writing.
There are many powerful language learning tools within reach to get you started. Choosing from a range of these different options won’t only ensure you improve in each language skill, but it’ll also keep your lessons interesting.
Plus, you can get a feel for which tools you like best. Then, just use more of your favorites.
When using a variety of language learning tools, be sure to find a nice balance. You want to be gaining exposure to lots of different methods but at the same time, you don’t want to be procrastinating by switching between different tools and wasting valuable time.
Practice Your Target Languages Every Day
Many language learning tools are designed to be used consecutively or on a daily basis. They set goals and offer reminders when it’s the next time to study with it.
This is because they encourage habit-forming. The lessons build on previous information and key details from earlier activities are reviewed before moving on to the next.
Because of this, it’s a great strategy to use innovative language learning tools that work into your daily routine.
Practicing your language(s) shouldn’t be considered a chore or something that’s boring. Instead, your resources should help facilitate your learning in a relaxed and motivational environment.
You’ll know that you’re using the right tools when you get excited to study every day!
Choose Tools That Focus on Native Content
Choosing tools that focus on native content is a great strategy for any stage of language learning. This is because you want to be learning key vocabulary, commonly used language as well as native accents and expressions from day one.
This will save a lot of headaches further down the line. You won’t need to re-learn a language in the way that native speakers use it on a daily basis. Instead, you’ll have a solid foundation in your chosen language (not to mention heaps of confidence)!
However, sometimes there’s a common issue that arises when using native content—turning the content into a meaningful and educational learning lesson.
It’s a great idea to watch a movie in your target language. But sometimes this isn’t enough, as this is known as passive learning. You want to be focusing on extracting meaningful lessons from that movie to benefit your language learning outcomes—in other words, “active learning.”
Thankfully, FluentU does exactly that.
Available for nine different languages, the videos on FluentU are organized according to level—simply select yours and then choose one that interests you.
Each video comes with interactive subtitles, so if you come across a word you don’t know while watching, just hover over it to see the word’s meaning, example sentences and related images. You can even add it to a personalized flashcard deck.
You’ll also learn key vocabulary and grammar points before starting the video, and reinforce everything you’ve learned at the end with a quiz.
With FluentU’s video-based dictionary, you can look up words to find their meanings, example sentences and even a selection of videos that use it in-context.
Finally, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting what you learn thanks to FluentU’s spaced repetition flashcards that store new vocabulary in your long-term memory.
You can sign up for a free trial now to discover the full learning potential of native content.
Opt for Tools That Promote Productivity
It seems like it’s becoming more and more difficult to find time to cut out of our daily routine for learning a new skill, taking on a challenge or even doing something for ourselves.
Because of this, choosing tools that promote productivity and encourage learning should be a key consideration. By this, I mean learning tools that are rich in quizzes, challenges, reviews, summaries and other forms of examination or feedback.
When you have a goal and an objective way to measure your development, you’ll find an increase in upward momentum, higher levels of motivation and an invigorated focus.
You’ll also be making the most of this valuable time and setting a clear path forward.
Objective markers give you a great goal to aim for, a clear idea of where you currently are and which areas need to be reviewed.
Find Tools That You’re Interested In
Of course, studying a foreign language is still a form of study. There will be times when boring grammar drills are necessary. You may also find yourself frustrated at a particular pain point and question your very decision to start learning a language at all!
These moments are natural and have been experienced by all language learners. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the game. While it might not be possible to overcome these feelings entirely, there are definitely ways to alleviate the pressure!
One of the key ways to maintain motivation is to enjoy the tools that you’re learning with. If you’re using content that’s interesting and engaging then you might not be as frustrated when it comes to your study routine.
Be sure to explore all the tools available. If there was a concept that you couldn’t quite grasp in class, for example, try searching YouTube for an explanatory video that night.
The tools can (and should) be used simultaneously to facilitate a more rounded learning experience.
Choose User-friendly Tools
Language learning is very much a game of time and commitment. So when it comes to studying, you want to be diving straight in.
