A Guide for Learning Foreign Languages (Resources)

Latin was probably the single most useful subject I was taught in school. I despised it at the time, but now I have come to realise its importance and many applications–the greatest of which is how it has helped me learn other languages.

In learning languages (although none to fluency… yet) I have found the following resources invaluable. This is the order in which I would suggest researching/learning:

  1. Choose a language to learnHow to Learn Any Language provides good language overviews and gives information on difficulty, popularity, and other metrics. However, don’t be put off by stats!
  2. Deconstruct your desired language – Tim Ferriss provides a good overview of how to quickly deconstruct a language – an important step that will give you a great insight into the workings of a language.
  3. Understand the deconstruction – Yes, you may have deconstructed it, but do you really know what it all means? Study the linguistic typology of your chosen language to really understand it.
  4. Find high-quality free material
  5. Hit the books – Start learning using all the material you acquired in the previous step. There’s a specific order in which you should do this:
    1. Pronunciation: From the very beginning you need to know how to pronounce words correctly. Find some native speakers or learn the IPA and do it phonetically.
    2. Vocabulary: Learning grammar becomes much easier with spaced repetition. Don’t translate from your native language: use a combination of images and target words (translation will limit your use of the words). Choose your words wisely: word lists that are tailored to your situation are always good.
    3. Grammar: Again, spaced repetition and good material is the way to go.
    4. The Rest: Reading and writing, speaking and listening… now that you have a grasp of the language (however small), it’s time to immerse yourself.



3 responses to “A Guide for Learning Foreign Languages (Resources)”

  1. This is a really great post on learning foreign languages. It is great nowadays that you can do so much online but I really think there is nothing like being able to learn a language in it’s country. The beauty of studying overseas is that you will be immersed in both the language and culture of the country, experiencing local customs and people. With language courses available all over the world, you really can choose to study in a place that reflects your lifestyle and personality. So I’d do all of the points you raised as well as seriously considering studying overseas if possible.

  2. I completely agree: no matter how much online self study one does, there is no substitute for learning a language in a real-life setting in its country of origin.

    My brother, for example, studied Japanese for two years in the UK. However, he’s now coming to the end of a one-year stint living in Tokyo and has told me that he learnt more about the language and culture of Japan in a few months than he did in two years studying it full-time in the UK.

    Plus, what better thrill is there than the thrill of travelling the world and immersing yourself in a foreign culture?

    Thanks for the comment,

  3. This material is very helpful for a picking a new language. It helped me better understand how to apply Tim Ferriss’s site.

    The other sites are very helpful as well such as the first link (how-to-learn-any-language.com). I found this very helpful for choosing the exact language to learn.

    It would be terrible for someone to regret the language that they chose to learn. Plus it’s really helpful to learn the facts on what to learn.

    I may link some of these on my page to make it even more helpful for learning a new language. Thank you!