Even if you’re attending classes, doing homework and preparing for exams can be isolating activities.
Ready to make one of the best decisions you’ll ever make as a language learner? Good! You’ll never regret it.
Diving in and joining online language learning communities or forums can be highly beneficial to learners of any language. But which communities will really help you get where you’re going?
I’ll give you six that are definitely worth your time. Make one (or more of them) your new home online. But first, here are three good reasons why you should join, just in case you’re still on the fence.
The Benefits of Joining an Online Language Learning Community
Say “Hello” to Fellow Language Learners
Just knowing that you’re not alone can be a great comfort to the language learner. Sooner or later, you’re gonna be discouraged. You’re gonna feel down and out. (Hey, that’s a normal part of the language journey.)
The forum can put all your struggles with language into perspective. Imagine a class of several hundred million. When you come to the forums and read that someone else asked the same language question you’ve been asking yourself the past few days, you realize you’re not that bad. There are people ahead of you, who’ve been though it all and found ways to overcome difficulties. There are people behind you who are still looking for guidance and direction. When you come to the forum and read a language question that you actually know the answer to, you realize you’re really not that bad!
In addition to getting awesome tips that have worked well for others, forums can create invisible bonds that connect you to every other language learner there, even if you’re studying different languages. There’s some kind of bond that exists between fellow language learners, making an online community like a band of brothers where you end up cheering each other on and hoping for the others to succeed.
Be Up Close and Personal with Native Speakers
Did you know that you can learn a whole new language without ever spending a dime? Native speakers have a lot to do with it. Native speakers are those lucky enough to be born in a country where your target language is spoken.
It used to be that gaining access to them involved buying a plane ticket, getting lost in their city and asking where the nearest bathroom is. But that seems like a very long time ago. Today, you can get access to native speakers and you don’t even need to give them the courtesy of introducing yourself. You simply proceed to your question, type away and you’ll have knowledgeable and helpful native speakers answer your question, sometimes in seconds.
Now, I’m not saying that native speakers are necessarily linguistic geniuses. They may very well be average. But they possess the very thing you’re working your tail off to possess: fluency in their language.
And because they’re native speakers, they won’t think it’s too big of a deal to dish out some help. Often, they’ll do it pro bono—or, more often, they’ll do it in exchange for help with learning your native language.
Beyond language, native speakers can give you the inside information on cultural practices, idiomatic expressions, slang, pop culture and other areas where a textbook can’t go. Through the guidance of these creatures, you’ll have more insightful and enriched time with the language. FluentU’s large library of captioned videos by native speakers, for native speakers are also a wonderful tool to take a closer look at the culture behind a language!
Get Honest Reviews on Resources and Products
Joining forums is one of the best ways to go after honest reviews of language learning resources. The wisdom of numbers will shed light on the true nature of products.
If a particular language course is good, you’ll hear about it from someone who has actually taken it. Sometimes you’ll hear mixed reviews, which is a reality of life anyway. Then you can engage those members and asked them what they liked or didn’t like about the product/course. It’s always possible that their cons will be your pros, and vice versa.
So, type your query in the forums and ask away. Ask if such and such is a good product. Or better yet, ask for pros and cons. You’ll be a more empowered and informed language learner by doing so.
6 Online Language Learning Communities You Should Be a Part Of
Fluent In 3 Months is the one of the largest, most popular and best known language learning blogs online. It’s managed by the fun-loving and globe-trotting Irishman Benny Lewis. He’s fluent in seven languages and intent on adding more tongues to his already robust repertoire.
“Three months?” you asked. “That’s like less than a hundred days, right?”
The blog talks about different language hacking techniques Benny discovered on his journey towards speaking different languages. He also writes balanced reviews of the different language products online and posts articles like, “Learn to Speak Multiple Languages (Without Burning Out)” and “What’s Your #1 Challenge in Language Learning?”
Benny’s philosophy is that if you wanna learn how to speak a language, then you’ve gotta speak it on the first day. Mistakes and all.
The Fluent In 3 Months forum reflects this philosophy because you will see that he devotes a section/category to discussions about “Speaking the language” and lumps the other non-speaking components of language (writing, reading, listening) into one category.
Speaking of categories, the forum, interestingly, also has a special section for “Ladies Only” which cannot be viewed by non-members.
Benny is effusive about what’s going on in his life and shares a lot on the forum about his travels, projects and, like I said, reviews different products he’s tried. So if you want an honest review by someone who’s actually tried the product, Benny’s your guy.
With the many resources, tips, techniques and helpful discussions that are happening in Fluent In 3 Months, well, maybe it is possible to be fluent in three months.
Omniglot is a compendium of linguistic knowledge and the different writing systems used to represent language. In short, the blog is big on the written word—one of the best online. It’s run by Simon Ager, an unassuming fellow who speaks French, German, Chinese and Japanese. What started out as a hobby in 1998 became what it is today by organically growing and continuously taking in quality content.
I’ve included this one on the list as a nod to learners of the written texts. There’s a disproportionate number of excellent learning communities for spoken language, but only a few focusing on its written form. Omniglot is one such place.
