There are a ton of great language tools out there today. So whether you want to learn French, Spanish, Dutch, or Vietnamese there’s a program out there to help you learn it.
With all these choices out there it’s important not to get stuck on the best language program available, but choosing the best program for you.
Do you struggle with vocabulary?
Are you shy about speaking?
Do you always misinterpret what locals are saying?
Depending on your strengths and weaknesses you’ll want to use different tools. If you are more neutral, and are just starting a language, then you should use several tools to complement one another.
The Best Language Tools for Expats
Here are four fantastic sites and apps I use personally to enhance my language skills:
Duolingo is one reason why I love technology! It highlights our ability to utilize technology to learn and grow wherever and whenever. Whether you’re stuck on the train or waiting for a meal, with Duolingo you can put your precious time to valuable use. Of course, I’d recommend using Duolingo for more than just a few minutes a day, but your ability to use it as little as you like and still benefit is welcomed.
The app is designed like a game. You get points when answering correctly and move up levels when you’ve demonstrated proficiency. The lessons are laid out clearly and you can move at your own pace.
Duolingo currently offers lessons in over 20 languages. These include the classics like Spanish and Russian, but also smaller languages like Polish, Thai, Turkish and Czech.
I’m a huge advocate of learning a language when visiting a country, even for a short visit. So if you’re taking a trip to Prague for a few weeks, download Duolingo and use it daily for 20 minutes leading up to your trip and while there. Learning a few hundred words and important phrases will go a long way.
Italki is the best language tool I’ve used to enhance my language skills. Italki is not a unique concept in itself, it is just a website that connects students and teachers, but the offerings are tremendous and I’ve had nothing but success with my tutors.
The great benefit of italki is that you are speaking with native speakers. While there are always plenty of language teachers and tutors in your city, the prices they charge are significantly more than what you will find on italki. My Russian tutor charges $5 for a 30 minute session, and only$8 an hour. I’ve never seen a language tutor offer services for less than $20 per hour.
It’s a no brainer.
Plus, you have dozens if not hundreds of teachers to choose from who will fit your schedule.
Italki is great, but I like to have structure in my language learning. This is where a course like Rocket Language comes in.
The course is based around audio lessons, which range from a total novice to more advanced levels. Listen patiently to these audios and you’ll pickup new vocabulary, grammar and perhaps improve your accent. Moreover, with it’s repetition feature, you will perfect your pronunciation when learning new words.
It is definitely comprehensive. Moreover, it comes with flashcards and grammar lessons to supplement your language learning.
Language Pod is similar to Rocket Languages,though I find it to be a bit less formal and less comprehensive. It is much cheaper though, so depending on your goals and price tag, this may be the best option.
Also, Language Pod 101 offers a ton of languages! Over 30 languages are featured on their home page. This is really phenomenal, and will come in handy on a trip to Norway or Israel.
Putting It All Together
Let’s say you’ve got an upcoming stint in the Dominican Republic for 2 months. You have pretty terrible “Gringo Spanish” that you’ve developed from a combination of high school classes and several vacations to Latin America. But because you may be conducting business in Spanish, you want to really up your skills. So here’s what a gameplan would look like:
- Download Duolingo.Spend 10-20 minutes per day on it. Much more than that and you will unlikely be able to retain much information as we can only learn so much at once. Work your way through the lessons based on your own schedule/
- Find a tutor on italki: Spend at least 1 hour per week with a tutor. I recommend two thirty-minute sessions throughout the week. An informal conversation will go a long way. Also, make sure to write down any words you don’t know.
- Pick an Audio Program: depending on how much time you have to prepare, and your grasp of the language, your choice will vary. If you have more time and less skill in a language, go with Rocket Languages; if you have less time and more skill go with Language Pod. Do 1 audio lesson per day.
On average, this routine will take you 30-40 minutes a day. Skip the Netflix and happy hour, and instead use the best language tools for expats to develop a life-long skill that will open up a whole new world.