Issue 11 of 15 Strategies to Learn a Foreign Language
Use the tools that are right for you. Use the tools that are relevant to you. Remember that no tool is magical, and none will do the work for you.
Mix the tools. Remember that an app cannot recreate context, a class rarely emulates real life interactions, and a one-to-one interaction with a fluent speaker will bring more benefits that talking to yourself in the mirror.
Do you want to know “tourist language” (the dusty Rosetta Stone is good for that) or are you looking to develop full competence (meaning you can fully function by using only the language in a country where that language is spoken natively)?
One of my students started to learn using his daughter’s fourth grade textbook. There was nothing wrong with that, except that he felt he wasn’t getting very far. Although he was learning a few new words a day, he felt like he couldn’t use them in conversation. How could he? He hadn’t owned a pencil case in 20 years; he didn’t need to ask permission to go to the bathroom; and he could slip the word “donkey” into conversation only so many times. In other words, he wasn’t learning what was relevant to him because he wasn’t using the right tools.
Speaking of tools, use the language as a tool for communication, preferably as early in the learning process as possible.
Action step: Try a couple of tools before you decide which ones to rely on. Diversify the tools: apps, websites, live radio stations, flashcards. Mix and match accordingly, and find out which one brings more benefits to you.