We all have days when we’re unmotivated to put in the time. We all endure embarrassing linguistic and cultural gaffes that can make it hard to get back on the horse. And we all encounter learning plateaus when lots of effort leads to little perceived progress. All normal, but frustrating nonetheless.
When such challenges inevitably arise, I find it helpful to read the accounts of experienced language learners who have faced (and overcome!) similar hurdles. While reading about language learning is certainly no substitute for actually learning a language, we can gain a great deal of vicarious wisdom from these linguistic “Yodas” who have journeyed before―and farther than―us.
To that end, here are five of my favorite language learning blogs that can help keep you motivated through the ups and downs of language learning and provide useful tips to overcome the most common obstacles.
I Will Teach You a Language
My friend Olly Richards is one of the most prolific language bloggers and authors I know. His blog I Will Teach You a Language is packed with useful tips, tools, and learning strategies you can use to learn languages more quickly, and he strikes a healthy balance between encouraging learners and telling things as they are without undue sugarcoating. Olly has traveled all over the world, and speaks 8 languages fluently, but like me, believes that you don’t have to move abroad to learn a language well. As he puts it:
“One of the curious side effects of travelling a lot was realising that you don’t need to travel to learn a foreign language. In fact, when I learn new languages these days, I do most of the hard work at home. I learnt Spanish, Portuguese and Cantonese, for example, without setting a foot in the respective countries.”
P.S. I highly recommend checking out Olly’s new series of story-based language learning books. The human brain is hardwired to learn through narrative, and these stories provide language learners with a fun, highly-contextual way to immerse themselves in the vocabulary and structures of their target languages.
Fluent in 3 Months
As the biggest language blog in the world, Fluent in 3 Months probably needs no introduction here. But in the off-chance you haven’t heard of it, here is a brief overview. The blog was created by Benny Lewis (a.k.a. The Irish Polyglot), a fun-loving Irishman, polyglot, globetrotter, and international bestselling author of Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World. He started traveling and learning languages full-time back in 2003. The reason he chose the “3 months” part of his site’s name is because that is typically the length of landing visas in the countries he visited. While he does not claim that you can reach advanced fluency in a foreign language in just 90 days, he does show you how to at least reach conversational fluency in that time by getting out of your shell, interacting with locals, and speaking from day one.
“You CAN become fluent in a new language. You CAN learn a language in months instead of years. You DON’T have to travel or be a genius to do it.”
P.S. If you are learning Spanish, French, Italian, or German, check out Benny’s Language Hacking series from Teach Yourself.
Eurolinguiste was created by Shannon Kennedy, a world traveler, language lover, musician, and composer. She is fluent in French, English, and Chinese, has dabbled in German, Italian, and Spanish, and is currently learning Russian, Croatian, and Korean. In addition to language learning tips, Shannon also shares updates about cultures and cuisines she encounters in her international adventures.
“My goal here at Eurolinguiste is to help you get the most out of your language learning and traveling experiences by sharing my own. I write about my personal methods for learning a variety of languages, reviewing the tools I use, and updating readers on my progress. I believe in working hard towards your goals and being transparent with successes and failures, which is what my posts here at Eurolinguiste are all about.”
Hacking Chinese was created by Olle Linge (凌雲龍), a Swedish language teacher, writer, and consultant. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English, and holds a Master’s degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language from the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan (which I also attended while living in Taipei). I really like Olle’s approach to language learning, especially his focus on showing language learners how to learn. As he puts it:
“In my language learning life so far, I have been taught a lot about grammar, words and culture, but I have seldom been taught the most important thing of all: how to learn a language! Most teachers and textbooks focus on the language itself and present material for the students to learn, but don’t show them how to learn those things. Even more important, successful learning requires a long-term strategy, but most courses and teachers only offer short-term solutions.”
In addition to one of my favorite video-based immersion tools, FluentU also has an excellent learner blog that shares heaps of tips, tools, product reviews, and motivational strategies. They also have useful language-specific blogs for Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, English, Business English, and more.