Hola, Nǐ hǎo, Bonjour! Looking for the best tools to learn a new language? You definitely have heard of apps like Duolingo, Memrise, etc. But I’d like to share with you some useful tools and websites that aren’t so well-known and might be helpful when improving your language skills or learning a new language.
If you’re part of Scalac or a regular reader of our blog, you might already know we have over 120 employees from 22 locations (in 8 countries), which makes us quite a culturally diverse company. Although we use English in our everyday work, for most of us, it’s not our mother tongue.
Most of us are fluent in English, but everyone has those days when our brains are a little bit foggy and it’s more difficult than usual to communicate in a foreign language.
So we wanted to make it easier for you by sharing some useful sources. Plus, if you already speak English completely fluently and would like to learn another language, these tips will be helpful for you as well.
Why it worth the trouble?
Remember that besides the obvious advantages such as expanding your career opportunities, learning a language has other benefits. For example, it can improve your lateral thinking, deepen your connections to other cultures, make you more open to diversity, and most importantly boost your confidence.
So let’s jump right into our list of the best tools for learning a new language!
One of the best ways to learn languages is by doing something you enjoy. And who doesn’t love chilling out with your favorite TV show? Ororo.tv is a streaming platform, where you can watch films and TV shows available with subtitles in many languages. While watching, you can mark any unfamiliar words and they will be automatically translated for you. There’s also a possibility to add unknown words to your own dictionary, so you can revise them later. This site was primarily created to learn English, but I use Ororo.tv to learn Spanish and it works just as well. It’s not free, but it’s quite cheap and available for multiple users at the same time. Another plus; the choice of films and TV shows is quite large. It was hard for me to choose between the various streaming platforms out there but it turned out that Ororo.tv has almost everything I was interested in. Sorry, Netflix ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A free, open-source flashcard program. Why this and not for example Memrise? Because Anki has the best algorithm when it comes to spacing out revision and it helps you to store your knowledge in your long term memory better. It’s free on every device besides Iphones (of course). Keep in mind that in Google Play the original name is AnkiDroid flashcards – there are a lot of fake ones out there. If you’re interested and would like to explore all that Anki can help you achieve I recommend Derek Banas’s tutorial.
My personal favorite when it comes to language-related websites. You can find a lot of information there, such as how to choose a new language to learn, a complete guide to teaching yourself a foreign language and answers to questions that language learning people ask most frequently. I just love how it tackles learning a language from every possible angle. My heart is just so happy when I see it. Big kudos to its creators.
I don’t know about you, but for me, grammar is always a nightmare (especially German) and like the HR person I am, I’d call it “an opportunity for growth”. It’s very important not to overlook this because you don’t want to be the person who says “well, I understand this language, but I’d rather not speak it”. Mylanguages.org is a free language learning website that places great emphasis on grammar.
This is a website that helps you explore live radio by rotating the globe. You can listen to radios from all over the world while sitting at home. This is especially useful if you already know a language, but would like to get more familiar with it. Listening on a regular basis to people speaking the language you’re already excelling at, will definitely improve your language skills and expand your vocabulary.
Here you have something similar, but this time with newspapers from all over the world. It’s a unique way to gain a new perspective on topics that are portrayed in a different way all over the world.
Basically a pro version of Google Translate, DeepL trains artificial intelligence to understand and translate texts. As TechCrunch says, DeepL has outdone Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook and raised the bar in its field. It’s especially good at grasping the meaning of a sentence, rather than getting derailed by literal translations. There are currently 110 possible translation combinations; English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. According to their website, further languages will become available in the near future.
But how can a mere translator be helpful when it comes to learning languages? If you use English in your everyday work, you may be using some phrases quite often. You can check if you’re using them properly and the correct usage will begin to stick sooner or later. If you mark a specific word, DeepL will show you the synonyms for it, so you can learn new fancy words every day while also avoiding mistakes.
It can also translate documents, which is quite helpful – for example during my semester in Barcelona I often received over ten-page documents in Catalan, and I didn’t understand much. But thanks to DeepL, just a few seconds and BOOM, these documents were in English. By the way, it’s also really helpful with writing your thesis, if you use foreign sources.
This is a website with links to free online language courses that vary in quality and quantity. Almost every language is available, so if you have ever dreamt about learning Icelandic, go ahead.
Last but not least, remember you can join a free language exchange community. There are a lot of people out there who would love to help you out for free. Plus, you can make some cool international friends and maybe even find a place to crash during your next holiday. Remember not to worry about those people who speak every language really well but keep apologizing about their bad pronunciation. Just love them and appreciate them.
To wrap up
I hope these materials are useful. If you’re a language enthusiast yourself and would like to share your methods or any useful links that might be helpful while learning a language – please feel free to share.