Learning a New Language: Tips and Resources

Learning a new language is a journey. Are your bags packed?

learning a new language, pack your bags

If you’re thinking about learning a second language, good for you!

Learning a foreign language may seem intimidating or hard. But it’s completely doable—and comes with benefits.

You just need a few things: 1) a goal, 2) time, and 3) resources.

After reading this guide, you’ll be able to set a goal and a timeline. At the end of the post, you’ll find a list of resources—suggested by professional translators and language teachers—that are divided by language.

boy learning a new language

 

So how long will it take you to learn another language? Despite what the folks at Pimsleur say, learning a new language takes time. Sure, you can learn some phrases and some vocab words in a day. (Probably in an hour, in fact.)

But you won’t really have learned a new language.

Knowing how to count to 10 in Spanish—or knowing a few curse words in French—doesn’t count for much, because you won’t actually be able to do anything with the language. (You know, like communicate with other people.) So be ready to invest time at regular intervals if you’re serious about learning a new language.

Obviously, you don’t need to read this guide from top to bottom. You can skip right to the parts that you want to read using the links below.

Learning a new language is one of the most satisfying journeys you can undertake. Enjoy it!

6,500: the number of languages that are spoken worldwide

1: the number of languages that you’re trying to learn

Contents

I: Things to Know about Language Learning

II: Research and Planning

III: Start Learning!

IV: Resources

Assumptions

As I wrote this post, I had to picture the person reading it: you. But I don’t know you. So I had to make a few assumptions:

  • Assumption #1: You speak only one language now. (But you’re trying to change that. Good for you!) If you grew up, say, in Texas in a bilingual household (your mom was born in Mexico and your dad was born in Lubbock), then this article probably isn’t for you. This post is for people who are trying something brand new.
  • Assumption #2: You’re an English speaker. I’m writing this post in English because I’m American and my native language is English. While the things that I’ll talk about apply to native speakers of other languages, many examples are in English. (And, of course, my own experience learning a new language was from an English-speaking perspective.)
  • Assumption #3: You have time. If you want to learn a new language in a few weeks (or, as one popular website claims you can do, become “fluent in 3 months”), then I’ve got bad news for you. Language learning is a process, and processes take time. You can memorize 25 Russian verbs in an hour, but what good would it do you? (Go to Moscow with your 25 verbs and then let me know how it turns out.)

Disclaimers

  • Disclaimer #1: This post does not contain every good resource there is for learning a new language. If you know of a resource for a certain language that you think should be included in this post, then let me know in the comments.
  • Disclaimer #2: Language proficiency is not an either-or proposition but rather a spectrum. I meet a lot of people who think that “fluency” is like electricity: you’re either fluent (the light is on) or you’re not (the light is off). But this binary thinking is completely wrong. Instead, your language proficiency sits along a spectrum. The Interagency Language Roundtable defines this spectrum as a 0–5 scale, with 0 being “no proficiency” and 5 as “functionally native.” (While this post won’t examine the ILR scale in detail, I highly recommend reading about how the government measures speaking proficiency.) Consequently, don’t expect to be “fluent” after a few weeks or months of occasional study. Learning a new language to a level of professional proficiency can take years of both formal and informal learning. So keep things realistic.

Part I: Things to Know about Language Learning

Classroom Learning vs. the Self-Taught Approach

Should you take a class or teach yourself? Hmm, that’s a tough one.

The answer depends a lot on what kind of learner you are. Are you someone who needs everything spelled out and clearly explained? Then taking a class might be the right move.

By contrast, if you’re motivated and can tolerate a little bit of uncertainty, then the self-taught method is not a bad way to start learning a new language.

I’m writing this post primarily for the second group of people.

learning a new language requires motivation

Like trail running, learning a new language requires motivation. (But you won’t get shin splints studying Spanish.)

Authentic vs. Inauthentic Context

If the article that you’re reading (or the program that you’re watching) mimics how real people in language X write or speak, then it’s authentic.

