(Updated June 2017)
Languages are my life-long passion and at any given time, I’m learning several. At the moment, that includes German, Spanish, French, and Polish. I’ve also dabbled in Mandarin, Hindi, Latin, and – as a nerdy middle schooler – several Tolkien languages. Yes, that means Elvish.
My school required a semester each of Spanish, French, and German, and I continued with German throughout high school. I have always been passionate about languages and the doors they open for education, exploration, communication, and cultural diversity.
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I think that every – yes EVERY – girl boss should learn a second language. Not only does it give an extra cool factor to your already amazing boss ladyness, but it has tons of business, health, and cultural benefits.
Expands Business Prospects
Knowing a second language gives you a serious advantage on your resume, as many companies do business internationally. Even if you don’t interact with people from abroad in your job, knowing a second language shows that you place a priority on learning and appreciate cultural diversity. Check out this list of the best languages to learn for business.
Opens Up the World and Knocks Down Cultural Barriers
What if you could hang with the locals abroad instead of doing the tourist thing? What if you could chat with the owners of your favorite Chinese restaurant in their language? What if language opened doors for communication, learning, cultural exchange, friendship…even love? It does! Communication and connection is what language was invented for. Use it to your advantage. There are so many more opportunities to connect with new people, even if you only know a little of a foreign language.
Gives You the Opportunity to Learn a New Skill
Continuing to learn throughout life is key to creating the life you want to live. As adults, we don’t often have the structure of school to format our education. By teaching yourself a new language, you are learning to teach yourself, and you can translate that into learning anything.
Exercises the Brain
Loads of studies have been done on the power of multilingual brains. (By the way, studies have also shown that, in some ways, adults are better language learners than kids, so don’t let that “I’m too old,” excuse prevent you from going after the goal of acquiring a new language.) People who know more than one language are better multi-taskers and retain more information. Learning a language also reduces your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Learning another language has numerous benefits, so…
Where should you start?
First of all, ditch Rosetta Stone. It’s expensive and it doesn’t work for most people. Try some of my favorite language learning resources instead:
Italki is my all-time favorite language learning resource. It’s the one that has catapulted me from speaking German like a toddler to being able to hold an intelligent conversation for 30-60 minutes with a native speaker.
Italki offers free and paid opportunities to speak a language with native speakers over Skype. You might feel nervous about speaking to a real person – I did – but you get over it quickly and you’ll be amazed how much more you learn in a short period of time. I had to experience it firsthand to find out that speaking truly is the best way to learn a language.
On Italki, you can pay to have language lessons with an informal tutor (less expensive) or a professional teacher (more expensive). I have done both, and I should really write a more in-depth post on Italki. You also have the option to do language exchange, in which you help someone practice English in return for them helping you with their language. This is the most valuable piece in my language learning toolbox.
When you sign up for your first lesson here, you get $10 in credits to use learning your new language!
The Made Simple Series
The Made Simple series has books for Spanish, French, German, and Italian. The books immerse you in a language by throwing you directly into a dialogue between a language learner and his teacher. Through the dialogues and exercises, you internalize the structure of the language. It moves pretty quickly, which I like.
Collins dictionaries are my favorite for foreign languages. They are modern, complete, and easy to navigate.
Want an alternative to Rosetta Stone that actually works? I love the Living Language book/audio combination. These are available for tons of languages, including less common ones like Irish. They combine vocabulary and phrase exercises with audio, so that you can see and hear the language together.
I’ve used podcasts to learn bits and pieces of Chinese and French, and I’ve listened to quite a few in German. My favorites are the Coffee Break series (multiple languages) by Radio Lingua and Slow German. There are podcasts in almost every language, especially for beginners.
I don’t use YouTube as much as I should for language learning, but this channel has AMAZING videos for many different languages.
Fluent in 3 Months
Benny the Irish Polyglot of Fluent in 3 Months preaches a “speak from day one” approach to language learning that encourages people to start speaking with native speakers right away. He blogs about many “hacks” to help you learn a language faster, memorize vocabulary, and make language learning more fun. He has also written a Fluent in 3 Months book and offers premium language hacking courses. Check out his Language Hacking series for French, German, Spanish, and Italian too!
Duolingo is a smartphone app/website that allows you to learn languages through fun games. It gets repetitive after awhile, and I have to be careful how much I use my phone because it irritates some chronic problems with my wrist and elbow. However, the courses are totally free and very complete. A huge number of languages are available, including less common ones like Danish, Polish, and Welsh. Send me your email if you’d like to be added to my Duolingo friends list.
I hope these resources will inspire you and help you as your begin the adventure of learning a new language.
If you have additional questions about resources for learning a new language, contact me or leave your questions in the comments. Tschüs!