Its forum has sections on con-scripts, extinct languages and even translation requests. But lest it be mistaken for a “writing only” learning community, you’d be happy to know that Omniglot contains voluminous tips, tricks and techniques for learning how to speak different languages. It really covers all the aspects of language education.
Omniglot has attracted serious language learners, so it’s here that you’ll find people whose passion is really learning. The crowd here has somehow taken on the unassuming and simple nature of the founder, Simon, and you can really feel genuine curiosity within the forum’s pages. You’re also more likely to bump into really intelligent people in this blog. Just sayin’.
So if you want a place that’s low on negativity but high on learning, check out the Omniglot forum.
Some communities make you wonder if there are actually people behind it or if they’re busy doing something else. With some forums, you try to contact an admin and it takes you ages to get a reply, if you get one. With Linguaholic, you feel that the people behind it actually care what’s going on in the forums, what’s being talked about or whether the latest queries have been answered.
The forum, I think, is in an ideal size where it’s not too big to be out of control, but still active enough to be a platform for communicating with fellow language learners. They have sections for “Language Study Apps,” “Language Teaching” and even a “Language Exchange Corner” where you can find people who can help you learn your target language.
With Linguaholic, you get a sense of kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. For example, the forum has a section for requests and suggestions, which the moderators don’t treat blithely.
So with Linguaholic there’s always some new “cool thing” that’s being developed. They’re continually adding languages and continually tweaking the site. As a yet non-household name, my guess is, it will be big very soon. And I encourage you to join this community. Not just because of its potential (although it would be very cool to be part of something before others flock to it), but because, as it exists today, Linguaholic is imminently useful for the language learner who wants to surround himself with support from like-minded souls.
Think Reddit is just for upvoting and downvoting items you find interesting (and otherwise)? Think again. Reddit has an awesome list of language learning communities called subreddits that can be as specific and as broad as you want it to be.
One such subreddit is /r/languagelearning.
The forum is for anyone interested in learning a language whether they be an absolute beginner, a raving polyglot or a person who’s just plain interested in linguistics. Queries submitted here include: Which languages are phonetically similar to English? What fun websites do you visit in your target language? Tips on raising a trilingual child?
You can ask anything you want in the language learning niche. Remember what I told you about forums being lounges for other language learners and native speakers? The language learning subreddit has them in good numbers and they’re actively ready to help.
The subreddit has the added functionality of the Reddit upvote and downvote. An upvote floats the post higher up the page, which means members get to see it first over others. A downvote sinks it to the lower areas of the page, where many readers don’t get to see. This allows members to efficiently interact with one another and bring attention to the highest quality content.
While other forums present the latest threads or most recently commented threads, here you’ll see the posts that other members have found particularly interesting or helpful. Trusting in the wisdom of communities, you’re able to save time and don’t have to wade through all the topics before you get to one that’s worth your time.
You’ve probably had your first brush with WordReference because you wanted something translated. WordReference is often considered the top dictionary-translation site online. But working as a translation service is just one of its virtues. WordReference houses a lively learning community, and a forum section to boot!
And its forums are nothing to sneeze at. At the time of this writing, there are 6,000 active users that are “online.” (How may forums can raise up a number like that?)
WordReference has forums for Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Slavic, Semitic and many other minor languages. In true tradition as a translation service, the forums for major languages like Spanish, French and Italian come in language pairs. For example, in the French forum, there are subsections on French-English, French-Spanish and French-Italian. So if you want a translation of a French phrase or sentence into English, then you go to the appropriate section. Or if you’re an English speaker who wanted to ask something about the French language, you go to the same section.
The queries and topics that you find here are heavy on the translation, vocabulary, meaning, usage, sentence structure, pronunciation, tenses, parts of speech and grammar elements. So for example, in the French-English section, someone might asked: Can you subject-verb invert on the imparfait?
For queries of this nature, your best bet would really be WordReference.
The Unilang platform probably serves the most number of languages online (including Polynesian languages, Basque, Faroese, Sami languages and even Kurdish).
The interface may look basic but, underneath the surface, you’ll be treated to some community-generated resources like: courses, videos, podcasts, dictionaries, scripts, vocabulary lists, phrasebooks, stories, software, games and exercises that no other platform can provide.
Unilang even supports live text chat (with Unicode scripts) so you can type in Chinese, Arabic and Russian.
The theme in this forum is collaboration. You not only have the chance to take advantage of the resources made by others, discuss them and ask your questions, you’re encouraged to create resources of your own. In so doing, you not only help your fellow language learners, but you’re also learning and immersing yourself more in your target language. And isn’t that a win-win?
Those are six of the language learning communities that are worth checking out.
Come, dive in.
Meet the folks, the fellow language learners who are effusive about their journeys, the patient native speakers who help you for nothing in exchange and the lovers of language who not only make you appreciate your target language more, but your first language as well.
They’re all there waiting for you, so what are you waiting for?!
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by natives speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos 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 your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn 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.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.