Nowadays, there are many ways to learn a foreign language that fit different lifestyles, schedules, tastes, and budgets. There are professional tutors online and offline, various language schools and courses. Nevertheless, more and more people prefer to learn foreign languages on their own.
Learning a language on your own does have certain advantages:
- you can be very flexible, learning at any convenient time and place
- you can fully tailor the learning process to your needs and cut out what is not necessary
- there are language learning materials for all budgets, you can spend as much or as little as you want
- you can move at your own pace
- you can pick and choose materials and resources that you enjoy
However, learning on your own doesn’t always come easy and is not a magical cure-all solution: it needs to be done right to be effective. Don’tt worry, we’ve got you covered: in this article, you will find tips on how to learn a language on your own successfully.
1. Practice regularly
This tip is essential in mastering any skill, as well as in learning any foreign language. It is based on the way our brains work: to transfer information from short-term into long-term memory and retain it, we need to repeat information several times over a relatively short period of time.
Ideally, you should practice every day: short daily sessions, 10-15 minutes each, are much more effective than hour-long sessions once a week. Longer sessions are good, too, but not everyone can afford regular long classes. A 10-minute practice session can fit into practically any busy schedule.
One of the learning techniques associated with regular language practice is spaced repetition. It is usually applied when using flashcards: new and more difficult vocabulary are shown more frequently while older and less difficult cards are shown less frequently. This way, you don’t waste time reviewing the language material you know well and can devote more time to more challenging things.
Spaced repetition with physical flashcards made of paper can be somewhat confusing: you needed a whole system to distinguish correctly answered cards from the more challenging vocabulary. Nowadays, you do not need to worry about that: many modern flashcard and language learning apps have built-in spaced repetition capabilities.
The spaced repetition algorithm on LinguaLift tracks your progress and predicts the best time to review words and concepts from previous lessons to ensure you retain what you learn. Try it out! The use of spaced repetition has been proven by many studies to increase the effectiveness of learning. We cover this topic a little more in our blog post on how to improve your vocabulary.
2. Take advantage of modern technology and the Internet
We live in a world of ever-changing and ever-improving technology – and, as a language learner, you should take advantage of that, especially if you are learning on your own.
Of course, great textbooks and other good offline learning resources still exist. However, digital technologies can make language learning easier, more fun, and, ultimately, much more effective.
You have already read about spaced repetition above: with language learning apps, you don’t have to remember which vocabulary units are more challenging and will benefit from more repetitions, the app will do it for you. And this is just one example. There are online dictionaries, apps with clear grammar explanations, language exchange apps, language learning communities online, and much more.
But it isn’t only about learning resources! With the help of the Internet, you can find multiple ways to practice your target language: watch movies and TV shows, read books, listen to the radio, read or watch the news, and much more. For some great ideas, check out our blog post, on how to use social media to learn languages.
3. Get professional help and advice
Although learning on your own has some great advantages, there are certain difficulties associated with it as well. For instance, especially for an inexperienced self-learner, it can be hard to map out the learning path and decide which topics to prioritize over the others.
This is one of the reasons why even in the age of modern technology, ‘old-fashioned’ learning with a tutor or at a language school remains popular: an experienced tutor can provide you with the right guidance to facilitate your learning; start with the most essential basics before moving on to more challenging things; and adapt their teaching to fit your learning style.
With LinguaLift, you can have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, the app allows you to study on your own, at any place and at any time. On the other hand, with LinguaLift, you will find experienced language tutors who will guide you through the language learning process: answer questions, offer guidance, and can even assign homework. Whenever you feel lost, whenever there is something you need help with, you can reach out to your tutor through our in-app message system.
There are more ways you can get guidance on LinguaLift. With your subscription, you receive a free copy of “Language Learning Secrets”, a 124-page ebook. This book gives you the mindsets, techniques, and study tips to achieve fluency as fast as possible. (You can receive your own free copy just by filling out the email form on the right side of your screen).
When you first sign up, you also receive a questionnaire that will allow professional tutors to understand why you are learning a new language, your goals, habits, and daily schedule. They will then put together a customized study plan for you, to ensure you have an effective study routine, that will make your learning much more effective.
Always remember, learning a language on your own does not have to mean ‘learning alone’: Through the Internet, you can get help and guidance from experienced tutors without committing to longer lessons that may not fit your schedule. We have a great post on how to get the most out of language tutors.
4. Use the language
To truly master a foreign language, it is not enough to learn grammar and vocabulary and do various exercises – it is important to practice the language outside the learning context, as much as possible and as early as possible. It is true for all the four essential skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking – it is essential to practice those skills ‘outside the classroom’.
For example, you may have reading exercises in your textbook or on your favorite language app, but your learning will be faster and more effective if you read other texts as well: various advertisements and labels, the news, books (there are adapted books for different language levels), or even Wikipedia (there are articles in multiple languages).
Practicing speaking is a bit different from the other skills as you need a partner for it to be most effective, as it involves not only pronouncing words and phrases but different communication and interaction skills. But the Internet has you covered here as well: with language exchange apps, such as HelloTalk or Tandem, you do not have to go far to look for a chat partner.
Practicing language skills may be challenging in the beginning but the earlier you start, the more progress you will see. You can even practice speaking by yourself using the shadowing technique.
5. Have fun!
Mastering a foreign language can get challenging at times, and it does take quite some time and a bit of patience. However, it doesn’t have to be a boring tedious process that feels more like a chore rather than a hobby. It’s not only okay to have fun when learning a language – it makes learning more effective, as we tend to learn better when we enjoy the process.
While learning a language on your own, you can tailor your learning process to make it more fun: choose interactive language learning materials that fit your learning style, topics that interest you, exciting books, and movies that will make time fly. For more tips on how to have fun, check out 5 ways to learn languages through fun and play.