For example, you could watch the German film Run Lola Run to get an authentic dose of German. (But not the latest Jason Bourne film.)

You see, when you have a German director, German actors, and German dialogue, you get German as it’s actually spoken. (By the way, when you’re learning a new language, films are a great way to get exposure and be entertained at the same time.)

By that measure, certain resources within a classroom could very well be authentic, even if the classroom environment as a whole is inauthentic.

The most authentic context, of course, is in the country or countries where your second language is spoken. (But living there may not be an option for you.)

In short, look for authentic resources. Typically these come from the country where the language is spoken, so a 1970s textbook written by an American teacher of Spanish doesn’t qualify. (Use it as a doorstop if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away.)

Given the sheer number of resources available to language learners in the 21st century, there’s no reason not to seek out and use authentic podcasts, TV shows, blog posts, movie reviews, etc. when learning a new language.

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Learning a New Language

You’ve probably heard that there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. But the truth is that no one is a 100% visual learner, for example, not caring at all to ever listen to or touch anything that would help facilitate learning.

Instead, we have a dominant learning style, but the less dominant styles aren’t zero. For this reason, you need to make use of multiple ways of learning. You’ll find that audio learning often reinforces visual learning (and vice versa).

So don’t shy away from listening to a podcast in Russian just because the speaker speaks really fast (or seems to). You don’t have to catch every single word in the episode, after all. You’re just trying to reinforce the vocabulary study that you did the day before.

The Four Modalities

There are four skills, or modalities, that you can practice while learning a new language: 1) listening, 2) speaking, 3) reading, and 4) writing.

As you might expect, listening comprehension and speaking ability are related. They make up spoken language.

Reading and writing make up written language, a relatively recent human invention.

Listening comprehension and speaking are likely part of your plan. In addition, you might want to know how to read Spanish, French, or Arabic.

But writing? It’s the least important for learning a new language, because an adult language learner rarely has to write. (The exception might be if you’re taking a class.)

learning a new language, Russian alphabet

The Russian alphabet

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s extremely helpful to learn the writing system of a language (accented letters in Romance languages, the Cyrillic alphabet for Russian, Mandarin and Japanese characters, etc.).

Knowing the alphabet in your second language—which may be slightly or very different from the English alphabet!—is crucial for looking up words in paper dictionaries, keying in words into online dictionaries, and learning a bit about what letters and sounds go together.

Did you know?

As many as 50% of the languages spoken in the world today are unwritten.

But copying words out of a Spanish dictionary? Don’t waste your time.

Spoken language is far older than written language. (I’ve seen estimates of the development of human language, i.e., speech, that range from 100,000 to 150,000 years ago.) According to Ethnologue, even today some 50% of the world’s living languages may be unwritten and those that are may not even be online.

So if you’re concerned that you can learn to “only” speak a foreign language instead of writing it, don’t be. You’d be in the same company as countless humans before you.

Three Out of Four Ain’t Bad: Listening, Speaking, and Reading

So as you learn a second language, you’ll practice some combination of listening, speaking, and reading.

Can’t you just use one modality? Nope.

The reason is that spoken communication is a two-way street. You can’t have a speaker without a listener. (Well, you can, but it’s a pretty lonely affair.)

Conversation is a back-and-forth exercise, so that means that listening is on the menu.

Did you know?

Only 5% of the languages spoken in the world today are represented online. In other words, speakers of the 6,200 languages not represented online can’t read a single page on the Internet in their language.

