February 7, 2023


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Learning a new language is one of the best skills to acquire. Here are a few creative ways to pick up a new tongue, whether by reading, writing, or watching.

There are two popular ways to learn a language. You can use Duolingo or some of the other best free language learning apps, or you can try the language immersion methodology.

The right path is up to you, depending on your skill level in the new language. These websites and apps will help you learn or practice a language based on the way you prefer to learn.

1. Parallel Text (Web): Read a Book in Two Languages Side-by-Side

Parallel Text displays a classic novel in two languages side-by-side so you can learn to read in a new language

Parallel Text believes the best way to get better at a language is to read a favorite book in that language. So it offers a split-view reading experience, where a book is presented in the language you know, alongside the language you want to learn.

Start by choosing a language you already know (like English) and a language you want to learn or practice. Current options include Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Parallel Text will then show a list of book options available in both languages. All the books are classics whose copyrights have expired, so you can legally read it for free.

Make your selection to start reading. You can choose a Compact View to only see the translated language, or a Split View to see both languages side-by-side. It’s an excellent way to practice reading with a full translation readily available when you need it. You can also click any sentence to have it read out loud by the browser so that you aren’t guessing pronunciations.

2. Fluency Pending (Web): How to Set Up a Language Learning Notebook

Fluency Pending teaches how to set up a free language learning notebook to write as you learn a new language and commit things to memory

Productivity experts, memory experts, and teachers all say that writing things down helps you remember them better. You actually need to put pen to paper, and that act ingrains what you learned. To that end, here’s how to set up a language learning notebook.

Writer and language-learner Elzette Wilkinson shares how she set up and organizes her own notebook to learn and practice a new tongue. You can use any type of notebook in this method, and you’ll need a few highlighters and tabs. She says you can also use it in a digital notebook app, but use something with a stylus so that you’re physically writing, not typing.

Broadly, Wilkinson breaks down the notebook into a schedule, habit, and goals to set your patterns, and worksheets for practice. For example, a vocabulary worksheet will have spaces for a new word, its meaning, its memory prompt, synonyms and antonyms, and how to use it in a sentence. Fill everything in diligently to commit it to memory.

The whole article on Fluency Pending will explain how to set up other spaces, like diary entry or journaling, themed pages, resources, etc. You might also want to add in tips from other language notebook guides like Not So Translation’s language hacks and Michael Sunderland’s notebook.

3. Simply Learn Languages (Android, iOS): Learn Common Travel Phrases in Any Language

Simply Learn Languages is a fantastic app to learn the basic words and phrases that a traveler will need in a foreign country. Download the language to use it offline, and start learning it through flashcards and quizzes.

Start with beginner phrases and basic sentences for travelers, across categories like numbers, directions, emergencies, accommodation, etc. You can unlock further phrases (advanced traveler and expat) for a price. At any point, you can review what you learned through quizzes.

Each Simply Learn Language category depicts the phrase in English script as well as the language’s original script. It also pronounces the phrase in a local person’s accent, so you can hear what it’ll sound like. Of course, a smart traveler could also use the app to quickly communicate with a foreigner.

Right now, the iOS version isn’t available, but you can download the Simply Learn app for any specific language for free. This will give you the same features (albeit with ads), and you can unlock more phrases and remove ads by paying.

Download: Simply Learn Languages for Android | iOS (Free)

4. Fluent (Chrome): Learn Languages While Browsing the Web

Fluent is a Chrome extension that translates random words in any web page so you can learn French while you browse the web

Fluent is a Chrome extension that changes a few words on each page to help you learn a new language. Most of the page stays in English, but you’ll find a few highlighted words in French. Hover over them to learn the English meaning, and click to hear the pronunciation. You can even save words to your favorites.

At any point, you can toggle Fluent to pause or resume it, including a timed pause. You can also tweak settings so that the extension doesn’t activate on important websites like Google Docs or your online banking account. You can also manually whitelist some websites. Choose a difficulty level to tell Fluent how aggressively it should translate words.

At the moment, Fluent only teaches English users how to read and write French. But the team is looking to add new languages, and you can vote to choose the next language. It’s a fantastic app that teaches you to read through language immersion on the web.

Download: Fluent for Chrome (Free)

If you don’t want to learn French, there are a few other similar apps. Kypsis Language Immersion supports the widest variety of languages. Its settings also let you choose the difficulty level, and how many websites to apply it to. The interface isn’t as nice as Fluent, but it gets the job done.

Download: Kypsis Language Immersion for Chrome (Free)

5. Most Common Words (Web): Learn the 1,000 Most Common Words of Any Language

Most Common Words teaches you the 1000 most common words in any language

Most Common Words (MCW) reckons that instead of learning a new language start to finish, you should learn its most common words. It’s actually not a bad idea if you club MCW with other language-learning apps or practices.

In a flashcard format, the site teaches English language speakers the 1,000 most common words from Spanish, German, Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Business Chinese. “Business Chinese” is, as the name suggests, the most common words and terms used in the corporate world. Similarly, for Chinese speakers, it also teaches Business English.

Watch a Movie You Like, in a New Language

One of the best ways to learn or practice a new language is to watch movies in it. But there’s a trick to that. Pick a film or TV series that you’ve already seen, not something you’re watching for the first time. When your brain is trying to learn a new language, don’t task it with other things like following the plot, figuring out the characters, and so on. Reruns help you enjoy something you are familiar with, while also learning something.

To that end, Netflix is the best service to learn a language while you binge-watch TV. There are a bunch of apps and extensions to watch Netflix and learn a language, and it’s not just reading subtitles.

Read the full article: 5+ Creative Ways to Learn a New Language for Free

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