Different Methods You Can Use to Learn a Foreign Language

Updated on June 13, 2020
sangre profile image

Loves to share advice and tips from her own personal experiences.

How to Learn a New Language

If you are interested in learning a new language there are a number of different methods you can use to assist you.

  1. CD's
  2. Apps
  3. Online Platforms - Websites
  4. Classes
  5. YouTube
  6. Audio Books

While one person might enjoy the interaction involved in learning a new language in a classroom setting, another person might prefer learning it at home or in the car while driving to and from work.

Different methods will work for different people. I enjoyed learning Spanish in a classroom setting but it can be stressful as you are expected to continue your learning outside class hours and that might not suit everybody.

But whichever method you decide to choose, remember that you must constantly practise, so that you will get better at understanding and speaking a new language.


Which method would you choose to learn a second language?

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Most language schools today offer their students the opportunity to learn a second language. In colleges, some courses also allow students to take on an additional language which then allows them to do a semester abroad in a college in that country.

Many companies who have foreign branches abroad often look for employees who have a second language to help them manage non-English speaking customers.

Learning a second language doesn't have to be time consuming, but it does require discipline and consistency. There are no short cuts when trying to learn a second language.

1. CDs With an App

Companies like Rosetta Stone and Living Language offer students the opportunity to learn a new language through CDs. Rosetta Stone also had an app which learners can use in addition to the CD.

The technique that they use to teach students is similar to what other language websites and apps use. They use images along with audio to teach students how to listen and understand what is being shown and spoken. The premise is all about repeating and practicing what it is they are saying and understanding what it means.

These methods are probably some of the most well-known ways people use to help them learn a new language.

The development of apps for iPhones and Android phones means that no matter where you are, you can sign in and start practicing any language you want to learn at any time.


2. Apps

There are a number of apps available on the market that you can use to learn a new language. Again it's all about trial and error. Also some require a fee to download and unless you are really going to set time aside to use it, you would be better of going for free versions. There are three that I have personally used.


You can download this app on the Android and IOS app market. It is free to download but it costs you money to continue with the lessons after you have completed an introductory lesson.

You have to register with an email to continue completing lesson one. They have different financial tiers for users and one can choose one depending on their finances. The introductory lesson was taught using an everyday greeting exchange.


This is available to download on the IOS and Android app market. This app requires the learner to register with them prior to completing any lesson. It is free to use with a number of lesson plans which a learner can complete in their own time. Someone who already has learned the basics of a language could use this app to upgrade their knowledge.

This app focuses more on grammar and phrases. There are different levels to suit beginners and intermediaries.


This app can be downloaded for free on the Android and IOS app store. You need to register with your email after you have done a few trial lessons on the app. This app is then free to use and there is no charge.

It does ask the leaner to view videos after some lesson to earn points. This app is very good for beginners. It's very easy to follow and very user friendly. This app teaches the leaner how to speak, understand and write words, phrases and sentences.

According to the British Council, the most popular language that students learn is German.

3. Online Platforms & Websites

Two other methods a learner can use to learn a second language is Massive Open Online (MOO) courses or websites. The MOO websites will run introductory classes and grammar classes.

Some websites are free and some will charge the learner a fee. The more you progress in learning a new language, the more likely it is that you might have to pay a fee to become more advanced.

  • Open Language (Fee Based)
  • BBC Languages (Free)
  • Open Learning. (Free & Fee Based)
  • Coursea (Fee)
  • Future Learn (Free & Fee Based)
  • edX (Free)

Theses courses are sometimes delivered by a lecturer from a college but they are also delivered by native people or teachers who are fluent in that language.

They upload lesson plans onto these websites that the user completes. These online exercises test their knowledge and record their progress on each every lesson plan.

A report in 2016 by The Centre for Immigration Studies found that 65.5 million residents in the United States spoke a second language besides English.

Top 10 Languages with 50 million plus speakers

No of countries that speak it
Chinese (all forms)
Source: Ethnologue Languages of the World

Which language would you like to learn?

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Some people prefer attending a class to learn a new language.
Some people prefer attending a class to learn a new language. | Source

4. Classes

If you decide to choose this option, you will most likely attend classes once a week at a local school or college.

This option is probably the best option to choose as you get to interact with other people learning a foreign language. In this type of delivery, you can get instant feedback from your teacher. This is the method I choose when I decided to learn the basics in Spanish.

The introductory classes will cover a variety of general areas that will help you get by if you were abroad or trying to speak that language to a local person.

