Last year, I asked 18 different language learning experts and enthusiasts for their favourite tips and techniques of 2016. I published them in a massive round-up article, which became very popular with the language learning community.
I was really happy I could help so many of you by relaying those 18 people’s top advice. If you didn’t see it last December, you can read it here:
This year, I’ve decided to do something different. I’ve looked at loads of articles about language learning published around the web in 2017 and selected 18 that, in my opinion, contain absolutely essential advice.
I share them with you below. Before we start, though, I just want to invite you to download your free guide to learning languages:
OK, are you ready for the top language learning advice of 2017? Let’s get started!
1. How to start learning a new language
This time of year is when many of us start thinking about new year’s resolutions. For us, language learners, they’re often around becoming more committed to learning (studying more frequently or getting to a higher level) or starting a completely new language that we’ve been interested in for a while.
That’s why I’m going to start this round-up with a video I made earlier this year on the topic of starting a new language. This video has been doing particularly well, which makes me think a lot of you might be at the start of this wonderful journey that picking up a new language is.
If you’re one of those people making new year’s resolutions for 2018, make sure you check out the video! Don’t forget to subscribe to the 5-Minute Language YouTube channel as well!
2. Starting a language without changing your routine?
Some of you may be worried about the impact that your new year’s language learning resolution may have on your lifestyle.
Will you have enough time to learn? When will you actually fit it in? Will have to give up any of your other interests? These are all questions you might be asking yourself.
That’s why the second piece of advice from 2017 that I’m going to feature in this round-up is Lindsay Williams’ blog post on how to start learning a new language without changing your routine.
Lindsay is not promising the impossible, though. She does make it clear from the start that if you don’t want to change your routine, your progress will be slower. But slow progress is better than no progress – am I right?
3. Time hacking tips for more efficient language learning
If you’re interested in maximising your time, you should definitely check out this post with no fewer than 24 time hacking tips from Fluent in 3 Months.
I decided to feature this article because it’s pure gold – it doesn’t just list time-saving tips but it links out to entire blog posts for each tip. You’ll find out why the ‘just do something’ mindset is the enemy of your progress, why 20% of effort is OK sometimes, and why ‘useless information’ takes up so much of your mental energy (and what you can do about it).
4. How to learn faster and remember more
Time hacking is not the only key to success when it comes to learning a language. Hours of going through vocabulary lists, reading foreign newspapers and listening to audiobooks is not everything. You need to make sure you’re actively acquiring the knowledge and skills at the same time.
I’m not saying anything new here – you simply need to remember things to learn them (‘learning’ meaning ‘being able to use them’).
If that’s something you’re interested in, Anthony Metivier has some advice for you. And it may involve zombies. What? Read his post to find out what I mean!
5. You’re not perfect and that’s OK
One piece of advice that I thought would be absolutely necessary to feature here comes from a video I made that proved very popular with language learners.
It’s about a truth that nobody seems to be talking about. It’s a truth about the fact that language learning is not easy. It’s challenging. And it brings struggle. It can be overwhelming. And it can bring some anxiety sometimes.
And we’re not perfect so we don’t have to pretend we are. Watch my video to see what I mean:
6. Even polyglots forget things and that’s OK too
Steve Kaufmann says that forgetting things is an important part of the learning process. And that many people are discouraged by that although they shouldn’t be.
It’s because it’s part of the journey. You learn things, you forget them and then you relearn them.
See Steve’s article for more details:
7. Tips on sounding more fluent even if you can’t remember every single word you’ve ever learned
Sounding fluent is not necessarily something that only very proficient language speakers can do. You can sound fluent without knowing every single word in the language you’re learning. And you can practise to get better at sounding fluent.
Alex Rawlings says on the Memrise blog that ‘fluency is a state of mind’. Do you agree? Check out his article, which includes tips on how to sound ‘more fluent’.
