Learning a Foreign Language – What is Stopping Us?

Learning a language can be difficult but there are many different apps and programmes available today to help us with our studies. via @tbookjunkie

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? I don’t mean learning a few words here and there perhaps for an upcoming trip, although that is always appreciated by locals, I mean learning to fluently speak a language. 

We have tried and are still trying in fact, and I have to let you into a secret – it is not that easy.

Of course, if it was easy more people around the world would be at least bi-lingual but with only 43% of the world able to speak more than one language (only 13% are tri-lingual) it seems that I am not alone in my struggle.  In fact, for Brits, the stats are even more dire, with only 38% of the popular being able to speak a second language.

Many Brits, however, don’t see this as a failure and have come to believe that it is ok not to try with languages because after all ‘everyone speaks English abroad these days’.  This may be the case on the Spanish Costas but if you decide to travel further afield to more remote places, the lack of languages may be your downfall, which is why it is so important to try.

As I have already said, we understand how difficult learning a different language can be.  We have lived in Italy for three years, have been to night school and have spent time with friends trying desperately to learn Italian but we are still not yet fluent.  However, we are not prepared to give up just yet.

There are so many different programmes out there, teaching people how different languages that you can now learn how to speak French, German, Italian, Portuguese or even Mandarin from the comfort of your own home.  You just need the desire and willpower not to give up when things appear to get too difficult. From phone apps through to face to face skype training like that provided by Language Trainers there are many different options, catering for all learning styles.

5 of the Best Ways to Learn another Language

duolingo supports learning of a language even when mistakes are made.

#1 Duolingo (free)

Probably best known as an app you can download on your phone, Duolingo is a good place to start when looking for a new language to learn.  It starts with the basics and uses repetition to help you learn.  It is a programme that promotes learning a language in just 5 minutes a day so for those short of time, it could be the perfect way to start out.

Babbel is a language learning tool that helps you go through the basics to speaking more fluently.

#2  Babbel (various monthly subscriptions available) 

Everyone learns in different ways.  Some people are visual learners while others learn by listening or doing.  The great thing about Babbel is that it tailors its programme to you and your particular way of studying.  Babbel is a fantastic tool for those just starting out with a new language because “instead of drilling abstract sentences, vocabulary or grammar rules, the app teaches through real-life dialogue.”

Rosetta Stone one of the most popular ways to learn a new language

#3 Rosetta Stone (various monthly subscriptions available)

While this is one of the more expensive language learning options, it is known globally and has been around for more than 20 years which makes me think that they are doing something right.

You learn through pairing images and words together and practicing your pronunciation.  You will gain instant feedback while also having access to more than 200 hours worth of tutorials, online sessions with tutors and language-learning games, all of which are designed to help you learn a language with ease.

Future Learn offers many free and paid for courses to help you further develop your skills in business and life.

#4 Future Learn (free, with options to pay for upgrades) 

Unlike other online courses, Future Learn provides random online courses.  That means that you will need to sign up for email notification of new courses being added.  You will find that the language courses offered here are geared more towards a holiday or perhaps a work situation and vary in length and knowledge gained.  What it does do in a short amount of time is highlight whether or not a particular language (or subject if you look at the wider course list) is right for you.

Fluent in three months promotes learning a new language in a very short period of time and is recommended by Tim Feriss.

#5 Fluent in 3 Months ($116.40) 

The fact that Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week, rates Benny and his ability to teach people languages in a short period time perhaps means that this is one of the best programmes out there. He boasts that with his course you will be able to have a 15-minute conversation in your chosen language after just 90 days, which is quite an impressive statement.  For your money, you will get an array of different tools – a step-by-step language guide, a language journal, master class videos, immersion tools to build routine and daily habits plus much more.

The English Perception

From experience, learning a new language may be difficult but it can also be extremely rewarding.  Being able to converse with people in a language other than my native English is fantastic and often startling to others – after all I am English and therefore should I not have the same attitude as some of my fellow countrymen that everyone should speak my language.  We have, over the years, become a laughing stock of other nationalities because of our lack of abilities or perhaps our desire to learn something new.  Therefore, when we do speak to someone in their native language there is that element of surprise and their respect quickly shines through.

Learning a new language used to be something we did for a couple of years at school and therefore in a way we cannot be blamed for our lack of skill, however, with the development of new apps and programmes we no longer have an excuse.

Perhaps this should be the year that you start learning something new; something that will help you whether travelling or moving abroad. Time can no longer be the justification; after all, you can start to learn in just five minutes a day.  The location or courses is not a barrier anymore because you can now learn in the comfort of your own home at a pace that suits you – so what is your excuse?

Have you tried to learn a new language? Which programmes or apps did you use? What tips do you have for others wanting to develop their language skills?


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