Okay, so what about reading? Here are the benefits of learning to read in your second language:

  • You can quickly learn words that are identical or similar to words in English. These words are called cognates. Does the Italian word interessante look similar to the word “interesting”? Then there’s a good chance it means “interesting,” too!
  • You can see differences between words that might not be easy to detect by ear. For example, the French vowel sounds ou and u (in the words tout and tu) can be hard for Americans to distinguish by ear at first.
  • You can access monolingual resources (and learn from them!) if you can read the language. If you ever want to use a Spanish dictionary—one that’s entirely in Spanish—then you’ve got to be able to read Spanish. Ditto for websites, apps, signs, billboards, newspapers, etc. I’m talking not about learning a new language here but about getting information.
  • You’ll reinforce the other modalities if you learn to read in your second language. You’re an adult. And if you’re reading this, you’re literate. So you’ve already got this reading-in-another-language thing half-knocked! You can already read in English, so you can use that skill to help you learn to read in a foreign language.

Regularity Beats Repetition

When I was in ninth grade, we listened to language tapes (yes, on cassette!) in French class. The narrator always said, “Ecoutez et répétez: Listen and repeat.”

This call-and-repeat method was long the approach to learning a new language. You’d listen to a native speaker (or your teacher) say something in Spanish, for example. Then you’d repeat it. Then you’d do it again.

Picture that: an entire classroom of students chanting the French word for “sailboat” in unison. No wonder kids get bored in school…

learning a new language with cassette tapes

Early humans used primitive technologies such as cassette tapes in high school language classes.

Of course, repetition can certainly contribute to learning. But it can’t be mindless repetition.

Regularity is far better than “binge repetition” when learning a new language. Regular exposure to Spanish, weekly practice pronouncing French words, daily reading of stories in German.

What do I mean by regular? I mean at identically spaced intervals.

For example, you could study a vocabulary list for an hour on Sunday. Or you could practice those same words regularly (every day for a week for 10 minutes at a time, for example) an approach that will lead to better retention.

This so-called “spaced learning” has been tested on med students and hospital residents and was found to increase learning by up to 50% in comparison to “binge learning.”

Foreign Language Learning in the Digital Age

It’s the 21st century, so you’re in luck.

A hundred years ago, people had nowhere near the same number of resources for learning a new language as they do today. But now, with a high-speed Internet connection, you can access information in foreign languages that simply didn’t have access to way back when.

World music, short films, and subtitled videos. News broadcasts in Korean, streaming movies in French, blog posts in Dutch.

If your approach to learning a new language involves borrowing some Spanish audio cassettes from the local high school, stop what you’re doing. There’s a better way.

Use everything that the Internet has to offer because it’s free. (Well, most of it is.) Regardless of the language you want to learn, you can do the following:

Listening:

  • podcasts
  • music
  • news broadcasts
  • speeches and lectures
  • kids’ shows
  • documentaries
  • talk shows
  • conversation (with a live human!)

Speaking:

  • repeat words that you hear
  • read aloud
  • conversation (with a live human!)

Reading:

  • newspapers
  • novels
  • short stories
  • recipes
  • manuals
  • menus (in restaurants)
  • menus (on your smartphone)
  • magazines
  • blog posts
  • online news
  • biographies
  • kids’ books
  • comic books
  • concert posters

At the end of this post you’ll find resources to use as you begin learning a new language. The resources are divided by language for easier navigation.

Part II: Research and Planning

How to Choose Which Language to Learn

Is your company relocating you to Tokyo? Then your decision is easy—you’ll be learning Japanese.

But if you don’t have to learn a particular language, then do some research first.

A good first step is to find out about different languages so that you can pick one that’s a good fit for your interests, timeline, and patience level.

learning a new language

If your boss tells you you’re being relocated to the Tokyo office, then start learning Japanese.

I’ve written before about the hardest language to learn—that is, the idea that certain languages are harder to learn than others. (Again, this is from the English-speaking perspective.)

For example, learning to read Spanish is easier than learning to read Japanese. Why? Because Spanish uses the Roman alphabet. And so does English, your native language. So the learning curve isn’t as steep.

But maybe you’re someone who likes a challenge. You do crosswords in pen and play chess left-handed and blindfolded. So you want to learn a new alphabet (Russian) or a character-based language (Chinese). Go for it! I’m not going to stop you.

If you want some stats on 10 of the world’s most widely spoken languages, then check out “What Language Should I Learn?

Goals and Time Frame

If you’re a beginner, the process of learning a new language will be easier when you set a goal.

I won’t tell you what your goal should be, because only you can decide that. But your goal should be specific and it should have a time frame.

Make Your Goal Specific

A specific goal is “learn to read recipes in Spanish.” (Compare this to “learn Spanish.”)

You want specific, attainable language goals. For example, you might say, “I want to be able to…

  • …order a meal in Spanish when I go to a Mexican restaurant.”
  • …read bedtime stories in French to my five-year-old.”
  • …watch Japanese movies without English subtitles.”
  • …read a German news website and understand it.”
  • …get around Beijing on my own using only Chinese.”

Setting a goal makes learning a new language much easier. With a clear goal (or goals) in mind, you can zero in on exactly what you want to learn and practice. And your learning will be a lot more enjoyable as a result.

For example, if you want to learn how to read recipes in Spanish, then you need to know some key nouns (the names of foods and ingredients), verbs (cooking techniques), and adjectives (raw, frozen, firm, ripe, etc.).

learning a new language

Try making a tortilla española from a Spanish-language recipe, but don’t forget the aioli!

Set a Time Frame

Your time frame might be 6 months. (Maybe you and your husband have planned a trip to French wine country, and you’ve got half a year before your flight leaves.)

But the time frame could also be open-ended. Just call it “ongoing.” But you should still know that ahead of time.

Be honest. How much time can you set aside for learning a new language? Six months? 20 minutes a day? An hour a week?

The more time you spend on a regular basis, the faster you’ll learn. The less time you spend, the slower your progress will be.

Bad idea: After two weeks of study, you plan to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the original French.

Better idea: After two years of study, you plan to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the original French. (And even this timeline is ambitious.)

To give you an example of a goal that just might be too difficult, take simultaneous interpreting at the United Nations.

Even with years of intensive study and living in the country where your second language is spoken, you might never be able to get to the level of proficiency required of simultaneous interpreters. (Nicole Kidman did a great job of speaking a made-up language in The Interpreter, though.)

In other words, be realistic as you’re learning a new language.

It can be really disappointing to fall short of your goal. It makes you feel like you’ve failed somehow. In reality, though, maybe your goal was too lofty to begin with.

To sum up, make your language goal achievable: not too hard and not too soon.

Did you know?

Ku, the language that Nicole Kidman “spoke” in The Interpreter is completely made up, and so is the African country (Motobo) where Ku is spoken.

Think about Measuring Progress

Once you have your goal and your time frame in mind, you should think about measuring your progress.

Here’s what I mean, using our Spanish recipe example from above. Did you resort to looking up a few words in the dictionary while you were cooking? How many?

If you had to look up only one or two words, then ¡felicidades! You passed the test that you set yourself. But if you had to look up 50 words in a 200-word recipe, for example, then your vocabulary may not be quite broad enough yet.

What was the practical outcome of your experiment? Did your gambas al ajillo turn out well? Or were they inedible? (Hint: garlic is your amigo. Never forget that.)

learning a new language, garlic

Some say music is the universal language. I think it’s garlic.

Create a Learning Plan

This sounds more complicated than it is. You don’t need to buy any educational software or even use a spreadsheet.

But you should have a system—something that you can use as a roadmap on your journey. You can revise it all you want before you start, and you can revise it once you start.

Your plan should be written, though. In addition, it should be specific.

Bad idea: An Excel spreadsheet with “learn German in 6 months” at the top.

Better idea: An Excel spreadsheet with “learn German in 6 months” plus a weekly (or even daily) plan of activities and exercises that you’ll do, resources that you’ll use, as well as time that you plan to spend.

Part III: Start Learning a New Language!

This is where the proverbial caucho hits the calle. You’ve got to start sometime.

But maybe you’re wondering where in the world to begin. If so, a little knowledge about word frequency can go a long way.

Word Frequency: Prioritize Your Learning

Words appear with different frequency. Take the English words family and chalcedony, for example.

The word family is orders of magnitude more common in English than chalcedony. (Confession: I had never heard the word chalcedony before writing this post.)

“Hold on,” the geologists among you are saying, “It’s obvious that you’re referring to a microcrystalline type of quartz occurring in forms such as onyx, agate, and jasper!”

But for the average English speaker, family is more important to know than chalcedony because it comes up way more often.

This is also true for other languages. In German, French, Chinese, et al., there are high- and low-frequency words. So despite how cool it is to know how to say “corrugated cardboard” in French, it makes more sense to learn words that people actually use.

So here’s my advice on where to spend your time: 1) high-frequency nouns, 2) high-frequency verbs, and 3) some other high-frequency stuff. (I think I’ll trademark that last category.)

The Corpus of Contemporary American English ranks 60,000 entries (called lemmas) by frequency. As you might guess, family (#147) is a high-frequency word, while chalcedony (#57,589) appears with extremely low frequency in English.

Thing Words: Nouns

Nouns are absolutes musts when learning a new language. They’re the sticky labels that you can put on the objects in our world, such as tablechaircat, glove, tractor trailer, and Statue of Liberty.

Nouns are content words. If you know the nouns in a French paragraph, then you’re well on your way to being able to derive meaning from the text.

Most of all, you’ll need to know personal pronouns in your foreign language: I, you, he, she, they, etc.

Learn the nouns in your new language based on your goals. If you want to be able to read rock climbing blogs in German (because you’re an avid climber and want to visit the German Alps next summer), then make a list of nouns that rock climbers use in English: anchor, carabiner, pitch, water knot, etc.

Your nouns may not be frequently used by the average German speaker, but they are used often by German mountain climbers. So they’re high-frequency words in context.

Action Words: Verbs

Verbs are great, too. You can do a lot with verbs, such as give commands, describe actions, tell a story, or make requests.

Just as with nouns, verbs provide rich content about what is happening in a given utterance. (You also can’t avoid verbs. They’re everywhere, so you’d best learn 50 or so of the most common verbs just to be able to function at a basic level in your second language.)

In Spanish, for example, you should know at least the I and you forms of the 50 most common verbs if you want to have a conversation with that guy from Barcelona you met on the Internet. (Better yet, learn all 100. But that’s still just the tip of the iceberg, considering that Spanish has thousands of verbs…)

Description Words: Adjectives

Adjectives are the words that give nouns character.

Focus on physical descriptors first—for example, color, size, age, and so on. Can you say the colors of the Regenbogen (rainbow) in German? Can you say big, small, young, and old? You also may want to study adjectives in antonym pairs.

In addition, you can often rely on your knowledge of the world to figure out what’s being said.

For example, take this Spanish headline from November 5, 2008:

Barack Obama, electo primer presidente afroamericano en EE.UU.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president in the U.S. The fact that you know that helps you decode the Spanish word primer, even if you don’t recognize it as a cognate in English (prime, primary, primal, etc.).

Prepositions, Adverbs, and Interjections

It’s hard to study prepositions. It’s also about as exciting as watching paint dry. Prepositions such as in, on, from, of, etc. are better learned in context, to say nothing of the fact that they are highly dependent on the idiom. (English speakers say “I’m on the train” while the French say Je suis dans le train (“I’m in the train.”)

In a very funny bit, comedian Eddie Izzard uses various French prepositions such as sur and en dessous to show where the mouse, monkey, and cat are.

Adverbs, says Stephen King, are pretty useless. (See what I did there?) Really, though, they are. The difference between I’m hungry and I’m very hungry is one of degree, not of kind.

So, sure, go ahead and learn common adverbs such as very, less, more, suddenly, unfortunately, etc. But woefully? You’re just not going to need that one.

Interjections are fun. Yee-haw! And, of course, swear words often fall into this category. From the mild French zut to the harsh Spanish carajo, curse words are—at least for the person learning a new language—more important for understanding than for conveying anger, frustration, and so on.