8. What is fluency anyway?
I’ve decided to feature another article by Steve Kaufmann from this year because I think it’s an important one. Steve’s point in this article is quite different to what Alex Rawlings says in his (see section above). He actually doesn’t believe that fluency is possible if all you know is a few hundred words in a language.
To see how Steve defines fluency, read his article:
9. How to stop translating in your head
In my experience, one significant obstacle on the way to sounding fluent is a habit many of us develop when we learn a new language – translating in your head when speaking. I’m talking about translating from your native language (trying to find words in the foreign language for the things you’re trying to say) or the other way round (listening and registering speech, and then trying to translate it into your native language in your head before you ‘understand’ it).
That’s why I made a video that I think is important to share in this round-up. It’s about how to stop the habit of translating. You can watch the video (or read the post) here:
10. Things you need to stop doing if you’re serious about learning a language
While we’re on the topic of habits, there are other things (apart from translating in your head) that you should stop doing if you want to get to fluency in the language you’re learning.
One of them is learning ‘randomly’. ‘Random learning’ is what I call the type of learning that’s not structured – where you don’t have any objectives or goals, and where you don’t really know why you’re learning and what you’re trying to achieve.
Read the full article to find out what five other things you should stop doing immediately if you want to get fluent.
11. Good habits of highly effective language learners
Habits aren’t always bad. In fact, developing good habits is an important part of learning a language successfully.
For example, being proactive about your learning, seeking to understand before you get understood, and ‘sharpening the saw’ – these are some of the things that Steve Kaufmann discusses in his article about the seven habits of highly effective learners. Check out the details here:
12. My personal experience of becoming fluent in a foreign language
Earlier this year, I made a video about my personal experience of becoming fluent in English. Many people commented on it saying that they didn’t know English wasn’t my native language, which was very flattering!
I was really glad to share this experience because I think it can help not only English learners but people learning any language. That’s because the tips I offer in it are pretty universal.
Watch it now and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!
13. The importance of reading in language learning
One of the things I mention in my video about getting fluent in English (see section above) is the importance of reading. Reading (and memorising vocabulary) are my all-time favourite things to do and things that have the most impact in my experience.
That’s why I thought it would be great to feature Gareth Popkins’ article about the role of reading in the foreign language learning process. Gareth talks about why some people might think that reading can get in the way of learning (confronting the reading sceptics!) but, more importantly, about why it makes sense.
14. Inspiring books about language and linguistics
And while we’re on the topic of reading, I want to share with you an article by Lindsay Williams that lists 10 inspiring books about language and linguistics.
She features Lingo (a book about the languages of Europe), Spoken Here (a travel book in which the author shares his stories from his travels learning about more and less obscure languages) and How Language Works (whose title says it all!). Check out the other seven in Lindsay’s article:
15. All the speaking resources you’ll ever need
This round-up wouldn’t be complete without an article about speaking resources. And I’ve got one for you. Or rather, Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages has one for you. And it is a gem packed with resources, tools and techniques for those of us who are working on our speaking skills. Make sure you check it out!
16. A guide to learning with a tutor on Italki
Italki is an online platform that allows you to connect with other language learners and form language exchange partnerships (for free), and partner with tutors (for a fee).
So, once you know all the tools and techniques you need to improve your speaking skills (see section above), it’s time to actually speak!
Gabriel Wyner from Fluent Forever has written a great guide to learning a language with a tutor on Italki. Check it out here:
17. How to build sentences in a foreign language
Speaking a language is all about knowing how to use words – how to use them in the right context and build sentences that make sense and sound natural.
That’s why I’m sure you will find this article from Benny Lewis at Fluent in 3 Months very useful. He talks about sentence structure, how to familiarise yourself with it and how to learn to use the correct word order in the language you’re learning.
18. How to learn two languages at the same time
And finally, I’ve left this one for the end but I’m sure you’ll appreciate it. It’s for those of you who think one foreign language is not enough. There you go: