Language in Bloom

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Three Categories of Tools for Learning a Language

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts all about language-learning tools! In this post we’ll talk about the three big categories of tools that you need in order to develop your own system for learning a new language. Because every person is different and has unique learning styles and motivators, no two systems will look the same.

I’ve met a lot of people who say they are learning a language by using _______ book/program/whatever. Now, that’s a good start, but really what you need to learn a language is a SYSTEM, and an effective system will have three categories of tools:

1) Tools to build your language skills. This is where you’ll put your Rosetta Stone, your Pimsleur method, your online dictionary, your authentic language sources, your old textbook from college, Duolingo, etc.

This is the most obvious category – if you’re learning a language, of course you need these tools! There are some really great free tools out there, and in another blog post I’ll outline the kinds of language-related tools that are essential to include in your system.

2) Tools to study. In this category you have your choice of note-taking methods (Evernote, plain old pen and paper), flashcards, study sheets, timers, etc.

These tools are important to organize your learning in a way that makes sense for you and your goals. This is where familiarity and comfort play a huge role in your language journey. While some know exactly what study methods work for them, others keep trying with old methods that are familiar, but not necessarily effective for them. The challenge in this category is deciding which study tools to use and which to discard – and also recognizing that you don’t have to use EVERY new tool that comes out! As an early adapter to a lot of technologies, I’m guilty of this, but I almost always come back to simple Word documents and Evernote.

3) Tools to develop a concrete plan and to hold yourself accountable. 

This is the category that most people leave out, but it is INCREDIBLY important! If you’re not enrolled in a formal class, it can be very difficult to figure out exactly what you should be doing with your time, when you don’t have an instructor telling you what your goals should be. It’s also a challenge to hold yourself accountable to your goals for several reasons: your goals are vague to begin with; you’re not part of a community; and you don’t have the instruments to assess your progress.

A solid language-learning system will include various tools from all three of these categories. Make sure not to leave out a whole category!

If you’re stuck on what tools to use, especially from category #3, stay tuned for more blogposts and updates from Language in Bloom by signing up for our mailing list. 

Language Learning Tools

Written by

Tammy Bjelland
Language lover, teacher & coach.

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