You won’t find many interjections in newspaper articles, but watch a movie in French and you’ll hear so many instances of merde and putain that you’ll want to take a shower afterwards.

Keep a Log

If you’re serious about learning a new language, then keep good records. A log lets you see where you spend your time. In addition, it can help you figure out if you need to vary your plan at all.

If you’ve allotted an hour a day to studying Chinese and you find that pronunciation is coming to you more easily than you thought it would, then change up your routine. Spend more time on identifying characters, for example.

Your “log” may be nothing more than a checkmark on your calendar for “I did my French thing” and an X for “I missed a day.”

But the point is that after a month (or a year), you’ll be able to see very clearly how much time you’ve actually spent. You can then weigh that against your actual learning.

learning a new language is easier with a log

Measure Your Progress

Okay, so you’ve set your goal for learning a new language. Now you need a way to measure whether you’ve reached it. Of course, you don’t have to do any measuring now. But you should at least think about how you’re going to measure your progress.

For example, if your goal is to learn 250 vocabulary words related to food in French, then measuring it will be fairly easy. Heck, an Excel spreadsheet would do the trick. (Or have your girlfriend keep track as you practice your flashcards over a romantic dinner.)

Now let’s say that your goal is not to resort to English when you talk to the locals in Mexico City. In that case, a spreadsheet won’t help. Instead, the measurement system might involve social cues. Are the locals nodding and smiling (sincerely) while you use your Spanish? Then you’ve done it! Or are they switching to English (or trying to)?

learning a new language with the locals

If you’re learning a new language and the locals laugh at you, study harder.

When should you measure your progress? At the very least, at the end of your time frame (if it’s a specific one like 6 months). If it’s more open-ended, then take stock of your progress a few times along the way (once every month, for example).

All right, so you’ve set your goal and you’ve got a way to measure your progress.

Prêt ? ¿Listo? Bereit? Then let’s get started!

Part IV: Resources

Below you’ll find resources for learning a new language such as dictionaries (both monolingual and bilingual), glossaries, podcasts, news sites, games, and more.

Many of the resources are free, while others require a subscription.

Do you have a great resource for learning another language that you want to share? Great! Tell me in the comments below.

Multiple Languages

Several online resources feature multiple languages or are non–language-specific.

  1. Duolingo. This free online resource is a good starting point for beginners learning a new language. (suggested by Sabine Winter, Marie-Geneviève LeBrun, and Federica Bruniera)
  2. BBC Languages. The British news site offers resources in 40 languages—an excellent place to begin learning a new language.
  3. RFI. Although primarily a French-language resource, Radio France International has articles in 15 languages.
  4. PurposeGames. Explore games designed to help you with language learning. (suggested by Paula Gordon)
  5. TEDx talks. You can filter by language (close to 50!) or country. Some (but not all) of the talks are subtitled, which helps language learners follow along. (suggested by Angela Benoit)
  6. Linguee. This bilingual “sentence-level dictionary” combs the Internet to find texts for which a translation exists. Users can see words/phrases in context. (Note: there is no guarantee that a given translation is accurate, but you can see how something has been translated out there in cyberspace.)
  7. WordReference. This user-friendly forum includes bilingual dictionaries for 17 languages. There are also monolingual dictionaries in English and Catalan.
  8. Europa. A massive database for all languages used in the European Union. (suggested by Maggie Jones)
  9. Maintaining Your Second Language by Eve Bodeux. This book provides practical strategies, tips, and resources related to attaining and maintaining fluency in a second language.