There are many online language learning tools to choose from, so you can afford to be a bit picky when first starting out. Find tools that are comfortable to use, you understand well and you could explain to a random person.
Any time spent figuring out or researching how to use a particular tool is time wasted. In addition to this, you’re more likely to use the same tools if they’re easy to use and fun!
Create a Study Schedule
Of course, it’s vital that you set aside time throughout your week to study your target language(s). To do this effectively, a well-defined schedule should be at the top of your priority list.
Block out moments throughout the week that you can dedicate to studying, and be sure to know which language tools you’ll be using and in which particular time slot.
Types of Language Learning Tools and How to Use Them
How many types of language learning tools can you name?
Online courses? Grammar books? Don’t forget movies and TV shows! What about Skype and online chatting apps?
The reality is that with today’s selection of language learning tools, the options can seem endless!
Because of this, we’re going to do a roundup of the most popular and helpful language learning tools. These are the most standard tools trusted by millions of language learners around the globe.
So when it comes to building your own language learning toolbox, you’ll know just what to include to maintain a well-rounded and useful one.
Language Learning Websites
The great thing about language learning websites is that they serve a number of different purposes. If you ever find yourself struggling, you can check out some inspiring language learning blogs. Or, you can lookup helpful language learning websites for whatever skill you need to improve.
Best of all, many of these are free language learning websites that seem almost too good to be true!
To begin using this type of resource, it’s important to stick with the best websites for language learning that are highly regarded. Plus, opt for sites that offer meaningful and engaging content.
The best websites for language learning are well-trusted and offer value. Whether it’s a grammar website or a blog in your target language, you should be engaged and walk away having learned new valuable information.
As a final strategy, be sure to choose websites that cover a range of different skills and areas of learning. For example, you can check out some great bilingual websites—you can enjoy them in your target language, but if you come across something you don’t know, just look at the translation.
And of course, be sure to bookmark your favorite language learning websites for easy access.
Contemporary Learning Apps
This wouldn’t be a proper list without the mention of language learning apps. And what’s not to love? They’re easy to use, convenient and can give a quick boost to your language learning skills in a short period of time.
They’re also affordable. In fact, there are plenty of fabulous free language learning apps for you to choose from.
When using apps as a learning tool, it’s always a great starting place to choose apps that fit your lifestyle. For example, if you’re a frequent traveler then you can choose language apps for travel. Or, if learning a new language is a family affair then there are plenty of language learning apps for kids (which are appropriate for all ages).
Apps are also a great way to form a language learning habit. If you think about how often you use your phone on a daily basis then it’s not a massive challenge to incorporate a little bit of language study throughout the day thanks to iPhone language learning apps.
Remember that apps aren’t restricted to iOS. There are heaps of language learning apps for Android to consider, as well.
From this, you can also take your pick from some of the best language learning apps that make studying fun. These fun apps are great for repetitive learning such as conjugation games or vocabulary building.
Finally, be sure to select a few different apps that cover a range of learning outcomes. For example, while you’re learning with a vocabulary app you might also consider downloading a language exchange app to practice speaking. You can see how these two apps perfectly compliment each other and their outcomes. You can put your new vocabulary into practice!
Immersion Software Programs
Immersion is a very common strategy in today’s language learning world. It’s essentially a form of deep study that focuses on high levels of input in the language you’re aiming to learn. The best part is that you don’t even need to go abroad to build a foreign language immersion environment!
Kids are known to be great at learning languages through immersion. But thanks to technology, there are language immersion programs for adults.
In fact, there are many of these immersion software programs that make this step easy. This means you can get valuable language immersion at home.
To get you started, there are many useful hacks for language learning immersion that won’t break the bank. However, at a fundamental level, you want to be using tools that maximize native content in an approachable way.
However, it’s not as simple as putting on music and letting the language learning commence! Whether it’s music, videos or other forms of content, you need a system that utilizes these resources in a meaningful way.
For this, the FluentU language learning program is the ultimate tool.