Some obvious areas that the class will cover are:

  • Verbs
  • Grammar
  • Introductions
  • Greetings
  • Directions
  • Ordering food
  • Buying food
  • Shopping

5. YouTube

Another option you can use to help you learn a second language is YouTube. You might be surprised to know that many college and schools will put up lesson plans for students to look at outside classroom hours.

One that I have personally used is Professor Jason who has experience teaching Spanish to students. One major advantage of using You Tube is you are under no pressure, you learn at your own pace.

The best way to find a course on YouTube is to type in the search bar, 'learn X language'. Then go to the filter button and sort videos by rating or by view count. This gives you a gauge on who is the most viewed and liked on YouTube.

Percentage of European Students in Secondary Schools Learning Spanish

Source: Eurostat Statistics - Foreign language per pupil in secondary education.

6. Audio Books

If you don't like using apps then another option you might prefer to use is audio books.

You can download audio books from your local library or from Audible.com. Once you have chosen you book, you can download it onto your computer or cellphone and listen to it whenever you want.

Again depending on the type of audio book you download it can be similar to a lesson plan. You will be taught phrases, the meaning of words, grammar and how to interact in different situations. It's a good way to get a taste for a language before you invest heavily in classes or another method.

Some libraries have little hand held devices similar to an Apple's iPod that you can take out and bring home. They have installed an introductory to a foreign language. This can be more convenient for people who don't want to download books onto their phones.

In the US, 1 in 4 students in public schools now speak a second language besides English.

Bilingual Careers

It can be beneficial to be bilingual because in certain career sectors and industries many companies will hire employees who speak a second language to help deal with non-English speaking customers at home and abroad.

Companies who are also looking to expand outside their domestic market will be looking to hire translators and customer service representatives.

Careers Where a Second Language Can Be Beneficial

  • Customer service
  • Translators
  • Teacher
  • Foreign news reporter
  • Foreign diplomat

Industries That Need People With Another Language

  • Banks
  • Government
  • Cellphone providers
  • Software firms
  • Multinationals


There are a variety of methods available to help you learn a second language. The task is to find one which works for you.

Apps are good for those who can't live without their phone. It also allows a learner to learn wherever they want.

For those who don't want to learn a second language on an app, classes or websites might be more suitable. Classes are great for those who find it hard to focus at home. It allows one to spend an hour in a situation where they are expected to interact and learn what you are taught. There could also be lesson plans to do outside class which keep the leaner motivated and focused on learning. This teaching method can work better for those who like instant feedback and acknowledgment on what they did right or wrong.

Best of luck with whatever method you choose.

© 2018 Sp Greaney


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    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      3 days ago from Ireland

      @Mona Sabalones Gonzalez, Thanks Mona. Yes, there are so many options available, it's great. No excuse for anyone not to learn.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 days ago from Philippines

      This is such a helpful article. I especially like how you listed options, including the free ones, and gave your own personal advice on how to choose among options based on what our interests and habits are.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      22 months ago from Ireland

      @ Amy, Good luck with learning Spanish. Before you buy an audiobook on Amazon or eBay, check out your local libray to see if they offer language audio books.

      Try listening to Destination Spanish with Paul Noble and Behind the Wheel - Spanish 1 by Mark Frobose.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I’m thinking about learning Spanish. My husband is from Spain and I want to be able to speak with his family members and of course I NEED to understand what he is talking with friends :) I bought myself a book few years ago, but I’m too lazy to read it and I have no time for that because I have a job and a kid. So I decided that I need a good audiobook to listen in the car while driving to my job. Any recommendations?

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      23 months ago from Ireland

      @Janisa, Lahnda is actually a grouping of collective languages combining different dialects from different regions of Pakistan.

      In these regions of Pakistan, (Hindko, Pahari-Potwari, Punjabi Western and Saraiki ) they group all the languages spoken together and refer to them as Lahnda.

      Altogether the combined population of people speaking this is 118 million.

    • JanisaChatte profile image


      23 months ago from Earth

      Friends and penpals are also a great help when learning another language. They can be good chat buddies and can also help with grammar and homework assignments if you're taking a class.

      What's Lahnda? Never heard of it.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      2 years ago from Ireland

      @Chitrangada Sharon, it was the same here too. Now it's harder to find classes and most people can't find the time to take a class. I love using the apps, but it's not the same as a class experience.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent article about learning different languages.

      You are right that nowadays there are so many ways to learn languages. Earlier it was either the regular classes or some language expert.

      A very well written and informative article. Your charts are very interesting too.

      Thanks for sharing!


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