Chinese

  1. china.org.cn For English speakers learning Chinese. (suggested by Julia Zou)
  2. Huayu World. An e-learning portal with general info for Chinese learners. (suggested by Jackie Shun-hsieh Yeh)

Dutch

  1. DutchPod101. This English site lets you learn Dutch with podcasts, video lessons, flashcards, lesson notes, and a community forum. Create a free account, then indicate your level: absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Part of the material is free, but you can pay for more features.
  2. MWB. This site is entirely in Dutch but has a simple search interface on the home page. The dictionary includes examples of words used in context and/or idioms. In addition, you can look up synonyms and antonyms, and there are word games and puzzles. Includes a Dutch verb conjugator.
  3. DutchTutor. This site offers a few free lessons as well as a paid online course and exam. (all Dutch resources suggested by Anne Verbist)

Finnish

  1. Venla. Learn Finnish in English. Varied content includes lessons, vocabulary, grammar, a blog, etc. Free to use, but the site creators hope for content support from English speakers. (suggested by Virve Juhola)

French (Canadian)

  1. Termium. Free. In French and English. This bilingual database is the Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank. In addition to hosting the database, the Canadian government also has a site that includes guides and games for people who are learning a new language (in this case, French or English). (suggested by Melissa Guay and Maggie Jones)
  2. GDT. Free. The Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique is Quebec’s official online resource. It includes detailed descriptions about where in the French-speaking world a given word is used (for example, Canada, France, Belgium, etc.). It also shows written forms to avoid and why, as well as the plural and feminine forms of words. (suggested by Melissa Guay, Maggie Jones, and Diane Pomerleau)
  3. Usito. A pay site ($22.99 CAN annually), Usito is a dictionary for Canadian French. Free trial available. (suggested by Melissa Guay)
  4. Radio-Canada. Originally, this national broadcaster was only on the radio, thus its name. Today, though, this free resource comprises two radio stations (streaming online), 1 Canadian French TV channel, and a news website. It’s a good place to read articles in Canadian French as well as listen to the unique accent! (suggested by Melissa Guay)

French (European)

  1. RFI. Radio France International has news headlines in addition to a lot of resources and programs for learning French. (suggested by Sonja Swenson)
  2. Trésor de la langue françaiseFor advanced learners, this is an excellent resource for working out more obscure meanings of French words. (suggested by Maggie Jones)
  3. TV5Monde. A great resource with levels specific to CEFR. (suggested by Aurélie Gargne)
  4. Bilingual in-flight magazines. The quality of translations in in-flight magazines is often very good. Each issue of Air France’s magazine, for example, is almost completely bilingual. (suggested by Maggie Jones)
  5. Collins Dictionary. This dictionary has a bilingual section that is very helpful when you start learning a new language. (suggested by Anaïs Thieuleux)
  6. Dictionnaire des Synonymes. For advanced learners, this thesaurus is useful for broadening vocabulary. (suggested by Anaïs Thieuleux)
  7. Radios France. Download this app to your smartphone to improve your accent and vocabulary. (suggested by Nathalie Reis)
  8. CNRTL. A free, exhaustive French-language resource for advanced learners. Look up a word, then take a trip through French literature and history. A must for lovers of French! (suggested by Odile Raymond)

German

  1. Goethe-Institut. This is a great resource for English learners who would like to learn German. Register on the site, then practice German free of charge. (suggested by Susanne Kraestchmer and Sandy Jones)
  2. Deutschewelle. This site features Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten (slow-spoken news), lists the CEFR difficulty level (e.g, B2), and also offers courses and lessons. (suggested by Nadia Price)
  3. BellesLettres. This blog for advanced learners features podcasts that give thorough explanations of topics such as German grammar, etymology, style, and even typography. (suggested by Karl Schimkowski)

Italian

  1. Impariamoitaliano. This Italian site for intermediate or advanced learners contains a lot of free resources, such as grammar and listening exercises, videos, songs, idiomatic expressions, and so on. (suggested by Federica Bruniera)

Japanese

  1.  英辞郎. This free online dictionary is in Japanese. (suggested by Michiko Sharp)