The FluentU program solves a key issue that many users face when creating an immersion environment—it turns videos into language lessons.
It’s not a passive method of learning. Instead, you’re actively learning new content, vocabulary, sentence structure and native features with the program.
Watch Fun and Entertaining Videos
If you’re anything like me, you check YouTube at least a couple of times a day. For this exact reason, I believe that videos are a great way to study a foreign language. This is because it’s not a big change to your lifestyle. Instead, it’s all about switching your viewing habits.
By exchanging meaningless video channels for a few that help you learn languages with YouTube, then you can turn this video watching time into a key language learning lesson!
You don’t just have to use structural grammar channels to learn languages with videos. You can also follow fun channels, like vloggers, to find meaningful language videos.
Once you find a few channels you like, be sure to subscribe to them so you continue to learn languages on YouTube.
By doing so, these YouTube language learning channels will give you a clear target to aim for—whether it be mastering grammar or understanding a vlog.
Follow the Latest Blockbusters and Dance Away to Great Tunes
Using film and music as part of a language learning strategy is a popular approach. But to really learn a language by watching movies, you need a good strategy.
There are a few creative strategies and tips when it comes to learning a language through movies.
For example, when using Netflix for learning languages, turn on subtitles in your target language and write down words you don’t know.
Set a goal for using movies to learn. Are you going to watch a new native TV series to focus on your accent?
Approaches like using dual subtitles and avoiding common pitfalls when using movies to learn a language will teach you how to learn a language with movies.
This approach will take the film or music from a passive piece of content to a more active form of learning. A great example of this is using bilingual songs to connect with the language you are learning! Speaking of songs, platforms like Spotify are great for language learning. I personally use it to help me learn languages through songs!
Once again, FluentU is a great tool for turning movies and songs into real language learning lessons.
Each video comes with captions that let you hover over words you don’t recognize and add them to a vocabulary list. Plus, reinforce every new word you learned with quizzes and exercises at the end.
Download Podcasts to Drive Your Learning
Podcasts provide a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. You can both listen to interesting content and practice a new language at the same time. In fact, using foreign language podcasts is a great way to propel yourself to fluency.
What’s great is the range of podcasts that are available. You can choose a language podcast specifically for learning new words and grammar, or choose one meant for native speakers about a topic you’re passionate about. There’s a huge variety of language learning podcasts available.
Podcasts are a fantastic resource because you can play with the speed of the program, take notes, read summaries and turn what at first appears to be a simple resource into a complete and dynamic language learning lesson.
Head Back to School in Class or Online
Language courses are help for any stage of your learning journey. They provide structure, follow a logical syllabus and give you the opportunity to interact with other language learners with the same goal (if you’re taking an in-person class).
They’re also convenient and interactive. If you’re studying online then you can attend a virtual language school in your pajamas and still have a great lesson!
Best of all, many e-learning language courses are free!
One of the first steps when choosing a language learning course is to ensure that it’s appropriately leveled. You can do a general search through the best budget-friendly online language learning courses or you can find a specific course (like an intensive language course for intermediate speakers).
Of course, it’s also a great strategy to remember that you’re not limited to any single online language course. There are heaps of great courses out there for you to get the most from the virtual classroom. To achieve this, it’s important to follow all of the guidelines, quizzes and due dates as effectively as possible.
It goes without saying that choosing a highly-rated and respected course should also be at the top of your priority list. A fantastic starting place is searching through top sources for language MOOCs. These are large open-source websites that compile the best content from universities and academic institutions.
It’s a great way to find smart foreign language learning courses and help steer you towards additional language fluency. Plus, they’re usually free.
Build Your Vocabulary with Great Dictionaries and Translators
With today’s online options for dictionaries and translator resources, it’s important to consider these as multi-use tools. There are countless ways you can learn with a foreign language dictionary, for example.
Essentially, they’re not just tools to find a definition or translate a piece of vocabulary. By using one of the best translation apps or a stunning visual dictionary the opportunities are endless.
