When I was a student and I had a lot of time but not so much money, free language learning resources where what I relied on. Only occasionally, I’d spoil myself with a book (that I often wouldn’t use…).
The Internet is full of amazing free resources when you have time to look for them. Many free resources are as good as paid ones and I’m all for not wasting money! Having said that, sometimes paying for resources makes sense. It’s true when you don’t have that much time but money is less of an issue.
1. Pay Only For What’s Worth It
When I say that money is less of an issue, I don’t mind that you need to be a millionaire to pay for your language learning resources. It’s simply that throwing some cash that way may help you progress without spending much time looking for resources.
You should only pay for what’s worth paying for, though. Let me tell you what’s NOT worth it – organised group courses in language schools. You can get a private tutor in places such as Italki or Verbling for a fraction of the price and they’ll focus on your needs only. You can’t win with it, if your focus is truly on language learning (and not, for instance, finding new friends). I write more about this in my post “Do I need a language teacher?“.
Remember that the fact that an app needs to be paid for doesn’t make it good either. Read about a product you want to invest in, before buying it. Many apps have a nice freemium or free trials. This is my favourite way of paying for things – once I know what it’s all about. I’m in general catious with products that don’t give you a sample. If the product is good, what are they scared of?
2. Be Wary of Reviews
Just because someone on the Internet said that something is good it doesn’t mean that it’s good. We have this expression in Polish that in a non-literal translation means that someone gets excited over every sh*t (byle gównem się podnieca). I don’t think these people mean harm but they may just not know what they’re talking about.
Just look at the hype around Duolingo. It’s really not a bad product and it has its uses. What it won’t do, though, is teach you the language on its own. You can use it to complement your study but you can’t fully rely in it.
A design and user-friendliness are often things that people pay attention to. This is why you should read reviews from people who know something about language learning and/or teaching. You can find many reviews by teachers, language learners and polyglots. They’re the ones to be trusted.
3. Minimalism Rules – Don’t Buy Too Much
A new passion can result in you spending a lot of money on it. The more you spend, the more probable is that your money will go to waste. Seeing that you have disposable income (unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth) you’re probably at a stage in your life when you work quite a bit. In fact, the reason why you spend money on resources is because you want to save time.
This means you probably don’t have time to use every app/book under the Sun. You should be picky with what you buy and spend your time on.
What usually works for me is one book called something along the lines of Teach Yourself [Language or Learn [Language] which claims to be a complete guide for a given level or two. Sure, these books can differ in quality but between a book like this, a teacher, an a good app for vocabulary learning, you’re pretty much sorted. The only thing you may want to invest some time in looking for are additional resources for listening comprehension. If you still have time left, find a great language partner for additional practice.
4. Schedule Your Learning Commitments
Even with three tools you should plan your learning. It’s easy to get distracted and your motivation will vary. Insert your language learning commitments into your calendar and stick to it, whether you feel like it or not.
If that doesn’t work for you because your schedule varies a lot, at a minimum write down language goals such as: 1 lesson, 2 x 30 minutes with the book, 3 x 15 minutes with the app. Squeeze it in as convenient, just not all on a Sunday evening, asseblief.
I’d lie if I told you I’m good with sticking to a schedule but I can tell you then when I’m good at it I always see quick results.
5. Value Your Time
If a resource or a teacher isn’t working for you, change it. There are certain thing in language learning that work for everyone. For instance, being systematic. In general, though, we are all different and something that works for others may not work for you.
Whatever happens just don’t get discouraged from learning altogether. It may happen that you try many teachers before you find someone who you like. It’s much better to waste a bit of time early on in the search of what works then lose your mojo completely later on.
Tutors can be really bad. Even before my Russian language experiment, I encountered some pretty bad Russian teachers. This means I’ve had lessons with +/- 20 people before I settled on who’ll help me. The is true for for apps and books.
When frustrated breathe in and out. Remember that language learning is a long term game!
I hope this has been helpful for you guys. I will soon right something for those of you who have more time than money! Language learning can be customised to all needs 🙂 Uvidíme se! Knús!