Depending on what language you are trying to learn, there are potentially hundreds of language resources online that can help you. Though some are more well rounded than others are, almost all of them use a specific strategy or method to make language learning easier. Because everyone learns differently and requires different types of instruction, there is no single program that is best in every situation and best for every person. Think critically about how you want to learn and what learning style fits you best, and then keep that in mind when selecting the software you want to use.
Think back to how you studied as a child. Did you often make flashcards to study vocabulary and spelling? Were you one of those kids who loved math flashcards almost as much as video games? If you are this type of learner, you might want to try one of the flashcard-based programs that are available on the Internet. Some of these programs will come with proprietary flashcard sets that are organized by level and topic. Other services offer crowd-sourced and user-generated flashcards. These programs will give you far more choices and flexibility, but you might miss the direction of a more focused and deliberate flashcard selection. If all else fails, many of these websites also let you create your own flashcards, so you can structure the learning according to your own skill level and interests. For a little more fun and variety, there are also flashcard sites that use fun hints and pictures to help make memorization more interesting.
Like those language learning tapes that people used to play in their cars, there are some resources that focus exclusively on speaking and listening. These programs will be most helpful for improving pronunciation and facilitating the learning of specific words and phrases. Over time, you will be able to build your own sentences as well as understand unique sentences and speech patterns. These types of programs are really best suited for people who prefer to learn by speaking and repetition. One disadvantage of these programs is that there may be very little focus on learning how to read and write in the language.
You may also be interested in language resource software that specializes in writing, reading, and translating foreign languages. These products are typically better for someone who already has some experience with a language, but there are also some products that can start at a beginner’s level. Writing and reading lessons will also help you learn syntax and grammar. These programs can seem especially challenging for languages like Chinese or Japanese, which have their own sets of characters, but these are the situations where reading and writing practice are most important. The obvious drawback to these types of programs is the reduced focus on speech and conversation. If you already have speaking skills and are only looking to improve your reading and writing, this might not be an issue. Otherwise, you may want to combine these programs with other types of instruction that can help you learn to speak and pronounce the language.
For someone who requires a more personal touch, it might be best to use software that matches language learners with tutors. Sometimes these programs will match up individuals whose native languages and new languages are a perfect match. For example, an English speaker learning Italian would be matched with an Italian speaker who is learning English. In these types of tutorial relationships, both people can teach and learn together. Other services will create more one-sided teaching relationships and match you with someone who will only help you learn your preferred language.
Working with a tutor has many distinct advantages. Having a live person invested in your learning, rather than a computer program, may be the extra motivation you need to succeed in learning a new language. Working with someone else can also make the experience more fun and less predictable. A tutor will be able to observe how you learn and what weaknesses you have, and then tailor lessons accordingly. When it comes to pronunciation and speaking skills, many people learn better by having unique conversations as opposed to rote memorization of words and phrases. The simple practice of having conversations and creating your own sentences to describe your day or your plans can be significantly more effective if you are this type of learner.
If you are the perfect student, the type of person who loves narrowly designed lessons and lots of memorization, then you may want to look for something that organizes language learning by specific grammar rules and sentence constructions. For some people, this would be a boring way to learn a new language, but for others it may provide the structure and direction they need to stay motivated. By learning grammar rules instead of only learning useful phrases, you will develop a deeper understanding of how a language works and how sentences are put together.
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