You can use new vocabulary in an active way with sentences, stories, visual boards or word association techniques. What’s important is that the dictionary and translators are being used in an active way.
They’re also incredibly user-friendly and convenient tools. You simply need to download some of the best translation apps for Android or the best translation apps for iPhone. With this, you’ll have access to on-the-go and high-quality translation and definition.
They’re also a cost affordable resource that suits any learner. If you’re stuck with a particular piece of vocabulary, just use a free online translator!
Be Absorbed in the Wonderful World of Books
With all the talk of new apps, learning programs and growing trends such as augmented reality, we sometimes forget that there are many fantastic books at our disposal. In fact, there are heaps of many great titles that make for the best language learning books out there.
Of course, this doesn’t rule out fantastic resources such as bilingual e-books. But there’s nothing like having a physical copy of a great textbook by your side as you learn a new language.
What’s great with books is the range of available titles and that they suit many different learners. For example, if you’re getting started with your language learning journey you can use easy language books. There are quite a few, and there are tons of strategies for using easy language books as learning material.
Of course, you’re not restricted to books either. You can also learn with foreign language magazines.
To use books effectively, choose a few for learning and others for enjoyment. If you need guidance on where to start looking for learning books, there are plenty of tips online regarding foreign language textbooks.
There are also many options for learning related to dual language books and bilingual parallel texts. These styles of books serve as a great introduction to using written text as part of a foreign language study strategy.
You should also consider engaging in active communities, book clubs or fan groups. For example, you can use famous titles such as the Harry Potter books for language learning while also exploring communities, writing reviews and engaging with other fans in the language.
Level Up Your Internet Browsing with Chrome Extensions
We’re all guilty of it: mindlessly surfing the internet after a long, busy day at work or school, tumbling from one website to another and watching your free time disappear.
But what if I told you that you could make the most of your internet surfing time and actually learn a language?
Enter Chrome extensions.
Chrome extensions (and, generally, extensions for any browser that you use) are widgets that you can add to your Chrome internet browser that enhance your surfing experience. Many of these extensions can be used for learning a language so that you can scroll endlessly and improve your target language at the same time!
There are language learning Chrome and other browser extensions available for many purposes. For example, you can download extensions that allow for interactive translations of texts in a target language. For many of these, you can simply click on a word and get a translation or in-depth dictionary entry for words. There are even extensions that then collect each word you’ve translated into automated vocabulary lists!
Stay Savvy on Social Media
If you’re already an active user of social media, then it’s entirely possible to make some small changes and position yourself for rapid and real-world language learning.
Language learning on a social network is a privilege that not only makes the process fun, but also makes it easier.
It’s just a matter of implementing the right social media language learning tips as well as switching some habits to a more active form of learning. Social media is still a form of media and with video content, images, text and different groups to join, there are many opportunities to practice a new language.
What does this mean? Well, you can stop aimless scrolling and learn a language on Instagram by following content creators that use your target language.
You also need to remember that social media is supposed to be a social tool. Because of this, you can interact with native speakers by using Twitter for language learning. Of course, you can use Facebook for language learning, too.
As a final tip, be sure to switch your accounts to your target language. This will provide an opportunity for some great input and exposure to the language.
Put Vocabulary into Your Long-term Memory with Flashcards
Flashcards are perhaps the most popular way to learn and review new information, especially vocabulary and grammar.
Of course, these days, a little bit of digital help is well-welcomed. To get started with this tool, download a language flashcard app to improve vocabulary. Or, go old school and use index cards.
It’s also a great approach to delve into the science of flashcards. Understanding how they move new information into your long-term memory can help you build a habit of using them and a solid study schedule. Whether you’re using index cards or foreign language flashcard apps, it’s worth looking into.
It’s never been a better time to be a language learner. With so many interactive and modern tools available at our disposal, sometimes it feels like being a kid in a candy store.
You can practice your target language anywhere for as long as you want! But always remember that it’s never been easier to distract yourself from your goals, too.
With the right tools and a dedicated approach, you’ll be unstoppable in your language learning quest.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.