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Monday, 1 June 2015

Language learning resources

As promised in 'Why you should learn a language', here's the follow-up post of some useful resources.


A free, easy to use introduction to languages. English speakers can learn French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Danish, Swedish, Irish and Turkish. All you need is an internet connection and a pair of headphones. Each module is comprised of 2 - 10 sections, with around 20 excercises in each section. The excercises include listening, speaking and reading and multiple choice. I like how it introduces new words into sentences you already know, providing a bit of a challenge without racing ahead. Duolingo has one major downside in that there's no grammar lessons though. It will give you a hint to which gender/word ending is correct, but it doesn't explain how the language works. 

Collins Easy Learning Grammar series

What Duolingo lacks, these have in spades. I've used these since GCSE and the name 'easy learning' is completely true. I've never been disappointed by a Collins Easy Learning book - they're excellently written, concise, and easy to follow. 

Collins complete dictionaries

Google Translate is much better than it used to be and I still use it for the occasional quick word search, but the best way to translate is with a good old-fashioned dictionary. The Collins complete and unabridged language dictionaries are pretty hefty - they're definitely designed for a desk than for travelling with, but invest in one and you'll never need the internet again (except maybe for some of the more colourful swear words).Words are put into context so that you not only get the meaning of the words are but how they are used. It also makes a very nice footstool/doorstop/cat bed!


Anki is a computerised flashcard system with downloadable flashcard decks, available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. The shared deck feature allows you to download others' decks, but you can also make your own. There's a default of 20 new cards a day to avoid information overload. After doing a card you can mark how easy it was - the harder it was, the more often it reappears in the deck. Anki is a great, simple system, but I find there are inconsistencies in the shared decks as only some decks have audio and images.

Open culture

Open Culture's languages section contains online resources for 48 languages and includes links to apps, websites and podcasts.

Films, TV and books

Watching films and TV won't actively teach you a language, but it will help you learn. 
A book you know well, in the language you're learning, works well - something easy to read where you can begin to recognise words and sentence structure works well. I have Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and The Very Hungry Caterpillar in German. Watching foreign-language films and TV helps familiarise you with the sounds and expressions. Dubbed versions of programmes that are popular worldwide can usually be found online, too.

Thanks for reading x