Polish

  1. e-polish. A subscription-based website full of resources. If you buy a book, then you get 6 months for free.
  2. MowicPoPolsku. “Learn Polish for Free” is the tagline for this site, which includes exercises for learning the alphabet, numbers, grammar, etc.
  3. Wiktionary. An extensive listing of terms in Polish as well as their translations. (all Polish resources suggested by Kasia Pranke)

Portuguese

  1. Practice PortugueseThis cool website has free podcasts for European Portuguese learners, but you need to pay for extra features, such as transcriptions and quizzes. Price for premium membership is 6 euros per month (between $6 and $7). (suggested by Rita Maia)
  2. Priberam. A great (and completely free) monolingual dictionary, Priberam displays the Brazilian version of the word whenever it differs from the European norm. In addition, it highlights any changes in spelling changes as a result of recent spelling reforms. (suggested by Rita Maia)
  3. Brazilian Academy of the Portuguese Language. Contains most of the words of Brazilian Portuguese and their accepted spelling. (suggested by Nelson Laterman)
  4. Portuguese has undergone changes to its spelling (or orthography) over the years. Here you can find a resource about the orthographic agreement among Portuguese-speaking countries(suggested by Nelson Laterman)
  5. Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese(suggested by Nelson Laterman)
  6. Instituto Universitário de Lisboa. This section of the university’s site features questions and answers about Portuguese grammar. (suggested by Nelson Laterman)
  7. FLiP. The Gramática section of this site is a good Portuguese grammar resource. (suggested by Isabel Coutinho Monteiro)
  8. Loecsen. This site includes phrases for learners interested in practicing their speaking skills. (suggested by Isabel Coutinho Monteiro)
  9. Learning Portuguese. Blogger Russell Walker explains Portuguese phrases as well as grammar points. (suggested by Isabel Coutinho Monteiro)
  10. SurfaceLanguages. Practice Portuguese phrases by listening to the pronunciations. (suggested by Isabel Coutinho Monteiro)

Russian

  1. RealRussianClub. This site includes a podcast called Slow Russian and also has a lot of helpful commentary on vocabulary, grammar, and culture. It’s great for intermediate to advanced learners, but beginners may enjoy it, too.
  2. Russian Rulers. This podcast is in English, but history and culture play such a huge role in the Russian language that it could be helpful.
  3. Russian Language Podcast. For intermediate to advanced learners.
  4. In Russian Terms. This podcast for advanced learners features a speaker discussing a different topic, usually either language or politics, in Russian.
  5. RT. This free Russian news site for beginners to advanced learners has a great set of online lessons and grammar tutorials. RT also has Russian-language documentaries online, many of which have English subtitles. (all Russian resources suggested by Sonja Swenson)

Serbian

  1. Serbian Cyrillic Cursive Alphabet. This game helps you learn Serbian Cyrillic letters in cursive handwriting or printed italic. Useful for intermediate or advanced learners who have not mastered reading in Cyrillic cursive. It’s free and no registration is required. (suggested by Paula Gordon)

Spanish

  1. Diccionario panhispánico de dudas. Free, in Spanish. It’s the go-to resource for Spanish grammar and spelling, covering everything from accents to complicated terminology.
  2. Fundéu. Anyone can submit a question to this free Spanish site and it will be answered. You can also search previous questions, and the site is kept up to date.
  3. Cosnautas. In English and Spanish and designed mainly for translators and health professionals, this is the Spanish-English medical dictionary.
  4. NewselaA great resource for learning Spanish, this site has news articles adapted to different levels, both in English and Spanish. (all Spanish resources suggested by Teresa Niño)

Swedish

  1. Swedish for All. Web-based learning.
  2. SVT. Easy-to-understand TV news.
  3. Radio Sweden. Swedish radio programs that are easy to understand.
  4. Here’s a huge collection of additional Swedish resources, but the page itself requires a decent understanding of Swedish. (all Swedish resources suggested by Eva Heljesten)

Thanks for reading! For more articles on language, see which languages are most widely spoken or check out a few words that English gets from other languages.

Leave a Reply